As the Bharatiya Janata Party’s National Executive meet in Odisha concluded, the ruling party’s plan was clear: to sweep the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by driving home the message that it is a ‘pro-poor’ party that isn’t afraid of playing the ‘OBC card’.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments on the OBC Bill, triple talaq, and the need to include backward Muslims are all testament to the ruling party’s intention to aggressively reach out to minorities.
The ‘P2G2’ Mantra
After the closed-door meet, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari announced the Prime Minister’s ‘Pro-People, Pro-Active and Good Governance’ (P2G2) mantra.
Looking at the road map for a ‘New India’ in 2022, Modi was quoted as saying:
It is time to take a long leap towards 2022, and bring about socio-economic changes in the country in order to make it the world’s leading economic power.
Focus on Jan Dhan, Van Dhan and Jal Dhan
Addressing the BJP office-bearers, state chief ministers and Union ministers, Modi emphasised on a three-pronged approach of Jan Dhan, Van Dhan and Jal Dhan.
Under the Jan Dhan scheme, around 28 crore bank accounts were opened for the poor. The scheme continues to hold prominence for the Prime Minister, thanks to the votes it can garner for the BJP during elections. He said:
We need to place the poor at the centre and rid them of their poverty and of issues like unemployment.
The Van Dhan scheme aims to empower the country’s forest-based economy, while the Jal Dhan is aimed at ensuring farmer welfare. The Jal Dhan scheme is touted to be one that will enhance irrigation facilities – especially in Jharkhand, Odisha, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
Playing the OBC Card
A proposition on the OBC Commission was passed during the National Executive meet. It hailed the Centre’s introduction of a Bill that would grant constitutional status to the commission and criticised the opposition for blocking it in the Rajya Sabha.
With an eye on the OBC votes, which helped in the party’s bumper victory in the Uttar Pradesh polls, the BJP is now all set to play the ‘OBC card’.
PM on Triple Talaq
In his address, Modi also touched upon the triple talaq issue. He said:
As far as social justice is concerned, our Muslim sisters should also get justice. We don’t want any conflict in the Muslim society over the issue. We need to end such bad practices by awakening the society.
The BJP believes that Muslim women in Uttar Pradesh voted them into power in the state on the basis of the party’s opposition to the practise of triple talaq. Modi’s statement, therefore, is being viewed as an attempt to cash in on this particular vote bank for the upcoming election.
While holding discussions on the OBC Commission, the PM also called for “inclusiveness” of backward Muslims. This is being seen as a manoeuvre to increase the party’s presence, and appeal, within the Muslim community.
Other Takeaways From the Meet
No Rallies, Only Roadshows: The Prime Minister appears to be keen on opting for roadshows in place of rallies, in the wake of the success of his pre-UP election Varanasi roadshow. While he usually addresses crowds at a rally after a National Executive meet, the conclusion of the Odisha edition saw him embark on a roadshow instead.
OBC First: While the BJP had been wooing the OBC electorate ahead of the UP assembly polls, the party’s Odisha meet has made it evident that it plans to continue to focus on the biggest vote-bank for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
For the Poor: Proposals related to the economy were also introduced during the meet. This time around, however, discussions included the GST and the success of the party’s other schemes. The BJP does not want to be branded as a ‘suit-boot’ sarkar, as is evident in its extensive push for schemes that are pro-poor and pro-farmer.
Party is Supreme: The party workers have been instructed to work at the grassroot level in order to reach out to voters. A resolution that will be adopted by the members of the party’s National Working Committee – including ministers – is to work at the booth level for 15 days. BJP President Amit Shah will be on a 95-day tour across the country from September 2017.
Next Stop: Visakhapatnam
The BJP’s next National Executive meet will be held in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam on 15 and 16 July. The BJP’s agenda, to expand its base in the eastern and southern states, ahead of the LS elections continues.
(The article was originally published on Quint Hindi.)
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