Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

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Ideology, strategy

Use of Gandhianism

India Today

Mahatma Gandhi’s prominent programmes which inspired Mr. Narendra Modi, India Today

If the 20th century belonged to the Congress, Modi eyes the 21st for the BJP. And to shape that pan-India dream, the saffron party looks at Gandhi's model that worked for the grand old party.

On June 9, 2013, soon after he was anointed the BJP's election campaign committee chairman for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi addressed party workers and spelled out the catchphrase that would be his mantra in the run-up to the polls, and even after a grand victory: "A Congress-mukt Bharat is the solution to all problems facing the country." An India free of Congress, Modi said, and almost delivered it a year later.

Irony then that it is the same Congress, though from a different era, that Modi's BJP now seems to be emulating to become the new pan-India national party, replacing India's original national party. At the party's first National Executive under Prime Minister Modi on April 3-4 in Bengaluru, the BJP appeared to continue its walk towards embracing the Congress of yore-the Congress under Mahatma Gandhi. Having relegated the grand old party to a poor second slot in vote share-its 172 million votes versus the Congress's 107 million in the General Election-the BJP now aims to be where the Congress has been all these years: in every ward of every city and town, and in each village of each taluka. And to achieve that, the party is taking lessons from what the Indian National Congress did when it spread its wings in the run-up to Independence.

Ease the entry barrier

In 1920, a Congress session was held in Nagpur and the party which was spearheading the Non-Cooperation Movement decided to penetrate deep into India's villages by easing its entry barrier. The Congress slashed the membership fee to four annas (25 paise) to let the poor, especially the non-urban, join in and help erase its image of a clique of English-educated urban elites. Nearly 95 years on, the stage was set for another party to take wings and spread itself soon after Modi took oath as the prime minister on May 26, 2014. Addressing the party's National Council meet at the Capital's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in August, BJP President Amit Shah put that ambition into words: "For long, the Congress's ideology has been predominant in India's politics Now the time has come to spread our ideology and to leave an imprint on the nation's politics."

Like the Congress did after the Nagpur session, the BJP began that journey by easing the entry barrier. It made membership free, and got mobile technology to its advantage. Prime Minister Modi began the membership drive on November 1 last year by dialling a toll-free number. And by the time the BJP marked its 35th foundation day on April 6, it claimed to have received more than 160 million 'missed' calls and registered about 95 million members. That's up from less than 35 million members last year. Initially scheduled until March 31, the drive has been extended by a month as the party hopes to enlist 100 million members by then.

But BJP leaders say this is just the beginning. Modi and Shah's aim is taking the party to virtually every village, a feat matched only by the Congress in its heyday. "As a convenor of the membership drive I have visited 19 states but the BJP president will have visited every state of the country by the end of April to take stock of enrolment and guide the process," party Vice-President Dinesh Sharma says.

Strike the right chord

In February 1922, as the euphoria over the Non-Cooperation Movement began to recede after he suddenly called it off, Mahatma Gandhi hit upon a unique idea to endear Congress to the masses. He exhorted Congress workers to engage with the people, especially the marginalised and the underprivileged, and get involved in non-partisan constructive programmes such as spinning khadi, promoting Hindu-Muslim unity, fighting untouchability and working among people from tribal and lower-caste communities, among others.

Likewise, Modi began with a call to make India free of open defecation last August, during his first Independence Day address, and launching Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on Gandhi Jayanti. He repeated the call at the Bengaluru National Executive. Shah responded by constituting a committee comprising senior party members such as Prabhat Jha, Purushottam Rupala, J.P. Nadda, Vijay Goel and Makhan Singh to oversee the programme.

The Prime Minister has urged BJP leaders and workers to be involved in other socially constructive programmes such as freeing India of manual scavenging, gender sensitisation and cleaning rivers. The trusted lieutenant in Shah responded to the call by setting up separate committees to oversee these tasks. Following Modi's efforts at fighting female foeticide and championing education for girls, Shah announced the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (save girls, educate girls) campaign and asked party cadres to ensure its implementation.

Modi has also stressed the need for clean rivers, particularly the Ganga. The PM is believed to have highlighted that the party can organise campaigns to clean the river that passes through nearly 6,000 villages and more than 1,800 towns. While Modi spoke of environmental benefits of the programme, it is also seen as an effort to shore up the party in the politically crucial Hindi heartland states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which go to the polls later this year and in 2017 respectively.

Charting new yet known course

Apparently taking it up from where the Congress left, Modi, according to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, said in Bengaluru that the party should mark Deendayal Upadhyaya's birth centenary to work for the welfare of the poor-in keeping with the Jan Sangh leader's philosophy of Antyodaya, which talks about the welfare of even the last person in society. If Gandhi's talisman guided the Congress's efforts to widen its reach, the BJP has got the wherewithal to popularise Upadhyaya's talisman of Antyodaya.

Party leaders have been asked to work towards eradicating manual scavenging, prompting Shah to urge the cadres to reach out to nearly 2.3 million households employed in manual scavenging and ensure their rehabilitation. "These activities, which go beyond politics to social reform campaigns, will show BJP as a party with a difference," Union minister Prakash Javadekar said quoting Shah.

The BJP, party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi says, is not only a political party but also an ideological movement. These socially constructive activities may look out of place in political activism but Gandhi too had demonstrated their efficacy in connecting the freedom struggle with the masses. These programmes will help the party connect better with the people, and help it fortify its position across India, Trivedi justifies.

To be sure, it's not exactly an all-new idea. The saffron leadership has always believed that one huge factor that allowed the Congress to remain in popular imagination even post-Independence was due to its projection as the party that got India freedom. And the second is the perception that the Congress has, since its formation, worked for social good. But this is the first time that the saffron party is putting those ideas and aspirations into words. In a "Congress-mukt India", it seems a Modi-led BJP seeks to chart a route similar to that of the Congress under the Mahatma.

For a party known for its organisational structure, its leader and his closest aide have given an insight into how these elaborate socio-cultural and political ideals would be put into action. On April 2, Modi exhorted BJP national office-bearers, state unit chiefs and state organising secretaries to ensure that a large number of BJP members enrolled by the ongoing drive joined the movement as political workers. The following day, Shah announced an ambitious target of training 1.5 million of these members in political activism. In a massive programme, party workers will connect with the 100 million newly registered members from May to July.

But once time takes the sheen off this idealism, will the BJP parrot the Congress, which dumped many Gandhian goals after assuming power post-Independence? Will they remain limited to photo-ops, like the Swachh Bharat campaign was in the Capital, with garbage specially assembled for Delhi unit chief Satish Upadhyay to wield the broom? Gandhi's moral authority inspired ordinary Congressmen to work for social good, which endeared the party to the masses. Notwithstanding the brute majority of Modi's government, the only moral authority a committed BJP member understands. So Modi's grand design to mainstream saffron nationalist ideology among the masses will depend to a large extent on the synergy with Nagpur's drives.

