PM Modi focuses attention on party, plays guide
The BJP leadership beset by a bruising defeat in the Bengal polls and the pandemic’s second wave has found a new address “to report party developments and seek guidance” — 7 Lok Kalyan Marg.
The occupant of the sprawling address ensconced in greenery is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There is emerging evidence that Modi is taking an unusual interest in party affairs at a time the BJP has been pounded by crises and condemnation from all quarters.
Over the past two days, BJP president J.P. Nadda and other key party leaders have been driving down to the Prime Minister’s residence, after holding extensive meetings among themselves, to “report party developments and seek guidance” from Modi.
Nadda chaired a two-day meeting of party general secretaries and other important leaders on Saturday and Sunday to take stock of the preparations for the elections in five states next year, including the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh.
On the agenda was also the BJP drive to reach out to the Covid-affected masses under the Seva Hi Sangathan programme. Leaders have been asked to visit villages and help the needy in what appears to be a belated attempt to make up for the leadership void during the tempestuous second wave of the pandemic.
Sources said Nadda and other frontline leaders had over the past two days briefed Modi about these sessions. On Sunday, the Prime Minister spent five hours with Nadda, BJP general secretaries and the heads of various frontal organisations.
He heard the leaders and advised them on different issues, focused mainly on winning the support and trust of the voters, the sources said.
Despite Modi being a “24x7 politician” in command of everything from governance to party affairs, this keenness in the day-to-day affairs of the organisation has sparked off murmurs in the BJP and Delhi’s political circles.
What has intensified the speculation is the timing — coming against the backdrop of the BJP’s defeat in the Bengal elections, which the party had turned into a high-octane battle that the whole nation had been glued to, and the widespread miseries perpetrated by Covid’s second wave for which the Centre was blamed.
It’s widely believed that the unspeakable human tragedy caused by the lack of hospital beds, oxygen and medicines, and thousands of corpses floating in rivers and buried on the banks had dented Modi’s image and that of the party.
The BJP sources said efforts had been launched on a war footing to contain the damage.
A measure of how badly the Bengal drubbing had hurt the BJP was evident in the lessons apparently dished out by Modi during the five-hour meeting.
“The party should take lessons from the Bengal polls. It should note how the Trinamul Congress secured a big victory after the poor performance in the (2019) Lok Sabha polls,” Modi was quoted as telling the BJP leaders.
He also told them that in both victory and defeat, the party should hold detailed analyses so that it can prepare for future elections.
BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, which accounts for 80 Lok Sabha seats, goes to polls early next year. This election is believed to be at the centre of Modi’s and the BJP’s concerns.
BJP leaders, however, denied that Modi had started showing excessive interest in party affairs, saying he had always played the role of a guide.
“Modiji has always addressed party leaders and offered guidance and suggestions. There is nothing out of place,” a BJP general secretary who was part of the meeting with the Prime Minister said.
Two other general secretaries who attended the meeting said they had got the impression that Modi wanted to know everything about the activities being carried out by the party and repeatedly stressed on not allowing inertia to creep in during the government’s second stint.
In BJP corridors, however, there is a feeling that with the image of his government and the party taking a beating, Modi was not willing to take any chances and wanted to directly monitor the affairs of the BJP.
“It’s a fact that our leaders were missing in action during the second Covid wave and this harmed our image. Modiji also seems to be concerned,” an MP said.
The other reason behind Modi’s perceived extraordinary intervention, BJP leaders felt, was the shifting of former party chief Amit Shah to governance. With his most trusted lieutenant manning the party, Modi used to feel more assured, the leaders said.