Kicking off the two-day National Executive meeting of the party on Saturday, BJP chief Amit Shah gave some pep talk to the party cadre, dismissing the Opposition’s plan to cobble together a grand alliance as an “illusion”. Shah gave the broad contours of the party’s election strategy for the 2019 grand finale, flagging his party’s commitment to issues like the NRC and citizenship bill and castigating the Congress for stalling the triple talaq bill in Parliament.
“The BJP president said that we will implement the National Register of Citizens in a manner that not one new infiltrator will be allowed to enter India. He said the party is working with great vigour to implement NRC after the elections in Assam. But this is not a new thing for us. The issue has been mentioned in political resolutions of nine BJP National Executive meetings,” senior party leader Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters after the meeting.
She also quoted Shah on the party’s commitment to pass the citizenship bill and ensure that “we should give refuge without any hesitation to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains from Pakistan and Bangladesh seeking refuge here”.
Similarly on the triple talaq issue, Shah “very clearly said that many Islamic countries have banned it” and hit out at the Congress for its “hypocrisy” on the issue due to which the bill on triple talaq could not be passed in Parliament.
Faith in Shah
As challenges mount, the party has chosen to keep the organisation’s command in the tested hands of Shah and has postponed the orgnisational elections by nearly year to ensure that the next Lok Sabha elections are fought under Shah’s leadership.
This was the second last National Executive meeting of the BJP and another National Executive will happen in January next year before the schedule of the Lok Sabha elections. The party clearly wanted no confusion on the role of Shah, whose tenure as BJP president ends in January 2019.
Shah on Saturday delivered the inaugural address while Prime Minister Narendra Modi will give the valedictory speech on Sunday.
The symbolism of the venue “Ambedkar Bhavan” selected for the two-day National Executive meeting was also not lost as it came at a time when the party has made a serious attempt to court the Scheduled Caste voters and douse their anger even as its recent moves like overturning a Supreme Court’s order on the SC/ST Act has left the BJP’s erstwhile core constituency of upper caste voters squirming in discomfiture.
The crucial meet of the party happens at a time when it is battling on two fronts simultaneously.
On Thursday, the BJP’s hitherto core vote bank of upper castes organised a Bharat Bandh protesting against the government’s decision to restore the original and stringent provisions of a law on atrocities against Scheduled Castes and tribals days after the Supreme Court had relaxed some provisions that led to massive nationwide protests against the government.
Scheduled Castes, who voted on a large scale for the BJP, particularly in Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and then again in the 2017 Assembly elections, have been up in arms for some time and the BJP has been at the receiving end of their anger.
The National Executive on Saturday hence saw the theme of “social justice” resonating with Shah flagging the government’s pro-poor programmes and push for laws to empower the Scheduled Castesand Other Backward Classes and asking cadres to take them to remote villages. It is learnt that the BJP chief told the party cadres to focus on big wins in states like West Bengal and Odisha, where the party has got some resonance in recent times, besides the Northeast, which is now another catchment area for the BJP as it formed a government in Assam in 2016, the first state in the Northeast to have a saffron government since independence. There is a view in the party that with challenges mounting in the Hindi belt states like UP, MP, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, the party needs to focus on new areas, where it is still a fresh option.