2014- Aug 2017: change in strategy

Akhilesh Singh, Modi, BJP chief redefine `power politics' for BJP, August 9, 2017: The Times of India

Not long ago, BJP would not have decided to put up a candidate against Ahmed Patel in the Rajya Sabha polls in view of the fact that the powerful Congress leader had numbers far more than required. That the saffron party made an audacious bid to wrest the seat from powerful adversary is testimony to the transformation brought about by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah in a party which could not prevent the defeat of Vajpayee government in Lok Sabha by a solitary vote in 1999.

Under Modi and Amit Shah, BJP seems determined to ensure that humiliation of April 1999 becomes a distant memory and the party does not lack a killer instinct that has often saddled it with a “choker“ tag in the past.

In the last three years since Modi became PM and Shah took charge of the party , BJP has outdone Congress and other rivals in the demanding art of realpolitik. In the most recent round of assembly elections, it pipped a lethargic Congress to forming governments in Goa and Manipur despite ending up second.

BJP has expanded its coalition in the northeast with NDA governments in office in Arunachal Pradesh while it has a friendly government in Nagaland. The party has adopted some of Congress's tactics in wooing legislators and leaders.BJP has pragmatically turned defections into political alliances, leading to governments in Uttarakhand and Assam where imports played an important role in sealing electoral victories.

In the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections, BJP relied on Congress rebel Balwantsinh Rajput to pose a stiff challenge to Congress leader Ahmed Patel and this is the latest reflection of the party's aggressive tactics in taking on rivals and spare nothing when it comes to grabbing an opportunity .

The party has junked an approach often marked by a readiness to compromise, a reflection of a leadership with reasons to feel vulnerable, and embraced an “attack as the best form of defence“ mode.

In case of Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls, statistics suggested that three candidates, including BJP president Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani and Patel, could have easily won as there were three vacancies and Congress had more than 45 MLAs, the minimum number to win.

But Congress leader Shan karsinh Vaghela's rebellion saw a panicked Congress bundling its 44 MLAs to Bengaluru. Interestingly , Vaghela had rebelled against the BJP government in 1996 and brought down the BJP government under Suresh Mehta to become chief minister with Congress support. It was BJP that tried to protect its flock at a resort.

The recent resignations by SP and BSP MLCs paving the way for some of Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adiyta Nath's ministers is another sign of a new BJP . MLCs had quit on a day when Shah was in Lucknow, making it clear that aggressive tactics will not stop after elections are over. In January , BJP captured power in Arunachal Pradesh after 33 of the 43 People's Party of Arunachal (PPA) MLAs, including CM Pema Khandu, joined the saffron party . This is the second time in 13 years that BJP is in power in the politically volatile border state.

BJP's success in mending forces with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and the high profile it has given to opposing violence by CPM against its workers in Kerala and the combative posture against West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee are more of the same.

‘Nation first, party next, self last,’ LK Advani

April 4, 2019| LK Advani

The guiding principle of my life has been ‘Nation First, Party Next, Self Last.’And in all situations, I have tried to adhere to this principle and will continue to do so.

The essence of Indian democracy is respect for diversity and freedom of expression. Right from its inception, the BJP has never regarded those who disagree with us politically as our “enemies”, but only as our adversaries. Similarly, in our conception of Indian nationalism, we have never regarded those who disagree with us politically as “anti-national”. The party has been committed to freedom of choice of every citizen at personal as well as political level.

Defence of democracy and democratic traditions, both within the Party and in the larger national setting, has been the proud hallmark of the BJP. Therefore BJP has always been in the forefront of demanding protection of independence, integrity, fairness and robustness of all our democratic institutions, including the media. Electoral reforms, with special focus on transparency in political and electoral funding, which is so essential for a corruption-free polity, has been another priority for our Party.

In short, the triad of Satya (truth), Rashtra Nishtha (dedication to the Nation) and Loktantra(democracy, both within and outside the Party) guided the struggle-filled evolution of my Party. The sum total of all these values constitutes Sanskritik Rashtravad (Cultural Nationalism) and Su-Raj (good governance), to which my Party has always remained wedded. The heroic struggle against the Emergency rule was precisely to uphold the above values.

It is my sincere desire that all of us should collectively strive to strengthen the democratic edifice of India. True, elections are a festival of democracy. But they are also an occasion for honest introspection by all the stakeholders in Indian democracy – political parties, mass media, authorities conducting the election process and, above all, the electorate.

2019/ Christian outreach in Mizoram

Mizoram BJP sets up missionary cell to shed 'Hindutva' tag, July 25, 2019: The Times of India

Seeking to shake off the image of a "pro-Hindu party", BJP on Wednesday set up a missionary cell in Christian-majority Mizoram, the only state in the Northeast where it is not part of the government.

"We want to allay fears that BJP is pro-Hindu and anti-Christian," said J V Hluna, president of BJP's Mizoram unit, while inaugurating the cell at the party's state headquarters.

The cell will run a 24x7 helpline for Mizo missionaries. "It has been established to help any Christian Mizo missionary in need of help through BJP functionaries across country," Hluna said.

He clarified that BJP being "a secular party", the objective of the missionary cell was not to propagate Christianity anywhere. Mizoram remains the lone outlier in the otherwise saffron Northeast map. BJP is not part of the government here despite the Mizo National Front, an NDA ally, being in power.

The only constituency BJP won in the 2018 assembly election, its first in the state's history, was the Chakma-majority Tuichawng seat. Although the party has tempered its Hindutva in its quest for acceptability, Mizoram appears to have walled itself from the BJP wave.

The missionary cell will now create a database of the 5,000-odd Christian missionaries in the state, with their names, addresses, phone numbers and email IDs.

The plan has already triggered a debate about the potential security implications of the process.

BJP dismissed these concerns, with missionary cell head Lalhriatrenga Chhangte denying that the party had any motive other than the stated one. "There was some misunderstanding about data on missionaries, some apprehension that it could fall into the hands of R S S. But contact details of missionaries will be on the database only with their consent...The sole purpose of this cell is to help those in need."

He added, "BJP's Mizoram unit will always oppose R S S or any other organisation that violates the freedom of religion and acts against Christian missionaries."


1951-2019: seats won in Lok Sabha

1951-2019: seats won by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha
From: May 25, 2019: The Times of India

See graphic:

1951-2019: seats won by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha

Formed in 1951 as the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Jana Sangh managed to win only 3 seat in the first general elections in 1951-52 — two in West Bengal and one in Rajasthan. Cut to 2019, and BJP, the entity that came into being in 1980, bagged 303 seats on its own establishing itself as India’s undisputed political force and the main claimant to the Centre.

1980- April 2017: milestones

See graphic:

Bhartiya Janata Party, a brief timeline, 1980 onwards...

