Cutouts of BJP leaders at the venue of the party’s strategy meeting in New Delhi on Sunday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Aug. 18: Narendra Modi today stressed that the BJP must “consciously and concertedly” reach out to sections out of its bounds for decades and singled out Muslims, Dalits and tribals as potential target voters for the party.
The Gujarat chief minister, who helms the BJP’s campaign committee, was addressing a day-long strategy session here for state and central leaders and office-bearers.
Sources later quoted Modi as saying that his Gujarat experience proved that if the party willingly carved out a “political space” for all social and religious groupings, those aspiring for a place in this niche had warmed to it and reciprocated.
Obliquely alluding to the fact that no Muslim was given a ticket in the last Gujarat Assembly elections, Modi claimed the exclusion was not “wilful” but had largely been based on the perception that the aspiring candidates might not win the seats they were looking at on a BJP symbol.
On the other hand, he added, when the BJP had fielded “hundreds” of Muslims in the local body polls that followed, many of the candidates were elected to positions of power and influence.
Modi reportedly emphasised that a key strategy for 2014 must be an “inclusive” approach to meet the “hopes and expectations” of every section.
In other words, if a Muslim candidate looks like putting up a good fight, the BJP should go ahead and field him or her. He pointed out that far from being a “homogeneous vote bank”, there were Muslims who were “disillusioned” with the Congress and other “secular” parties; so the BJP ought to identify such sections and reach out to them.
Similarly, Modi reportedly said, Dalits and tribals should not be lumped into a political monolith. He added that in Gujarat itself, there were sub-sects of tribals who were still out of the BJP’s loop despite repeated endeavours to win them over.
The session — also addressed by BJP president Rajnath Singh, L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley among others — embedded the phrase “Mission 272+” as the party’s goal for 2014. The underlying message was that the BJP should try and win as many seats on its own so that it emerged as a “strong” fulcrum to pull in allies after the elections.
Privately, sources admitted that if the party touched 180 to 185 seats, it should consider itself “lucky” and, if it reached or crossed 200, it would be a “miracle”.
Modi and the state presidents, including Vasundhara Raje (Rajasthan) and Narendra Singh Tomar (Madhya Pradesh), cautioned that unless the BJP fine-tuned its booth management, it could end up with more misses than hits. The BJP’s oft-heard slogan of “10 youths for every booth” had proved meaningless in the past, especially in states where its cadres were indifferent.
Vasundhara and Tomar proposed that instead of having a single Delhi-appointed “prabhari” (minder) for every state to oversee the elections, every Assembly segment in a Lok Sabha constituency should have a “palak” (care-giver) for constant nursing.
The message from the principal speakers was that the prevailing ambience was “decidedly” against the Congress and it was a “now-or-never” scenario for the BJP.
Advani shed his public misgivings about Modi and, in a succinct speech, said that in the early sixties, when a Jan Sangh founder, Balraj Madhok, fought his first election from Delhi, nobody, including Madhok himself, had given him even an outside chance in a Congress-dominated era.
Advani reportedly said Madhok went door to door soliciting votes and, in the end, he won. Therefore, adopting the “right” methodologies for booth management was ultimately the key, he said.
Sources said the signals from the podium was that “Mission 272+” was not just individual-centric but about the party and every worker in it.
Rajnath chided Bihar leader Sushil Modi for passing a resolution on Saturday demanding that the central parliamentary board declare Modi as the Prime Minister candidate.
Rajnath reportedly said there was “no need” for the states to “force an issue” the central leaders were “seized of”. He said he and his peers were “fully aware” of the “national mood”, they would take a decision at an appropriate time and there was no need to “complicate matters”.