Development is all very well but BJP is also preparing to pitch issues that have ‘emotional appeal’
For political watchers, BJP President Amit Shah’s rally in Rajasthan earlier this week where he virtually launched the party’s election campaign among workers for the forthcoming Assembly poll in that States was a dead giveaway on the issues that are likely to be raised to enthuse the cadre. He insisted that that BJP would come back to power in Rajasthan despite widespread assessments to the contrary by neutral observers and in what can be construed as a dog whistle to the cadre iterated that whenever its critics and/or opponents raised issues such as the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq on suspicion of cow slaughter or protests of the award-wapasi kind the BJP shone through. He added for good measure as he has been doing ever since the final draft of the National Register of Citizens was published in Assam that all States of the Union should carry out a similar exercise and that he would ensure not a single Bangladeshi infiltrator would be left in the country. As if on cue, the VHP has called for a meeting of Sants in October to chalk out plans for the construction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya now that hopes of an early Supreme Court judgement on the appeal preferred by the Muslim parties against the Allahabad High Court verdict are fading. The apex court is has decided to first deal with the issue of whether re-examination of a 1994 verdict by the top court which held that a mosque was not integral to worship in Islam would be appropriate, before taking up the appeal on the land dispute case. Senior BJP functionaries are well aware that pushing only development as encapsulated in the sabka saath, sabka vikas slogan of 2014 vintage is subject to the law of diminishing returns given the problems the country faces are of such scale and depth that however good the governance performance of a ruling party may or may not be, there will always be millions whose lives have not been touched in a substantive way by the Government. But elections still have to be fought and won and for that a cadre which is enthused with issues that resonate with them emotionally is the prime prerequisite. The split with the PDP, the emerging hard line on Jammu and Kashmir, the decision to push ahead with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, a pro-active stance on issues of blatant gender discrimination especially within the Indian Muslim community and charges of appeasement against various regional parties are all part of this effort to consolidate its core constituency ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha poll. That is not to say, however, that the ‘plus’ in the BJP-plus electorate which Prime Minister Narendra Modi crafted through the 2014 campaign, aided by a paralysed UPA administration that was perceived with good reason to have had its nose in the trough and willy-nilly guiding India towards a differential citizenship model will be ignored. The secular strengths of the BJP as a political organisation — the world’s largest — with muscle at the booth level epitomised in the Prime Minister’s slogan of mera booth, sabse mazboot will also come into play. As will the albeit incremental reform of structures that the Government has carried out, the growth-oriented, social welfare, nation-building and populist policies it has rolled out, the steps taken to formalise the economy despite the failure of demonestisation and implementation problems with GST and the infrastructure push allied to a lack of any evidence of high-level corruption despite attempts by the Opposition to make Rafale graft allegations stick. With, of course, Modi’s personal appeal to top it all off.