Bhartiya Janata Party, a brief timeline, 1980 onwards…; The Times of India, April 6, 2017

1980> 2018: the rise

April 6, 2018: The Times of India

The various political parties, represented on the map of India, April 2018
From: April 6, 2018: The Times of India
BJP's Lok Sabha performance, 1984-2014
From: April 6, 2018: The Times of India


The BJP is the world's largest party in terms of primary membership

The party won a significant majority in the 2014 LS polls, winning 282 seats

The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) rise over the past 38 years has been stellar. The party was officially created on April 6, 1980. It emerged from the Jana Sangh, which was formed in 1951 by Shyama Prasad Mookerjee. The Jana Sangh merged with some other parties to form the Janata Party in 1977, after the Emergency imposed by then Congress Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Janata Party dissolved in 1980 and its members formed the BJP with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its first president.

Vajpayee moderated the Hindu nationalist stance to gain a wide appeal. The party’s dismal performance in the 1984 general elections, however, led to a a shift in ideology towards a more hardline notion of Hindutva.


The BJP won a landslide majority in the 2014 general elections, winning 282 seats in the Lok Sabha. With the next elections scheduled for 2019, BJP tacticians know that the magnitude of victory in 2014 may be difficult to replicate. In a bid to get re-elected, the party is likely to focus on its three core strengths - a leader, an ideology and a cadre.


The top spots go to CPM leader Jyoti Basu, who held the office for more than two decades from 1977 to 2000 and Pawan Kumar Chamling, CM of Sikkim since 1994 and president of the Sikkim Democratic Front. Left leader Manik Sarkar also served as Tripura CM for four consecutive terms -- from March 1998 to March 2018, stepping down recently after the party lost to the BJP-IPFT alliance.

Others who have held the post for long periods are Gegong Apang, who was Arunachal Pradesh CM from 1980 to 1999 and then again from 2003 to 2007, as well as Lal Thanhawla (Congress) who has been Mizoram CM since December 2008. Previously he was CM from 1984 to 1986 and then from 1989 to 1998.

For the BJP, the mantle of the longest-serving CM goes to Narendra Modi, who before becoming the prime minister was the chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. He’s followed by Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh (since 2003) and Shivraj Singh Chouhan (since 2005) -- both are currently at the helm of their respective states. Elections in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh later this year will be a test of their leadership.


The BJP has built up its primary membership to about 100 million as of April 2015, according to Wikipedia, a number that would have increased in the last three years. Prior to 2015, the Communist Party of China was considered the largest party in the world.

The swelling numbers are in large measure due to a unique initiative spearheaded by Amit Shah called the“missed call” campaign. Launched in 2014, a person can become a member of the party by giving a missed call on a specific toll-free number. New members have to send their personal details, including address and profession.

Skeptics, however, say the groundswell in membership is not a reliable reflection of the party's actual strength on the ground, and that while PM Modi's popularity and the party's current influence may draw thousands into the fold, their loyalty will remain suspect.

The saffron party has another record it can stake claim to. Its new headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg in New Delhi, spread over 1.70 lakh square feet, is bigger than the office of any political party worldwide, according to Amit Shah.


The BJP is the country’s largest political party in terms of representation in Parliament and state assemblies.

The party currently has chief ministers in 15 states -- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam (with Asom Gana Parishad and Bodoland People’s Front), Chhattisgarh, Goa (with Goa Forward Party and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party), Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand (with All Jharkhand Students Union), Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra (with Shiv Sena), Manipur (with Naga People's Front, National People's Party and Lok Janshakti Party), Rajasthan, Tripura (with Indigenous People's Front of Tripura), Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The saffron party shares power with other political parties in five states. In these states it is a junior ally - Bihar (with Janata Dal (United), Lok Janshakti Party, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party), Jammu & Kashmir (with Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party and Jammu and Kashmir People's Conference), Meghalaya (with National People's Party, United Democratic Party, People's Democratic Front and Hill State People's Democratic Party), Nagaland (with Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, Janata Dal (United) and National People's Party) and Sikkim (with Sikkim Democratic Front).


The BJP has a number of alliances with regional parties under the NDA umbrella (mentioned above).

However,the saffron party has testing relationships with several of them. The Shiv Sena is its oldest ally -- since 1995 when the two parties shared power in Maharashtra. The relationship is, however, on way to being severed with the Sena already announcing it will not have a truck with the BJP for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls

Meanwhile, just last month, the BJP suffered a setback when the TDP pulled out of the NDA, miffed with the party over the issue of special status to Andhra Pradesh. In J&K too, the BJP shares an uneasy relationship with the PDP, with both parties having major ideological differences. In Punjab, although the SAD-BJP alliance has endured, the defeat of the alliance in the 2017 assembly elections could lead to a strain in their relationship.

1984- 2014: seats in the Lok Sabha

See graphic, ' The Bharatiya Janata Party: seats in the Lok Sabha: 1984-2014 '

The Bharatiya Janata Party: seats in the Lok Sabha: 1984-2014. Source: The Times of India

1984-2004: Growth across the nation

Congress and BJP, Lok sabha elections: 1984-2004; Graphic courtesy: From the archives of “India Today”, 2009
BJP rides wave. In addition, BJP won both seats in Jammu and the lone seat in Ladakh.
BJP in India: 2009-2011, Graphic courtesy, India Today
BJP in India: 2012-2014, Graphic courtesy, India Today

BJP rides wave to make inroads into new states

The Times of India May 17 2014

BJP's stunning breakthroughs, despite organizational weaknesses and geographical limits, in states like Haryana, Assam, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu speak of the strength of the Modi “lehar“ and provide an opportunity for future consolidation.

BJP leaders were themselves surprised by the response to Narendra Modi in these states where the party has had minimal presence or had atrophied over the years due to organizational neglect.

In Haryana, such was the voter anger against the Hooda government in the state and the Congres regime at the Centre that BJP won 7 seats and 33% of the vote despite some poor candidate selection.

BJP did not go for an alliance with Om Prakash Chautala's INLD due to cases pending against the Jat leader and its pact with Kuldeep Bishnoi's Hayana Janhit Party did not, on paper, command a wide social base. But despite the BJP-Bishnoi pact lacking Jat support, the community voted in large numbers for a `Modi sarkar' ignoring competing claims of Chautala and Hooda.

In fact, the impressive response to Modi's first rally in Rewari after being named BJP's PM candidate set the tone and BJP pulled in votes from almost all sections.

In Assam, as in Haryana with regard to INLD, BJP's decision to avoid an alliance with AGP paid off handsomely . Modi clearly struck a rich vein when he articulated a deep groundswell of resentment against illegal migration and simmering ethno-religious tensions as the seven seats and a 36% vote share indicate.

BJP and its ally PMK won a seat each in Tamil Nadu, riding on its status as the frontrunner. Modi's rallies, despite the language barrier, were well attended and it was the first time since Rajiv Gandhi that a leader from the north became a talking point.

The decision to take on Mamata Banerjee by slamming her “poriborton“ as a sham and raking up the illegal migrants issue was an inspired one as it pitched Modi into the centre of the discourse in West Berngal. The two seats BJP won in the state seem modest, but represent a breakthrough with almost 18% of the votes.

