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After sweeping the Assembly elections in UP and forming new governments in four states, BJP has set its eye on the general elections of 2019. With Narendra Modi looking so powerful, can any party stop him?

The BJP top brass set the tone for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls at its parliamentary party meeting on Thursday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking party leaders to reach out to the youth. BJP chief Amit Shah said the parliamentary elections are the next big challenge for the party following its win in the recently concluded state polls.

The first BJP parliamentary party meeting after the announcement of the assembly polls results was an occasion for celebration, thanksgiving and mapping out the path ahead for the party.

Keeping up with its outreach to Dalits, a substantial chunk of whom is believed to have voted for the BJP in the Uttar Pradesh polls , it has decided to launch various week-long events from Bhim Rao Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on April 14.

Narendra Modi was his party’s chief campaigner in UP
Narendra Modi was his party’s chief campaigner in UP

The party will observe the week-long exercise in every panchayat and ward. It will also celebrate its foundation day on April 6 during which its leaders and workers will take part in ‘swachh Bharat’ campaign. Modi asked party leaders to work during the week to give a boost to the use of BHIM app, a digital payment application, by educating the masses about it and helping them download it, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar told reporters after the meeting.

They were also asked to publicise Ambedkar’s works and contributions. The Prime Minister said the youth should be made “ambassadors” of the Union government’s public welfare works and good governance.

Modi said youngsters depend on mobile phones more than on newspapers and TV channels to get information and stressed on the need to use this medium of communication to tap them. He also asked the party leaders to contact them while they are in Class XII.

Shah said the party’s win in the recently concluded assembly polls was an outcome of people’s vote against casteism, family rule and corruption and in favour of Modi’s leadership under which public welfare and good governance is the agenda.

BJP workers celebrating the party’s victory
BJP workers celebrating the party’s victory

Noting that the five-state elections were cited as the BJP’s biggest electoral challenge following 2014 Lok Sabha polls victory, he asserted that the next parliamentary elections in 2019 is the next big challenge and asked the party leaders to make preparation for it.

DEMONETIZATION EFFECT

The BJP’s win underlined people’s support for the welfare schemes launched by the Central government and a brave decision like demonetisation, Shah claimed. The BJP Parliamentary Party also passed a resolution thanking voters for their support and also party’s workers for their efforts under the leadership of Modi and Shah.

It also expressed hope that the BJP governments in these states will provide good governance and run public welfare programmes. Home Minister Rajnath Singh proposed the resolution and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley supported it, which was passed unanimously, Kumar said.

The party leaders were also distributed ‘prasad’ of the Tirupati temple.

But with the Lok Sabha polls just two years away, the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh will have to get its priorities right and achieve tangible results so that it can seek a fresh mandate with confidence, and hope to repeat its impressive performance in the 2014 general elections and the assembly polls.

BJP has returned to power in UP after 14 years and won a clear majority after two-and-a-half decades. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made several big promises and assured delivery, the people look up to him with renewed optimism. Their appetite whetted, the masses expect them to be delivered soon.

Moreover, since the BJP is now in power both at the Centre and in the state, its government cannot make any excuses if it fails to live up to its development promise. Here is a list of challenges before the BJP before 2019 Lok Sabha elections:

The first challenge for the new government in Uttar Pradesh will be to assure all sections of the society that it is not vindictive to any community or caste.

BJP had run an acrimonious election campaign in which its leaders, including Modi, attacked political opponents for appeasement of some castes (Yadavs in case of SP and Jatavs in case of BSP) and the Muslims. The party is also associated with the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya that led to the dismissal of the Kalyan Singh government.

The BJP dispensation in UP must ensure that while it shuns appeasement, there is no discrimination.

But few can doubt that Narendra Modi has emerged as a clear favourite for the 2019 general elections after the BJP’s landslide victory in assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand , top US experts on India have said.

NEW CHALLENGES

The Congress party alliance with SP didn’t work in UP
The Congress party alliance with SP didn’t work in UP

While one of the expert noted that the electoral results of the just concluded Assembly polls in five states show that the 2014 Lok Sabha election results were not an aberration, another noted that Modi would continue to lead India after 2019.

“The Assembly elections do not signal much of a change. The Uttar Pradesh election results showed that the 2014 general elections were not an “aberration”,” Adam Ziegfeld, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the George Washington University said. “It was a big win for the BJP. Its candidate won with much larger margin of victory than compared to the two previous winners -BSP and Samajwadi Party,” he said.

Modi has been established by this election as the “clear and favourite winner” for the 2019 elections, Sadanand Dhume, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute said.

“Modi is the front runner (for 2019),” he said.

Irfan Nooruddin, a professor at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at the Georgetown University predicted that in 2019, the BJP is unlikely to be get a simple majority and Modi would rather be heading a coalition government.

BJP is running a disciplines election campaign state-by-state, while the Opposition fails, he said. The party does not do good in a state where it faces a direct opposition. BJP is beatable if the Opposition comes together, Nooruddin said, adding that the party gains where it faces a fragmented opposition and in 2019, anti-incumbency would kick in.

In this election, the BJP played the cast card while pretending to be above it, Dhume who was in Uttar Pradesh during the elections, said. “Demonetisation is extremely popular. Indian people who have suffered themselves in the wake of the policy, it won their heart and mind. Here is this man of sincerity who struck a principled blow to corrupt and the rich,” he said referring to his conversation with people in the state.

