BJP factoring in anti-incumbency

By W Chandrakanth | THE HANS INDIA |   Aug 19,2017 , 03:00 AM IST


When Amit Shah, the BJP's National President, wrote in his blog on Thursday that the Modi government by promoting schemes like Ujjwala, Ujala, Swachh Bharat and a dozen others, had tried to bring those who had so far been neglected into the mainstream and that cheaper medicines and caps on the prices of stents and knee implants were part of the same effort, he was just setting the tone for his Mission 2019.

Later in the day, he told his colleagues, all senior party functionaries and Union Ministers, to work on the 350-plus seats plan meticulously while highlighting the beneficial governance of Modi's rule.

Amit Shah knows that anything less than a full majority in the Parliament will be suicidal for Narendra Modi's government which is staking everything with renewed vigour in both its domestic and international moves.

Amit Shah is faced with another challenge in reaching the target. It would be difficult for the party to retain all seats it had won in 2014. NDA which comprises BJP and 24 smaller parties bagged 335 seats. The BJP won 282 seats on its own. This is the biggest victory for any party after Rajiv Gandhi`s massive 400 plus victory in 1984. 

Incumbency factor would come to the fore in 2019 and the party could easily lose around 50-60 seats. Hence, Shah is now eyeing around 120 seats that the party never won in the country before. As for the non-performers, they have already been warned sufficiently by both Modi and Shah of foregoing their seats.

The RSS-BJP combine is working to a plan in these never-won segments to overcome the shortfall sustained by the incumbency factor.

The new Lok Sabha segments that the BJP is eyeing are all in eastern, northeastern and southern parts of the country. How successful the party could be in West Bengal is a big question, but it is bound to exploit every move and utterance of Mamata Benerjee there. The latest civic body elections in West Bengal saw Mamata sweeping all the seven winning 140 wards out of 147. The BJP came second, figuratively, by bagging six of the remaining.

As the TMC leaders put it later, the CPM was reduced to a 'signboard' in West Bengal and the Congress drew a big zero. The loan Left seat was bagged by the Forward block.

This is no encouraging result for any opposition party in the contest. Yet, Shah looked at the half full glass and said, "it is a good performance as we came second edging out the CPM.” Literally speaking, the party has doubled its strength (the BJP) as it had three wards in the past and now six. The party has two MPs from the State and Shah is eyeing a majority of the seats here for 2019 elections.

As for Odisha, the going has been good so far and the BJP's performance in the local elections has been remarkable. The party has made inroads in the rural areas as never before and won handsomely in several segments. Although the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) could manage to retain 50 per cent of the seats, it was no pleasant news to the Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik. In the elections to the Zilla Parishads, the BJP secured eight against the 16 taken by the BJD. Congress, of course, has almost been decimated securing only one ZP.

Out of the total 853 contested, the BJP emerged victorious in 306 in 2017 as against the 36 it had won in 2012 elections. The Congress had won only 66 against the 126 it had bagged in 2012.  Amit Shah is hopeful here that the party would certainly fare better in the next elections. Who knows, it could be an alliance also which could be beneficial again.

As for the North East, the BJP is ready with its plans for both pre-poll and post-poll and is confident of securing a majority.
This brings us to the South now where the BJP is moving cautiously. But, we should admit that it had succeeded fairly well in breaking and then attempting to unite the ruling AIADMK post-Jaya era in Tamil Nadu. The make-up and or break-up strategy of Modi-Shah combine is working well so far for the party.

The way the ruling party handled Bihar is a good example of this strategy. Attacking the enemy from the flanks, it drew the first blood by igniting tensions between Nitish and Lalu and then went on to break the alliance effortlessly by forcing Nitish to embrace his past friends. The BJP scored yet another point here in forcing a split between Nitish and Sharad Yadav too so that the questioning voices are kept at bay. A brilliant strategy it was.

Both in Tamil Nadu and Bihar, the onlookers were only looking at the main players out in the open but had not fully understood the ploy of the scriptwriter. Here the BJP will be content with seeking a foothold of its own. Some deliberate politics!

Kerala's killing fields have turned disgusting and there is an effort to build on the resentment around the violence. The RSS is working round the clock here anyway and the BJP is not too worried about its prospects. It will now switch over to the help of Swamis' and Gurus' who matter in Kerala to project the Government as a demon working against Hinduism. There is still space for Hinduism in Kerala, the party feels and would like to exploit the same every which way.

That brings us to Karnataka where Amit Shah wants the party to explore all sentiments and in attempting to bring Vokkaliga and Lingayats together. The party is facing a formidable opponent in Siddaramaiah, the Chief Minister, whose wily moves are leading to a sense of unease in the BJP.  Amit Shah is targeting 150 Assembly segments in the State. A new political entrant here could make the difference to the final tally, the BJP knows.

Coming to the two Telugu States, the BJP is in no hurry either in breaking the alliance with the TDP or in attacking the TRS outright. Amit Shah is confident that he could work his way around somehow with the TRS. A number of options are being mulled for Telangana menu and what would Shah be dishing out would be quite interesting to watch in the days to come.
Whether or not the BJP retains the alliance in AP with the TDP depends on a couple of moves it would be making in near future.

An important indication will be in its choice of the new State president. It is certain to woo one of the communities that matter i.e., Kapus, while encouraging Reddys to come to its fold, party sources admit. It has also been open-minded in so far as alliances are concerned in the State.

Getting down to the brass tacks, Amit Shah, does not mind attempting to weaken the ruling leadership deploying various means, it is being said. Which one of it he uses is to be seen in the two States. It also depends on the 'equation' one enjoys with the formidable ruling duo of Modi-Shah.

The combine is closely watching not just the developmental modules of the State governments, but also at the segment of populations that are affected by the same, be it farmers, workers, labour etc. Poor governance is being tracked carefully and reports are being sought from various sources including some governmental agencies. (By the way BJP's synonym for poor governance is corruption).

Anyway, the so-called never-ever-won seats would be entrusted to senior leaders with each looking after five to six segments exclusively. This was made clear to the leadership by Amit Shah when he set a target of 350 for the party on Thursday.

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