1990-16: BJP emerges all across India

How power of BJP emerged all across India, 1990-16; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, May 20, 2016

1999: Pawar, BSP voted against the Vajpayee government

The Times of India, Dec 13 2015

Pawar advised Maya to vote against BJP govt in 1999

It is well known that the vote cast by five MPs of Bahujan Samaj Party brought down the Vajpayee government in 1999. But all these years, there has been speculation about the reason the Dalit outfit voted against the man widely credited with making Mayawati the CM of UP for the first time after the State Guest House assault case.

Sharad Pawar has now said that he was the trigger, having persuaded the Dalit czarina that a vote against the government would benefit her politically . He has made the revelation in his just-released autobiography “On My Terms“.

A confidence vote was brought in Lok Sabha after AIADMK withdrew its support to the BJP-led government in April 1999. As the Speaker called for a division of votes, the parliamentary staff took some time to close the doors and activate the voting system, enough for Pawar to have a quick chat with Mayawati. The Vajpayee government lost by one vote.“Those who had noticed me talking to Mayawati before the voting pressed me to clarify,“ he says.

The NCP boss says he is still asked about that brief chat ahead of the voting. “Let me put it this way: I just impressed upon her that the BSP's interests in UP would be served better if she voted against the Vajpayee govern ment,“ he has revealed.

Importantly , Pawar has confirmed that PM Narasim ha Rao rejected a proposal for conducting a nuclear test in view of possible global reac tion. Pawar, as defence minis ter in 1991-92, was told by ad visors to the ministry tha the country was fully equipped to conduct nuke tests to establish it as a nucle ar power. As they pressed for tests, he took the file to Rao for a decision. “After going through the file, he rejected the advice, which I though was the correct decision in the circumstances that pre vailed then,“ Pawar notes.

He says the national econ omy was in a shambles when Congress government took over and Rao did not wan any global reaction to impede the reforms.

2010: after the 2009 defeat

A ‘dying’ party? | SWAPAN DASGUPTA

A ‘dying’ party?


…Despite its [2009] defeat, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has a meaningful presence in the Lok Sabha; the combined Opposition is also in a position to seriously embarrass the UPA in the Rajya Sabha; and, for better or for worse, the BJP and its allies still control state governments in large states such as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh, not to mention its hold over smaller states such as Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal.

Yet, despite this formidable presence that could become the springboard for a future challenge to the Congress, the BJP has conveyed the impression of being mentally defeated. Following the second successive defeat in the national elections, it has been engulfed in an existential crisis which has manifested itself in leadership squabbles, internal dissensions over policies and an inability to attract new adherents. Those who stood solidly by the party during the turbulent Ayodhya years when it faced political isolation and the social opprobrium of the chattering classes, have started having doubts over its future. One of the intellectual stalwarts of the party, a former cabinet minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, was overheard in the Central Hall of Parliament questioning the wisdom of persisting with a ‘dying party’.

The see-saw of politics may yet come to the rescue of the BJP in the coming years. However, for the moment there is no doubt that the party is in a right royal mess and politically paralyzed.

There are broadly three perceptions in the BJP over what led to the second consecutive election defeat. The first, articulated by L.K. Advani and subsequently echoed by others, was that the BJP was a victim of collateral damage. The bravado of the Third Front, the fear of Mayawati and the dread of fractious coalitions and weak governments, it is said, propelled the electorate into reposing faith in the Congress.

The theory is not entirely baseless but it evades some important issues. First, barring Uttar Pradesh, the areas of Third Front intervention were outside the BJP spheres of influence. Second, with the exception of Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, where the BJP performed spectacularly well, there was a national swing away from the NDA. This was so even in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab and Maharashtra – states that were crucial to the BJP’s calculations.

It is also worth stressing that the BJP attempt to make the general election presidential in character by projecting Advani as a ‘firm leader’ who would provide a ‘decisive government’ didn’t click. To attribute Advani’s failure to provide the BJP an incremental vote to his octogenarian status – a problem brought into sharper focus by his own campaign team’s ridiculous bid to emulate some facets of the Barak Obama campaign in the US – doesn’t explain everything. But it is worth noting that even within the BJP there was a great deal of scepticism in projecting Advani so over-enthusiastically. Grassroots BJP activists were clearly of the view that the attributes pinned on Advani were more suited to Narendra Modi. The Gujarat chief minister aroused much enthusiasm wherever he went but was unable to translate his own charisma into votes for Advani.

It is striking that the explanations for the defeat provided by Advani and his personal campaign team focused on tactical miscalculations. There was never any suggestion that the problems of the BJP ran much deeper.

The larger political problems confronting the party didn’t find a public expression – and not just after President Rajnath Singh imposed a gag order before the national executive meeting in June 2009. However, they found expression in numerous writings in the media by sympathizers and others who were clued into the thinking within the BJP.

According to this ‘liberal’ critique, the BJP suffered from a grave problem of perception: it was seen as sectarian and backward-looking killjoy by an age group that hadn’t reached maturity when the Ayodhya agitation was in full bloom. Advani’s generational detachment from the new India was a small illustration of the problem, but far more marked was the growing Hindu detachment from sectarian politics.

The liberals in the BJP stressed that India had changed beyond recognition in the past fifteen years. First, the era witnessed sustained double-digit economic growth, the end of shortages and a consumer goods revolution unlike any witnessed earlier. Most important, the changes were capsuled into a very short time. Second, India experienced globalization and sustained exposure to global currents as never before. In the past, Indians had emigrated to break away from a self-contained country and taste the world; now the world arrived at the doorstep of India – perhaps not uniformly but quite decisively. The change in mental attitudes brought about by this exposure has still not been mapped in detail but that it changed India isn’t in any serious doubt.

Finally, the rapid economic growth increased population mobility and led to a surge in urbanization. Cumulatively, it triggered the breakdown of the joint family – the age-old transmission centre of tradition and culture – and produced a cultural ferment that was initially marked by impatience with tradition.

The BJP was an unwitting casualty of the processes at work. Its hierarchical structures, an ingrained culture of deference and long-standing suspicion of westernization made it an oddball in the eyes of a generation impatient to catch up with the world. In the 1990s, the BJP appealed to a Hindu youth that nurtured a sense of emotional defeat, material deprivation and an impatience for change. By 2009, another generation of youth that had experienced the headiness of prosperity and India’s emergence as an economic powerhouse, felt unable to relate to a party that had not changed with the rest of the country. In the three elections between 1996 and 1999, the BJP emerged as the single largest party, overtaking the Congress, because it replenished its core vote from the youth and the middle classes. In 2009, the core vote shrunk dramatically and left the BJP unable to attract the incremental vote from regional players.

