Is PM Modi seeking to dislodge the Congress as the messiah of the poor?
The manner in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is positioning himself as the messiah of the poor much to the chagrin of the Congress along with gaining in strength is paving the way for storming the next general elections two years later in 2019.
That is the signal emerging from the two-day National Executive of the BJP held in Bhubaneshwar last week end. They now want to make inroads in Eastern India. The Lotus party is keen to make a beginning from Odissa by dislodging chief minister Naveen Patnaik's BJD in the next assembly elections to be held along with the general elections.
The Congress is the main opposition in that state and is in a shambles. It has now been relegated to the third spot. On the other hand the saffron brigade has been emboldened by the surprise outcome in the panchayat elections held two months back in February.
Naveen has been the chief minister since 2000 and is in his fourth consecutive term. He is also gearing up against the BJP and began by paying respects to his late father, the indomitable Biju Patnaik on the occasion of his death anniversary.
West Bengal is also on BJP's radar but the competition there with TMC supremo and chief minister Mamata Banerjee at the helm of affairs is not going to be easy. The credit goes to her for sending the Left Front packing in the state after it had ruled unchanged in Kolkata for more than three decades.
With assembly elections round the corner in Himachal Pradesh and in Modi's home state of Gujarat at the end of this year in December is bound to be a prestigious one for him. It is in this context that his 48 hour visit to the Patidar stronghold of Surat straight from Bhabaneshwar after the conclusion of the BJP National Executive assumes importance.
The messages that emerged from the BJP National Executive were clear. Modi's concern for the poor and the backward found various expressions. The most noticeable was the decision to grant constitutional status to the National Commission for Other Backward Classes. The OBC category which includes the backward segments of the minority community received special attention from the Prime Minister indicative of his focus on development being inclusive.
BJP president Amit Shah emphasised that the party's success was rooted in this ideal of development as people no longer voted on the basis of religion or caste but only for progress. The demographic change in the BJP's traditional vote bank has given the Lotus party the confidence to address the 'triple talaq' issue directly which Modi called an "evil custom" underlining the need to be addressed for the sake of justice to "Muslim sisters" without recourse to violence.
Shah, a confidant of the Prime Minister, went on to say that the golden age of the BJP will come only when it has a chief minister in every state and makes its presence felt from the "Panchayat to Parliament". He specifically wanted Kerala, Odisha and West Bengal to be part of the BJP's golden age.
Modi came out with his own two mantras - P2 for pro-people and G-2 for good governance. He had no doubt that the Commission for the OBCs, which has been referred to a Select Committee in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP-led NDA is in a minority, is a step towards ensuring greater social justice across the board.
He has urged the party cadres to reach out to the backward Muslims so that they are reassured of their safety. BJP's gambit in the recent assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh of taking up the cause of non-Yadav OBCs facilitated a landslide win.
With Modi staying put in his constituency of Benaras for three days at a crucial stage, a surge in favour of the saffron brigade was evident. Considering the complex caste considerations, the BJP also joined hands with small regional groups confined to specific areas which proved to be advantageous.
While the two resolutions adopted at the BJP's National Executive touched upon the pro-poor initiatives of the Modi government, it refrained from commenting on the problem of slow job creation. If a positive change is not brought about in the disappointing situation prevailing on the job creation front as well as uplifting a slow economy, it could hurt the Modi government.
(T R Ramachandran is senior journalist and commentator. Views are personal.)