In the 75th year of Independence, the BJP is setting the goals to work continuously till the centenary, 2047, riding on its strong eight years of reign ‘ensuring ease of living’ for the poor and the middle class.
The goal was set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his address to party workers in Jaipur and the strategy finalised for the “Sewa, Sushasan and Garib Kalyan” campaign. The party and the government carved out an intense blitzkrieg of publicity, one-to-one contact to capture all the states that are not in its fold. Too ambitious but with 744 central schemes and 72 sponsored programmes and millions of cadres across the states, it finds the task tough but not difficult.
Even the march to Dakshin – the South – is part of its yatra. Its senior dedicated leaders are carving out strategies in Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Andhra. The Rs 31,500 cores project stones laid by Modi in Chennai target Tami Nadu. But would Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin let it happen?! Nobody knows politics except strange bedfellows.
The massive campaign is to make all believe in its economic feat, improvements in living standards, digital economy inclusion of the poor, a caring government for a grand success by 2024 in Lok Sabha, and at least 16 states that go to the polls in the next two years.
The thrust of the BJP in government or the party would be to focus on the wider benefits of programmes like DBT, PM Kisan, and Swachh Bharat, universal vaccination, and various pension and employment schemes, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee.
The core would be nine-plus programmes that have touched the neo-aspirant classes. They reach the households and are said to make a qualitative difference in the living conditions. It is not an aspiration but the basic needs like Har Ghar Jal (Jal Jeevan Mission), Har Ghar Sauchalay (Swachh Bharat Mission), Har Ghar Bijli (Saubhagya Yojana), Har Ghar Gas Cylinder (Ujjwala Yojana), Har Ghar Ration (Garib Kalyan Yojana), Har Ghar Bank Account (Jan Dhan Yojana), Har Ghar Swasthya (Ayushman Yojana), Har Ghar Teeka (Largest Vaccine Drive), Har Ghar Pakka Ghar (PM Awas Yojana).
The schemes are reaching grass root levels and starting to better the lives of the poor. Even separate meets with different caste and dalit groups are planned. The BJP claims such strategies led to shifting of the 8 per cent extreme poor minority votes in UP elections. The Rashtriya Muslim Morcha is drawing crowds, financial support to the madrasas, the party hopes would help them catch young.
Is not GDP growth or inflation a problem? The party does not believe so. Growth has been around 8.2 per cent, even 7.2 predicted by RBI this year is the world’s highest. In real terms, GDP has doubled despite the pandemic. People have accepted 7.79 per cent inflation as normal. This is less than the US inflation now at an unprecedented high of 8.3 per cent. Inflation during UPA was one reason for NDA coming to power. But its publicity management has blunted the criticism as also sweetened by the free food dole.
The income of the common man has also almost doubled. It’s not untrue but a recent PM’s Economic Advisory Council report mentions that five to seven per cent of the country’s income comes from the top one per cent, while 15 per cent earn less than Rs 5000 a month. Top ten per cent earn Rs 25000 a month, about 30 to 35 per cent of the total income.
The report card says that MSP for wheat in 2014 was Rs 130 per quintal and rice Rs 1310 per quintal, in 2022 wheat is Rs 2015 and rice 1940; farmers’ monthly income has risen to Rs 10428 from Rs 6426 in 2014. The employment rate was 42.8 core and now 39.98 crore; 3.4 per cent were unemployed and now it is 8.7 per cent. According to Pew research, the middle class shrank by 35 million while the number of people who were pushed to poverty was 75 million because of Covid-19 pandemic-led recession.
It may be one of the longest canvassings and campaigning for a party that has to capture a number of states held by the opposition. Some like Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao heading TSR have posed a visible challenge. Parties like AAP are eyeing Himachal and Gujarat, going to hustings in December this year. Ten states will form new governments in 2023 and four states that are to have elections by June 2024 may cast a vote with the Lok Sabha elections.
An election is a tough game so the party is taking its blitz to booth level, according to BJP president JP Nadda. India’s international standing, the prime minister’s charisma in foreign lands, and the success at the Quad or the Pacific meet would all be told to the people. Possibility of wheat exports managing critical power situation and creation of jobs through Mudra, Skill India, Rs 15 lakh crore Jandhan, the latest National Family Health Survey figures about the amelioration of the people’s living conditions. Subtly, the Hindutva icing may cap it.
The BJP stress is more on man-to-man contact by lakhs of party workers up to the most remote villages to explain to the people what the party has done for them beyond the free food dole that is sustaining 80 crore people. Thousands of groups would carry on the re-education of the masses in all states.
How big the splash would be is anybody’s guess. The UPA government too had splurged Rs 2658 crores as per official statements on publicity. During the eight years, the BJP has also spent a substantial sum. To cite the extent it would suffice to say that an election to the last Delhi assembly had a splurge of Rs 170 crores by BJP and opposition together. The cost was Rs 5500 crores in the 2017 UP elections, according to the Centre for Media Studies (CMS). And this surpassed Rs 8000 crores in 2021 UP elections, according to reports. In the West Bengal elections in 2021, the publicity expenses were estimated at around Rs 500 crores. The early start by the BJP will pressurise its opponents to match the splurge to remain relevant.
The central government spent Rs 1698 crores on publicity and advertisements between 2018 and 2021 for print and electronic media. The party has a different state-wise budget. The campaign for the next 25 years is ambitious, not easy, and aims at changing the gamut of Indian politics.
(The writer is a veteran journalist, an observer of the socio-politico economy, and a media academician)