To a large extent, this shrinking appeal owed to the BJP’s inability to refashion the militant Hindutva of the 1990s. The emergence of global Islamic radicalism, with some roots in India, persuaded a section of the BJP that the shrillness of the past would continue to pay dividends in the present. This miscalculation arose primarily because the exasperation with terrorism was seen in isolation. Juxtaposed with the growing material prosperity of the country, increased opportunities and a growing popular stake in the future, the resistance to terrorism became far less populist. There was a marked disinclination to unsettle India’s forward march and make a permanent enemy of India’s Muslim community. The wave of revulsion that greeted Varun Gandhi’s Hindu machismo in Pilibhit cast the BJP as an extremist force. Its nationalism became identified with the illiberalism of extremist players, including those who beat up young girls in the pubs of Mangalore. The images that cast the BJP as the defender of nationalism and Hindu interests in 1992 came to haunt it seventeen years later.

It is possible that the BJP was guilty of misreading the outcome of the Gujarat assembly election in 2007. The perception that Modi’s second consecutive victory (the fourth consecutive win for the BJP) owed to his success in turning Sonia Gandhi’s ‘merchant of death’ taunt on its head seems, in hindsight, to be somewhat facile. No doubt Modi whipped up passions in the last phase of the campaign by his shrill assault on a suspected terrorist, but this was merely the icing on the cake. The substance of the BJP campaign in Gujarat centred on Modi’s impressive development record in the past five years. Without a solid record of governance, Modi’s invocation of an emotional issue wouldn’t have paid dividends.

The problem with the BJP campaign in 2009 was that there was confusion over where the party stood on matters more substantive than Hindutva. In 2004, there was little ambiguity over the BJP’s commitment to rapid economic growth, the expansion of infrastructure and the encouragement of private enterprise. It is a different matter that the over-pitched slogan of ‘India Shining’ ended up consolidating those who hadn’t fully tasted the benefits of economic progress.

In 2009, the BJP failed to transmit the right signals to its core constituency. The five years it spent in opposition was largely spent in denial, obstruction and in pursuing a policy of blind opposition to the UPA. The party’s opposition to the Indo-US nuclear accord, for example, went against the grain of its traditional constituency. Indeed, it ended up projecting the BJP as Hindu leftists. The party was unable to exploit the UPA’s indifferent performance to its advantage because it wasn’t clear in its mind where it stood. In just five years the party dissipated its support among the middle classes and this was reflected in its defeat in a large number of urban seats, particularly Delhi and Mumbai. The Congress under Manmohan Singh ended up looking like a better bet to many of those who had voted BJP in the past.

It is interesting that this liberal critique of where the BJP erred was peremptorily brushed aside by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leadership which saw itself as the most important stakeholder in the party. In the summer of 2005, disturbed and angered by what it saw as Advani’s heresy in Pakistan, the R S S took a decision to increase its involvement in the BJP. This was sought to be done in a typically R S S style – through organizational control. The R S S believed that a dose of ideological regimentation and discipline in the ranks would see the BJP tide over its post-defeat blues.

The surprise appointment of Rajnath Singh as Advani’s successor – over-ruling the political consensus that had developed around M. Venkiah Naidu – was not dictated by a need to regain Uttar Pradesh. Rajnath was a rubber stamp to increase the R S S hold over the organization. Following an amendment to the party’s constitution in 2006, the post of organizing secretary was created at both the party headquarters and in the states. The organizing secretary would occupy a party post but he would be appointed by the R S S and be answerable to it alone.

In the past, the R S S had routinely sent its full-timers to the BJP to assist the political leadership. In recent times, these have included K.N. Govindacharya and Narendra Modi and among the past stalwarts were Sundar Singh Bhandari and Kushabhau Thakre. However, from 2006 onwards the pattern underwent a shift. First, unlike the past where the representation of R S S pracharaks in the BJP had been nominal, the new policy was to establish R S S control over the party at all levels. The 2006 assembly election in Uttar Pradesh was, for example, entirely managed by pracharaks who fanned out to the districts. There was the bizarre spectacle of young pracharaks in their twenties giving political instructions and guidance to politicians with experience of winning three or four elections. Predictably, the outcome wasn’t entirely happy. The BJP slipped to a poor fourth position but this was explained away in terms of the limited time available to the R S S to make its wisdom felt. There was never any question of the R S S reflecting on the organization’s suitability for electoral politics.

The R S S has always nurtured a deep disdain for politics. The founders of the movement, and particularly M.S. Golwalkar, viewed politics as naturally divisive and a distraction from the R S S’ central project of nation-building. While the R S S leadership thought it important to influence political thinking, it was always wary of excessive involvement. The full-timers of the R S S were, in particular, always advised to maintain a healthy detachment from partisan politics. The BJP was always viewed as a friendly party and the natural home of all swayamsevaks who were inclined to jump into public life but equally, it was also understood that the BJP had its own compulsions and could not be regarded as an appendage of the R S S. Maintaining this fine balance was never easy and there were occasional strains in the relationship. However, as long as Vajpayee and Advani were at the helm, the BJP could never really complain that it was being suffocated by the R S S. People such as Bhaurao Deoras and Rajju Bhaiyya did exercise tremendous influence on the BJP, but this was more on account of their personalities and not an institutionalized arrangement.

It is hard to put a finger on exactly when this delicate arrangement began to be disturbed. After the BJP’s spectacular surge in 1991 and its success in forming state governments, some local R S S bigwigs developed an undue interest in political power. Pressures from lay swayamsevaks on the local R S S translated into R S S pressure on the BJP leadership. The most glaring example of this was the manner in which Jaswant Singh’s appointment as finance minister was scotched in 1998 at the behest of a R S S notable who, it was widely believed, was acting at the behest of corporate interests. Throughout their tenure in government, both Vajpayee and Advani used to complain bitterly at the attempted micro-management by the R S S leadership. The R S S, it was clear, was hell bent on enlarging the lakshman rekha of the relationship.

The R S S was initially prone to leveraging its volunteer army for securing political returns. It was believed that the BJP was disproportionately dependant on R S S foot soldiers for electioneering. This was certainly the case till the early-1990s when the BJP’s presence throughout the country was spectacularly uneven. However, by the 1996 election it was clear that the political momentum lay with the BJP rather than the R S S. As more and more local notables and activists from other political parties flocked to the BJP, making it the largest non-Congress outfit, the party’s dependence on the R S S declined. Apart from Madhya Pradesh where the R S S network is very extensive, the growth of the BJP in the rest of the country owed primarily to the entry of peoples and communities from non-R S S backgrounds. Vajpayee had always sought to make the BJP a wholesome version of the Janata Party that defeated the Congress in 1977; by 1996, his mission seemed near completion.

There were certain features that distinguished the R S S from the BJP’s political style. First, the R S S believed that an organization would expand and be effective through organizational rigour and discipline. This was based on its own experience in the shakhas. The BJP attached a premium on political articulation and the ability to draw in social groups. It believed in a modicum of organization but was never obsessive about it.

Second, the BJP, particularly Vajpayee, believed that the growth of the party could happen only when individuals and groups from different political and cultural traditions also rallied behind it. The BJP may have flaunted its credentials as an ‘ideological’ party with a cadre base. The reality, however, was very different. It was at variance with the R S S which believed in a composite ideology and strict regimentation.

