Gujarat polls are just a few months away which will be followed by elections in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh. BJP will want to get a thumping win in Gujarat while attempting to form governments in the other two states. Amit Shah is a man on the move, and is looking to both protect and expand BJP’s footprint.
Since April, he’s spent 85 of 115 days outside Delhi, visiting 22 states, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Gujarat to Assam. His tenure as the BJP president has made him the party’s most travelled president, having taken around 350 trips to states, covering 750 km a day. He mostly takescommercial flights and stays at government guest houses or party offices.
Such frequent campaigning to motivate workers on the ground and to also analyse the ground situation, leaves behind numerous little anecdotes for the workers and other local leaders to cherish.
At a meeting of the party’s accounts committee in Bhopal, he said: “From now on, the party’s day-to-day expenses will be met through cheque donations.”A nervous chuckle did the rounds as people thought it was a joke, but Shah was serious. He went on: “Stop taking donations in cash.”
At a meeting of BJP unit morchas and heads of various cells in Kolkata, Shah was aggravated to find positions in the morchas and cells unfilled. This is what he said: “Fill the posts soon. If you can’t, say goodbye to your positions.”
In Ranchi at a meeting with party office-bearers and ministers, he derided anti-incumbency as ‘a term coined by hopeless people’. He said, “If the nation has to change, then we have to rule for 60, even 100, years. So, workers of this party should have no time to rest. Those who want to rest should leave the party.”
The vision of Amit Shah is something that isn’t seen in Indian politics. Parties don’t see beyond a 5-year time horizon, and even then their motive is only to regain power through populist schemes, not do good for people.
Amit Shah has been an incredibly successful president despite the two losses in Delhi and Bihar. Since the time he took the responsibility, the BJP has formed government in 9 states, 6 on its own. Shah has successfully doubled the number of states under BJP-rule to 18. For the first time, BJP has truly developed a pan-India presence.Under him the BJP has become the world’s largest party with over 110 million (11 crore) members.
His style of functioning is unique. He is particularly involved in getting ground opinion from party workers. Each one of his trips is marked by an average of six crucial closed-door meetings where party workers speak to him freely. Right from ground workers to office-bearers to MLAs and MPs to CMs, Amit Shah meets everyone to gather views.
BJP’s previous highs or explosions in support from 2 seats in 1984 to 85 in 1989 and then to 182 in 1999 were based on issues such as the Ram Mandir. This or any other such issue isn’t enough to sustain support, and Amit Shah knows it. Such issues have also kept the party bereft of a pan-India presence. Development on ground and creating a connect of the common man with the party is what Amit Shah is focusing on, and rightly so. Amit Shah is working immensely hard to create a pan-India BJP that is traditional yet modern, large yet nimble.
The BJP before Modi-Shah emerged on the scene, was one that primarily focused on issues such as Ram Mandir and cow protection. Even now those issues remain important but the focus has shifted to eliminating poverty and lifting the lives of the poor through schemes such as Jan Dhan, Mudra, Ujjwala, Saubhagya, etc. Development and poverty elimination trumps all other issues for this BJP.
In Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, BJP will target Congress’ corruption. In states like Gujarat where it is already in power, BJP will look to propagate the benefits of its pro-poor schemes and anti-corruption measures.“The NDA’s corruption-free governance will be a major issue even in state elections and our state electoral machinery has been made aware of it,”says BJP general secretary, organisation, Ram Lal.
Amit Shah’s tours and talks have mention only of development and the policies of the government, and no mention of caste. While in the background him and his team are drawing up state-specific caste strategies in consultation with local leaders – between Rajputs and Jats in Rajasthan, Vokkaligas and Lingayats in Karnataka, and Patels and other castes in Gujarat.
Amit Shah has his eyes set on 2019 with ‘Mission 350’. Another strategy has been drawn up named ‘Mission 120’that aims for 120 Lok Sabha seats from Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and the Northeast.
Grassroot rebuilding of the party was among the 10 projects started by Amit Shah. Phase 1 was to build offices in all 670 party districts. A strategy for 2019 involved putting an army of 3,75,000 vistaraks, part-time volunteers who will donate 15 days of their time for booth-strengthening for the party till the general elections. A separate force of 4,000 vistaraks has been assigned to specific assembly segments across the country since May this year to boost the party’s prospects ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
The strategy involves countering threats like the mahagathbandhan or anti-incumbency. As many as 44 parties supported Ramnath Kovind in the presidential election which was a huge boost for the party.
“Amitbhai has given a new ideological thrust to the BJP. If the PM is aiming for a new India, Amitbhai is looking at a new BJP to match his vision,” says general secretary Bhupendra Yadav. “The transformation being brought about by him is all-encompassing, from improvement in party functioning and transparency to qualitative development of the party and creating a permanent infrastructure.”
The strategy and work ethos of Amit Shah in incredibly deep and to-the-point. He doesn’t leave anything to chance. One heartening aspect for BJP supporters is that he isn’t one who gets overconfident after victories as complacency can well be the biggest threat to the BJP in 2019.