The two-day BJP national executive meeting in Bengaluru has made a desperate attempt to overhaul the image of the party to re-assert its pro-poor and pro-farmer credentials over which the Opposition, especially the Congress, has made serious efforts to sow doubts in people’s minds.
Conscious of the fact that the Narendra Modi government is losing the battle of perception on the Land Acquisition Bill and is being increasingly seen as pro-industry, the party is now determined to correct that impression so as to bounce back in public reckoning before the crucial Assembly polls in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh which account for over 20 per cent of the seats in the Lok Sabha.
The easier course for the BJP would have been to either have the Bill passed in a joint session of Parliament (which would have attracted scathing criticism from the Opposition for making a backdoor manoeuvre) or to allow it to lapse since it does not have the numbers in the Upper House. But combative as Prime Minister Modi is, he has opted to brazen it out so as not to hand out a victory to the Opposition.
This is indeed a gamble that could prove a boon or a disaster in terms of loss of face if despite the extensive changes being contemplated by the BJP the revised Bill does not become law. It is truly a test of whether Modi has his finger on the pulse of the rural masses.
The aggressive approach in his Bengaluru address is testimony to Modi’s penchant for being a fighter. He said in words that reflected his determination: “The farmer is my strength . I have lived among farmers. I know their pain and I promise I will help them get a better life.” He promised a “four-coloured “ revolution signifying the colours of the Indian tricolour in the areas of agriculture, power marine sector and milk production.
The Modi government has had its share of successes —prices have been stable, the bureaucracy is delivering better and some of his schemes like Jan Dhan Yojana have made an impact but apart from the setbacks on the Land Bill, communal relations have suffered and Modi has failed to rein in some communal hardliners in the party.
Rumours that party patriarch L.K. Advani is unhappy over being sidelined have added a sour touch to the BJP morale and accentuated the troubles for Modi and his government.