Finally, the community life of the R S S was woefully incestuous. The organization was markedly partial towards those who had attended shakhas in their youth and were willing to parade in khaki shorts on appropriate occasions. There was an unstated belief in the R S S that swayamsevaks were morally superior to those Hindus who had never been exposed to the shakha environment. Predictably, such an attitude posed problems in the functioning of the BJP. As the party expanded, the R S S grew more and more reckless in its insistence that only their chosen ones could occupy positions of importance. From being a remote moral ombudsman, the R S S soon transformed itself into a faction in the BJP.

This transformation had profound consequences. After the 2004 defeat, the R S S arrived at the conclusion that the NDA failed because it was insufficiently attentive to the core concerns of Hindu nationalism. It was believed that the correction could take place if there was appropriate R S S intervention at all levels. The ‘retirement’ of Vajpayee and Advani was a key component of the R S S strategy. The appointment of Rajnath was supposed to herald a slow organizational takeover which would, in time, lead to the BJP resuming its role as an ‘ideological’ party.

Although the R S S decided to give Advani a final shy at power in 2009, its heart was never in the election campaign. Backed by his R S S point man, Rajnath did his utmost to undermine the projection of the BJP as a responsible, centrist, party of governance. Prior to the election, he encouraged dissidence in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Bihar. A particular attempt was made to cut Narendra Modi to size by fermenting a Patel revolt in which the VHP stalwart Praveen Togadia played a major part. Prior to the 2007 assembly election, the R S S even instructed its full-timers to refrain from supporting Modi. In Uttar Pradesh, the selection of candidates was manipulated in a manner so as to invite defeat. In Rajasthan, a R S S-backed inner-party revolt cost Vasundhara Raje her re-election in 2008. And Rajnath’s own secretariat was hyperactive in feeding a hungry media both real and imaginary stories about the disarray in the BJP.

The point to note is that the troubles in the BJP weren’t the outcome of Rajnath’s manipulative personality alone. At every point he received the backing of those senior R S S leaders assigned to look after the BJP. The R S S, it would seem in hindsight, was creating the conditions for a complete takeover of the party – a process that R S S chief Mohan Bhagwat made clear to the whole country in October 2009. Bhagwat did what no R S S functionary had done so explicitly: he proclaimed that the R S S was the boss and that BJP could either take it or lump it.

For the moment, a sullen BJP has chosen the path of least resistance. Many of those who flocked to the party after 1996 have departed for greener pastures and many others are biding their time before jumping ship. The R S S has also succeeded in imposing its man, Nitin Gadkari, as the next president. The BJP tried to counter it by proposing Narendra Modi – a choice that the R S S found difficult to oppose. However, a wise Modi decided that this was not the time to jump into the centre of controversy….

2014 LS elections: BJP defies four historical, electoral 'boundaries' with landslide

Milan Vaishnav

The Times of India| May 17, 2014

The 2014 elections have only just ended but analysts are already struggling to comprehend how the BJP's stunning electoral success, deemed unlikely just one year ago, came to pass. The results of India's sixteenth general election challenge our common understanding of contemporary Indian electoral politics in at least four ways.

'BJP can't go beyond its traditional strongholds'

First, the conventional wisdom was that the BJP was trapped by its traditional political and geographic boundaries, deemed insurmountable thanks to the party's Hindutva agenda. Yet, the BJP has garnered an estimated one-third of the all-India vote, a massive improvement from 19% in 2009 and its all-time best of 26% in 1998. This improvement was driven by sizeable vote swings in critical Hindi heartland states as well as smaller but significant gains in the South and East, neither an area of traditional strength. These gains were possible thanks to Modi's persistent focus — in the national theatre of politics — on development and economic mobility. This message aligned perfectly with the issues vexing most Indian voters; a post-poll conducted by CSDS found that in every state surveyed, voters identified development, inflation or corruption as their most important election issue. To be clear, the BJP's saffron agenda has not vanished; recent campaign rhetoric and the party's manifesto confirm this. Yet, going forward, deviation from the focus on governance and development could imperil these newfound gains.

'It can't stitch up alliances better than Congress'

A second assumption that was upturned in this election was that Congres, not the BJP, had the advantage in alliance formation. Despite all the talk about its off-key "India Shining" mantra sinking the BJP in 2004, their loss was more about the BJP's inability to forge the right alliances. This fed doubts about whether the BJP could construct effective alliances in 2014, especially with Modi at the helm. Yet it was a Modi-led BJP that struck key deals over the past several months while the Congres, in contrast, was viewed as a sinking ship. Many observers dismissed the BJP's alliance with the Lok Jan Shakti Party in Bihar, the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, and the Haryana Janhit Congres as trivial. But such criticism overlooked the importance of small shifts in vote share in a fragmented, first-past-the-post electoral system.

'Support for regional parties is growing'

A third assumption underpinning Indian elections since 1989 has been the growth of regional parties. Between 1996 and 2009, the non-Congres, non-BJP share of the vote has hovered around 50%, rising to a record 53% in 2009. The 2014 election, though, saw a decline in regional party support; their nation-wide vote share dipped to roughly 47%, reversing the prevailing trend. Two players merit special attention here. The first is the evisceration of the BSP. Mayawati may draw a blank in Uttar Pradesh while the hard-fought inroads she made in other Hindi heartland states simply evaporated. The second is the weakening of the Left. At a time of rising inequality and concerns over crony capitalism, the conditions would seem propitious for a Leftist revival; instead we are witnessing their collapse.

'Lok Sabha polls are a sum of state verdicts'

A fourth assumption has been that national elections are best understood as an aggregation of state verdicts. The 2014 election outcome, however, is a partial reversal of "derivative" national elections. Not only was this election marked by presidential overtones, but the animating issues—namely, the slumping economy—have also been pan-Indian. Despite this apparent shift, there are two caveats to the "nationalization" thesis.

First, states still remain the most important tier of government for ordinary Indians. This is reflected in the fact that, notwithstanding the record voter turnout in these Lok Sabha polls, turnout for state elections is still 4.5% higher, on average, in any given state. Second, much of the south remained resistant to the BJP's charms. Although the BJP picked up new seats in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, its advances were limited and much smaller than in the north.

(The writer is an associate with the South Asia programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC)


2015: Vote share in Bihar 5 points lower than in 2014

The Times of India, November 11, 2015

Saffron group also lost big chunk of its own base

BJP's analysis of its de feat in Bihar, accord ing to what finance minister and senior partyman Arun Jaitley told the media on Monday , is that the Maha Gathbandhan's arithmetic beat NDA's chemistry. The data shows that while the first part of that analysis is correct, the second part is not and that NDA flunked the chemistry paper as well. That's revealed by the sizeable fall in NDA's vote share from 2014. The arithmetic was simple enough. In 2014, NDA totalled a vote share of 38.8% of all the votes polled in Bihar, including those for NOTA. JD (U) polled 15.8%, RJD 20.1% and Congress 8.4%. Had the three been together, their combined vote share of 44.3% would have been well over NDA's and the results would thus have been quite differ ent. The formation of Maha Gathbandhan manifested the recognition of this reality by the three parties.