PAN-INDIA PARTY

After Assembly election results announced on March 11, the BJP is ruling over more than 60 per cent population of the country. The Congress and its alliances are ruling over little less than 9 per cent (8.9) population including that in Punjab.

The BJP is ruling over six of the 10 most populous states of India-Uttar Pradesh , Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Remaining four are Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

In political sense, the BJP is the master of the north and the west while spreading fast in the northeast. The east remains a challenge. But, the current of the RSS seems to be in the south, where BJP is not controlling even one state.

BJP’s Kerala dream fell flat last year. Tamil Nadu went with the late CM Jayalalithaa in 2015. Karnataka will go to the polls later this year. The RSS seems to be preparing ground for the BJP in the south and in the process for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to retain power in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The RSS is holding its annual Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) meet in Coimbatore between March 19 and 21. In its 92 year old history the RSS will be holding its annual meet for the first time in Tamil Nadu.

The ABPS is the highest decision making body of the RSS. The RSS bigwigs will analyse the activities of all its organizations and wings the ABVP, the Sevabharati, the Samskrita Bharati, the Vidya Bharati and the Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh.

About 1,500 office bearers from all the states will take part in the ABPS meet, which will also be attended by BJP president Amit Shah and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari among others.

The RSS’ ABPS meet is being held at a crucial time in the south. There have been reports of clashes between the RSS and the ruling CPI-M in neighbouring Kerala. Kannur has been the epicentre of political violence in Kerala. More than 400 cases of violence have been reported from Kannur since Assembly election in Kerala last year.

The incidents of political violence have seen an increase of about 30 per cent in over the last three years. The RSS meet is likely to be a morale booster for its cadre in Kerala and rest of the south.

Tamil Nadu is passing through a phase of uncertainty after Jayalalithaa’s demise and conviction of AIADMK chief Sasikala. AIADMK has barely succeeded in quelling a rebellion. With both Jayalalithaa and Sasikala out of political equation for practical purposes the RSS senses a chance for the BJP in a state where main opposition party is no longer actively taken care of by its strongest leader.

Amit Shah has turned the BJP into a well-knit organization
Amit Shah has turned the BJP into a well-knit organization

GOING SOUTH

Karnataka is going to polls later this year.

Karnataka was the BJP’s first outpost in the south. But, a mishandling by BS Yeddyurappa pushed it back to the Congress’s fold. However, Yeddyurappa is back in action again and making every attempt in Karnataka to exploit weakness of the Congress under Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

Siddaramaiah is considered by many Karnataka Congressmen as outsider, a non-Congress blood ruling the roost. The BJP has opened its tent for all the disgruntled Congressmen in Karnataka.

Former Congress Jayaprakash Hegde and senior party leader Rathan Singh are the latest of the lot who joined the BJP recently. Two more former senior Congress leaders SM Krishna and SK Bangarappa are said to be waiting in the wings to join the BJP. They are likely to meet BJP president Amit Shah soon.

While the BJP is on spree to poach leaders of some reckoning in Karnataka, the RSS is busy preparing the ground for the party. The RSS-BJP combine is working hard to make inroads into Congress’s support base in Vokkaliga community while keeping its own core among the Lingayat community intact.

With the background work being done by the RSS in the south, it is only likely that the parent organisation is trying to cover extra grounds before 2019 parliamentary elections with the aim of making it easier for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 Lok Sabha elections even if the BJP takes a hit in the north owing to anti-incumbency.

NEW ALLIANCE?

The Congress and Janata Dal (United) have advocated a Bihar-like mahagatbandhan to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Days after the BJP’s stellar performance in Uttar Pradesh, formation of a grand alliance ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election was mooted by both the parties to counter the Modi wave.

“A Bihar-like alliance is the need of the hour to defeat the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha election. All the political parties have to arrive at a common platform. Had Mayawati been part of the Uttar Pradesh alliance of the Congress and the Samajwadi Party, it would have been better. Unless a grand alliance is formed, it is difficult to defeat Prime Minister Modi,” said Sanjay Singh, JD-U MLC.

The JD-U also pitched Nitish Kumar as the face that can challenge the might of Modi in 2019.

The Congress, which faced its worst defeat in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election by winning just seven of the 403 seats, is now witnessing debates on the need to form a grand alliance to take on Narendra Modi in 2019. Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar said that an alliance, whenever forged, will give a tough fight to the ruling BJP government. “Time has come to form a broader alliance. We are weak in several states and wherever we have forged alliances our strike rate has been high. There is a need to understand that it is not the same Congress which was strong in 1968, and our reach is going down. Grand alliance is a must for 2019,” said Mani Shankar Aiyar.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the alliance partner of JD-U in Bihar, which returned to power after forming a grand alliance with Nitish Kumar’s party and the Congress is batting for a broader alliance to face the Modi juggernaut. “There was no grand alliance in Uttar Pradesh as a result of which the BJP won. Had there been an alliance, things would have been different,” said Rabri Devi, RJD MLC.

The JD-U, which is open to a grand alliance in 2019, wants Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to be the face of the alliance that will take on Narendra Modi. Party leaders maintained that Nitish is the most credible and experienced face to defeat Modi.    “Nitish Kumar is not in the race for the PM post but as far as his qualification, administrative skills and experience is concerned, he is best suited for the top post. His experience cannot be challenged by anyone for the job,” said Neeraj Kumar, JD-U spokesperson.

“Nitish Kumar should be the leader of the grand alliance, only then it is possible to defeat the BJP in 2019,” said Sanjay Singh of JD-U.

That’s a big question and the country will give an answer to that in 2019.