Big celebrations aren’t unexpected when party delegates from across the state meet for the first time after winning power. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s state convention held in Kolhapur on May 23 and 24 turned out to be more of a serious affair, in which the party went into introspection mode and appealed to the party’s rank and file to make more efforts in terms of reaching out to the masses.
Judging by political parameters, it may seem too early for any party to tread such a path. But then the BJP, which is accused of not fulfilling the people’s aspirations, appears strategic in its approach to meet the new challenge. One prime reason for introspection is the opposition’s rant against PM Narendra Modi and its cascading effect in BJP-ruled states like Maharashtra, where the party is five months short of completing a year in power.
Another reason for taking such a step is that the BJP wants itself fully prepared for the local self-government polls to be held in the next 17-20 months in various parts of Maharashtra. These elections are termed as “mini-Assembly polls.” And this untapped area, undoubtedly, is the party’s next big target because it has not been able to penetrate such institutions ever since it came into existence. The BJP’s ultimate goal is to form the government at the Centre and state again in 2019, without the Shiv Sena’s crutches. The Kolhapur event seemed to have assumed the proportion of a pre-election event, at least for senior leaders, who gave pep talks to the ministers, junior leaders, and the delegates, who were in full attendance. But the difficulty at hand is to convince the people, yet again, at a time when the scrutiny of BJP’s performance is reaching new proportions in the opposition, the masses, and the media.
The BJP has successfully discovered a grey area that it needs to work on. It’s a lack of coordination between the government and the party organisation, which further leads to a missing link between the government and the masses. So far, the organisation was the party’s core strength and it had weakened after seasoned leaders shifted to the government as ministers.
The people in the organisation have a reason to feel disenchanted when they don’t share power. In Maharashtra, non-minister leaders are exactly in this phase of disillusion.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis did speak his mind about this issue at an indoor meeting with party leaders. He said it would be unhealthy in the long run, especially for electoral politics. His primary concern is that the party had not made serious efforts to take the decisions taken by his or Modi’s governments, to the masses. He even warned his party colleagues that such a failure would lead them to a 1999-like situation, in which the then BJP-Sena government could not carry the message across to the people that they had brought in some change to their lives. That was the first non-Congress regime in the state.
The BJP weathered many a storm within the cadre and outside, especially the Sena’s aggression, before it split from the long-time ally and made its MLA the CM.
And though the BJP is in power in Maharashtra, its hold is still not as absolute as it expected to be. It has not been able to escape Sena’s menacing ways of creating trouble. At times, the Sena makes things difficult for the BJP’s Modi-inspired idea of governance when it goes into opposition party mode.
BJP’s national president, Amit Shah, touted as a master poll strategist, had an answer ready for the delegates. Firstly, he told the state leaders that this grievance would not have come up at all, had they worked even more efficiently in the 2014 Assembly polls. Then, he asked seniors in the party to adopt seats that the party lost last year and work on them very seriously to win over the voters there.
More importantly, he has asked the party cadre to not take the people for granted and reach out to them, as frequently as possible, with the benefits that the government is willing to extend. Shah hasn’t spared BJP ministers either. He has warned them against lethargy and will review their performance every six months from now on.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day