Jaitley was referring to the fact that the arithmetic addition of the vote bases of the three parties did happen, contrary to NDA's expectations. He was right.

Maha Gathbandhan's vote share in these polls was 41.9%. Considering that Jitan Ram Manjhi's HAM(S) had broken away from JD(U) between the 2014 and 2015 polls and had won 2.3% of the votes polled, what this meant was that the grand alliance succeeded in keeping the rest of its votes together and transferring them to each other, no mean achievement.

Now for the chemistry. NDA 's vote share in the elections just concluded was 34.1%, or 4.7 percentage points lower than in 2014.

This despite the addition of the HAM(S) votes to its kitty . Exclude the fledgling party and BJP , Paswan's LJP and Upendra Kushwaha's RLSP polled just 31.8% of the votes, a drop of seven percentage points from 2014. That's not down to Maha Gathbandhan arithmetic, it shows a disenchantment with NDA among voters.

BJP's vote share was itself five percentage points lower than in 2014. The party could legitimately point out that this is an unfair comparison because it contested 182 of the assembly segments in the Lok Sabha elections and only 157 this time. So, we looked at only those segments in which it was in the contest in both 2014 and 2015 and the analysis still shows a significant drop in vote share for BJP .

There were 129 assembly constituencies in which BJP was in the contest in both elections. Its share of votes in these segments in 2014 was 39.9%. This time round, it was 37.7%, a swing of over two percentage points away from the party . Remember also that unlike in 2014, supporters of Manjhi should also have voted for BJP candidates in these seats thereby boosting its share beyond 40% if it had held on to its own votes.

Actually , BJP polled even in absolute terms nearly 87,000 fewer votes in these 129 seats than it did in 2014. This at a time when the total votes polled in these seats rose by almost 11.1 lakh. In short, while the votes polled rose on average by over 8,500 per seat, BJP's votes fell by about 700 per seat.

That points to a failure of its own chemistry , not just a success of Maha Gathbandhan arithmetic. What made matters worse was that its allies lost their chemistry even more drastically .

2015, Bihar elections: performance in Union ministers’ strongholds

The Times of India, Nov 10 2015

Eminent performers in the BJP; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, November 10, 2015

Vishwa Mohan

NDA fares poorly in stronghold of Union ministers from Bihar

BJP and its allies found the going tough in the Lok Sabha seats represented by their Union ministers with only agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh's constituency Purvi Champaran returning a decent number of MLAs. In Purvi Champaran, the NDA won four out of six assembly segments. Three -Motihari, Kalyanpur and Pipra -of these were won by BJP while Govindganj went in favour of ally LJP .

Purvi Champaran also emerged as the best performing district for the BJP-led alliance in Bihar. The NDA won eight out of 12 assembly seats in the district. Singh, a veteran BJP member from the state, has been in the Mo di Cabinet since May 2014.

Upendra Kushwaha and Ram Kripal Yadav turned out to be the worst performers, winning only one seat each rom their respective constituencies of Karakat and Pataliputra. Kushwaha, minister of state for HRD, is the chief of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party , which had fielded 23 candidates across the state.The party was victorious on only two of these seats.

Yadav, a former RJD member, joined BJP before the 2014 parliamentary elections. He represents Pataliputra in the Lok Sabha and is minister of state for drinking water and sanitation in the Modi Cabinet. Except for Danapur assembly segment in his parliamentary constituency , all five went in favour of the Grand Alliance.

Besides these three, Ram Vilas Paswan, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Giriraj Singh are the other Lok Sabha MPs in the Union Cabinet. Though there are two more ministers from Bihar (Ravi Shankar Prasad and Dharmendra Pradhan), these two represent the state in the Rajya Sabha.Pradhan, petroleum minister, is from Odisha but represents Bihar in the upper House.

Rudy , MP from Saran and minister of state (independent charge) for skill development and parliamentary affairs, could win only two out of six seats for the NDA. Similarly, Hajipur MP Paswan and Nawada MP Giriraj Singh won two seats each for the BJP-led alliance.

2016: Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Wesr Bengal

See graphics

'Seats and vote share of BJP, 2011 and 2016, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal'


'Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election rallies for the state assembly elections of 2014 and 2015, and their impact
The Bjp’s vote share after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister'

Seats and vote share of BJP, 2011 and 2016, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, May 20, 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election rallies for the state assembly elections of 2014 and 2015, and their impact
The Bjp’s vote share after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister ; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, April 23, 2016

2017 vis-a-vis 2012

How the BJP won state assemblies

How the BJP won state assemblies between 2012 and 2017
From December 19, 2017:The Times of India

See graphic:

How the BJP won state assemblies between 2012 and 2017

Performance in state assembly elections

See graphic, ‘How BJP's seats and vote share in 2017 compare with 2012 seats’

How BJP's seats and vote share in 2017 compare with 2012 seats; March 12, 2017: The Times of India


BJP overcomes ‘church veto’ in Nagaland, Meghalaya

March 4, 2018: The Times of India

In a region where religious organisations have had a role in elections, the contest in Nagaland and Meghalaya became sharper still with church groups calling for resistance against a “Hindutva” invasion of the north-east and BJP-R-S-S launching their most determined bid yet to wrest power.

In a strange inversion, there was no talk of beef in the campaign as BJP sidestepped the issue, arguing that it was not against local customs and traditions. In fact, its local leaders in Nagaland made it a point to say they were Christians too and any talk of cultural aggression was misplaced. In the end, BJP is set to be in office in Nagaland and could be a partner in Meghalaya.

Congress projected BJP as “anti-minority” and said regional outfits like NPP were likely to forge an alliance with the saffron party. The call didn’t deter voters from backing NPP, and BJP is likely to extend it support to form the government in Meghalaya.

The clash of faiths lies at a deeper plane. BJP-R-S-S is looking to weave a political and cultural narrative that seeks to incorporate the north-east in the Hindu nationalist “mainstream”, arousing identity politics of small parties and the rejection of Hindutva by church groups. The view that the north-east is brimming with “sub-nationalities” is anathema to BJP which has, nonetheless, moved to accommodate local traditions.

Winning the north-east is important for BJP as the party looks to counter the “church veto” and present itself as an inclusive political organisation with no geography out of reach due to demographics.

It made the point strongly in Assam in 2016 when Congress’s wooing of the Muslim vote could not prevent a saffron landslide.

A potent mix of Hindutva-laced nationalism, development promises and a stand against illegal migrants from Bangladesh has worked for BJP in the northeast, helped also by the work of Sangh organisations, which see the battle in terms of “saving” the northeast from demographic invasion and maximising its advantage through the projection of PM Narendra Modi.

There was no talk of beef in the campaign as BJP side-stepped the issue, arguing that it was not against local customs and traditions

Himanta Biswa Sarma’s work in the NE

Prabin Kalita, Out of Cong, now BJP’s kingmaker, March 4, 2018: The Times of India

BJP’s poll formula, combining organisational strength and foolproof alliance equations, has proved successful. Leading the march in the north-east is Himanta Biswa Sarma.

