Afternoon Voice

BJP in damage control mode — Modi-Shah no more saleable?

BJP has been known for relying too much on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its party president Amit Shah for campaigning purposes. Modi had become the face of BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha polls as he spearheaded the party’s campaigning which enabled it to emerge victorious in the elections. However, four years down the line the Modi wave has faded as people are already unhappy with the government for failing to deliver the promises made by it. The government is already facing the heat over rising fuel prices and slide in the value of rupee. BJP has installed the posters of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, and veteran leader L.K. Advani in Delhi. Thus, BJP is doing a rethink of its strategy and honouring the contribution of these leaders. The party is going into the damage control mode before the Lok Sabha polls and bringing those leaders to the forefront.

BJP spokesperson Shirish Boralkar said, “Not only these senior leaders but also for us, all the leaders are important including the party workers. Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharati, LK Advani are our national leaders. Photos of the Prime Minister and party President are published in the government advertisements while photographs of other leaders are used on many other occasions.”

“Photos of senior leaders are used in programmes or campaigning activities related to our party. We respect our senior leaders. We do not function like the Congress party which is remote controlled by the Gandhi parivar,” he added.

BJP has realised that it will have to look beyond Modi and also groom other leaders to connect with voters. While Modi has done a commendable job by campaigning for the Lok Sabha and assembly polls held in various states, the current situation prevailing in the country like rising fuel prices, fall of rupee has forced the party to rethink its strategy. The party has understood that it won’t be right to solely depend on Modi’s charisma to win the election.

Congress MP Sushmita Dev said, “I don’t think BJP is taking care of their senior leaders. BJP is an opportunistic party — the moment they don’t need the services of any leader, they sideline them. According to Arun Shourie, the BJP government is run by two and a half persons. Only Narendra Modi and Amit Shah matter in the party. BJP lacks vision and is looting the country.”

BJP has been known for sidelining its senior leaders. After Modi became the Prime Minister, senior leaders like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, and former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was removed from the decision making bodies of the party and included in Margadarshak Mandal. The party also had sidelined leaders like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, and Shatrughan Sinha. Shatrughan Sinha has been known for criticising the policies of the Modi government.

Shiv Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar said, “It is true that BJP is remembering their senior leaders now. The party will change its stand and have already started giving importance to their senior leaders. They have been sidelining their senior leaders but now they have started connecting with them with an eye on the upcoming election. They want to change the usual perception that Shah-Modi duo calls the shots in BJP.”

When the Modi government had come to power, people had huge expectations from the party. However, four years have already passed but the government has failed to fulfil the promises made by it to the voters. As per the Crime Records Bureau, the farmer suicides have increased by 41.7 per cent after the Modi government came to power. The maximum number of suicides has been witnessed in Maharashtra.

AAP leader Ravi Srivastava said, “BJP has almost neglected their founder members and old leaders. As a result of this, Yashwant Sinha left the party and Shatrughan Sinha is opposing BJP. BJP tried to capitalise on Atalji’s demise. BJP’s image has maligned and internal rift is prevalent within the party. By retrieving pictures of the veteran leaders, BJP is trying to prove that they respect them. They have started launching schemes in the name of Atal.”

People had to face inconvenience due to the demonetisation campaign announced by the government. Many of them had to stand in queues outside the banks to exchange or deposit old currency notes. 105 people lost their lives while standing in queues outside banks. Businessmen had to face severe hardships due to the hastily implemented Goods and Services Tax (GST). While campaigning for the 2014 election, Modi had promised to create 2 crore jobs but the government has failed to fulfil the promises made by it.

BJP national spokesperson Nalin Kohli said, “The photographs of these leaders had always appeared on posters. It is not true that these photos have cropped up suddenly, so it is a silly assessment.”