A former Congressman, the 48-year-old Assam minister crossed over to BJP in 2015 a few months before the state went to the polls. The saffron party came to power in the north-east for the first time and has not looked back since. The North-East Democratic Alliance (Neda) — formed with the objective of creating a “Congress-mukt north-east” — was the first step towards BJP’s expansion goal. Sarma is its convener and has been responsible for arriving at the understandings that have favoured BJP’s growth. He made a mark as kingmaker in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and, now, Tripura.

Having seen to BJP’s victory in Tripura, Sarma rushed to Shillong in the afternoon. With Meghalaya having a hung House, Sarma has taken his position on the battleground to ensure that a Congress gover nment does not come to pass.

Sarma’s modus operandi is clear — break the rival and win its key leaders over to BJP. Like him, Manipur CM Biren Singh and Arunachal Pradesh’s Pema Khandu were Congress leaders before. “The influence of BJP was quite limited in the north-east. Unless new people joined, it couldn’t have grown in strength,” he said.

He attributed BJP’s growth in the north-east to PM Modi’s development agenda. “For the first time, people have seen development at the local level. They have seen the huge investment by the government in rail, road and air connectivity,” he said. Striking the right alliance at the right time was critical. “BJP’s structure has been strengthened. Under Neda, a lot of regional parties have joined us,” he added.


Vote share: 2014 vis-à-vis 2019

BJP, Vote share- 2014 vis-à-vis 2019
From: May 24, 2019: The Times of India

See graphic:

BJP, Vote share- 2014 vis-à-vis 2019

Inroads in thitherto difficult states

The BJP’s electoral performance in Kerala, 1951-2019
From: May 24, 2019: The Times of India
The BJP’s electoral performance in Tamil Nadu, 1951-1998-2019
From: May 24, 2019: The Times of India
The BJP’s electoral performance in West Bengal, 1951-2019
From: May 24, 2019: The Times of India
The BJP’s electoral performance in Odisha, 1951-1998-2019
From: May 24, 2019: The Times of India
The BJP’s electoral performance in Andhra Pradesh, 1951-1984-2019
From: May 24, 2019: The Times of India

See graphics:

The BJP’s electoral performance in Kerala, 1951-2019

The BJP’s electoral performance in Tamil Nadu, 1951-1998-2019

The BJP’s electoral performance in West Bengal, 1951-2019

The BJP’s electoral performance in Odisha, 1951-1998-2019

The BJP’s electoral performance in Andhra Pradesh, 1951-1984-2019

State-wise performance, 2014> 2019

Loos To LPG: Chhotu Steps To Big Win Schemes Like Ujjwala Played A Key Role In Fortifying Modi’s Image As ‘Kamdaar’, May 24, 2019: The Times of India

It is easy to attribute BJP’s victory to the Modi government’s bold decision to carry out air strikes on Jaish-e-Muhammed’s jihadi terror factory in Balakot deep inside Pakistan. The popular narrative is that BJP was headed for a defeat until IAF turned the polls around by retaliating against the massacre of CRPF troopers in Pulwama.

But that’s too simplistic an assumption. Balakot did indeed play a role by strengthening BJP’s ‘tough-on-national security’ plank and, in the process, adding lustre to PM Narendra Modi’s persona as a decisive leader who could be entrusted with the country’s defence.

But a far bigger contribution came from a number of steps that provided vital underpinnings to Modi’s projection as a pro-poor person and helped BJP gain support among a constituency which had so far remained beyond its grasp.

One of them was Ujjwala, which provided deposit-free LPG cylinders to families below poverty line and freed many homemakers from the drudgery of finding increasingly scarce firewood as well as the health hazard of cooking on chulhas. According to experts, having an open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour.

Despite some complaints about refills being too expensive (households have to pay the full price, and the subsidy is later deposited in their bank accounts), Ujjwala is a case study of a government reaping huge electoral returns on a scheme that involved a rather modest political spend. As a vehicle for amplifying Modi’s image as a pro-poor leader, ‘Chhotu’, the 5-kg cylinder which is affordable (priced at Rs 259.10 but with subsidy, it comes down to Rs 184.34) and can be carried easily proved to be a hit across vast swathes.

There were several other schemes that helped fortify the message that Modi was the ‘kaamdar’ (doer) while Rahul was the ‘naamdar” (dynast): Construction of toilets, housing for poor, electrification and a dip in power bill because of the push for LED bulbs, launch of Ayushman Bharat and a sharp reduction in the cost of essential medicines. Welfare scheme money went into people’s accounts — something made possible because of Modi’s resolute push for Jan Dhan accounts — and timely implementation guaranteed higher-than-usual satisfaction. All these proved to be crucial pieces of the scaffolding on which BJP built the aura of Modi as a compassionate leader. The effort was helped by income support for farmers, quota for upper castes and income tax waiver for those earning up to Rs 5 lakh.

The focus on infrastructure and Modi’s carefully choreographed foreign visits were other important ingredients that sustained the narrative of a PM making an honest effort to turn the country into a global powerhouse.

These schemes blunted the opposition’s allegations of betrayal and provided a foundation for BJP’s pitch that Modi may not have fulfilled all his 2014 promises but he had made an honest beginning and deserved another term to finish the job.

BJP chief Amit Shah has put the number of beneficiaries of Modi’s schemes at a staggering 27 crore, nearly 10 crore more than the total votes his party got five years ago. With a newly-raised army of 11 crore party workers, Shah ensured that the beneficiaries were reached before polling day.

The field had already been set for Balakot to provide the finishing touch, and what a lethal strike it turned out to be.



2019: poll defeats make BJP leave Godhra office

Sachin.Sharma |Spooked by poll defeats, BJP lets go of Godhra office | The Times of India

Gearing up for the Lok Sabha polls, BJP has decided not to use an office in Panchmahal where its candidates have lost elections in the past.

BJP had used the ‘Geetamrut’ bungalow in Bhagwat Society on Dahod Road in Godhra as its office since 1991 when Shankersinh Vaghela contested the seat. Vaghela won the election, but lost in 1996 while using the same premises as his office. BJP’s Gopalsinh Solanki too lost the election in 1998, using the same office.

BJP candidates did not use the office in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. Vaghela, on the other hand, set up his office in the same bungalow again in 2009 when he was contesting as a Congress candidate, and lost.

Sources said the bungalow was being prepared again for use as the BJP election office but some members felt it was unlucky.

“There was a delay in coordinating with the person who owned the house where we have finally set up our office. As an alternative, we were preparing the bungalow that had been used earlier. Eventually, we got the space we were looking for and the earlier bungalow was dropped as a venue for the party election office,” said Panchmahal BJP general secretary Mehul Patel.

Now the local BJP party office has shifted to Shanti Nivas Society, a safe halfa-kilometre from Bhagwat Society.

See also

Bihar: Assembly elections

Bihar: Assembly elections, 2015

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