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Bharatiya Janata Party is a party that has a neversay-die attitude. Taking cue from the Gujarat assembly election results– narrow win – the party has started working on the Plan B for 2019 General Elections. Riding on the development plank Prime Minister Narendra Modi will do a series of rallies in the run-up to the polls, writes PRAMOD KUMAR

He could have been just any quick-witted Banarasi cabbie. Afterall the city is full of them. But this one was a bit different. This one was with some political insight as well. “Bhairav is the guardian of this city. And he is not particularly known for letting go a slight,” he quipped. The indication was towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tall promises vis-à-vis cleaning of the Ganges front in particular and developing Benaras in general. Suffice to say, the cabbie’s sentiments are being reflected across the country now. And Gujarat assembly election results are a clear-cut indication towards the same. Consequently, Modi-Shah duo has started working on the “Plan-B” for 2019 General Elections. The plan that is based on virulent Hindutva in the guise of development.
Sources say that the Ram Temple issue will once again come into the helm of BJP’s agenda. While RSS activists have started gearing up for the same, it is also essential that voters are told that the government has not abandoned the development plank and that it will start to give results soon. There appears to be a sharp division of work between Shah and Modi vis-à-vis this. While Modi will focus on the development plank and the performance of the government, Shah will resort to the strengthening of party infrastructure and rabble-rousing.
But this is not enough. In order to coordinate their move with the Sangh, the decision has been taken with regard to at least twice-a-month meeting with Sangh functionaries. These meetings are supposed to be free and frank and will discuss all the achievements and shortcomings of the government. Now that it is certain that it is the Congress under Rahul Gandhi that is going to be BJP’s main adversary in the polls– especially after their buoyant performance in Gujarat– BJP will further sharpen its below-the-belt attacks against Rahul and his family. Photoshopped images, general misinformation and the salacious campaign will see a spike in the coming days. It is also expected that Jawahar Lal Nehru will also be dragged into the mud with BJP social media warriors highlighting his “failure” over the Kashmir issue.
At this point, it is difficult to determine whether this is just a coincidence or has been done through a certain design that the issues of Ram Mandir, Triple Talaq and Article 377 and 35-A in Kashmir will all be at different stages in the courts all through 2018. In its own below-the-belt style, BJP will try to put Congress in the dock over all these issues. It is also important to understand here that most of these issues are central to RSS’s core belief and hence energise its machinery.
The issue of Ram Mandir and Triple Talaq will be used to cater the voters in rural and semi-urban areas. Then there’s the certified medication available with BJP when it comes to making a dent inside OBC-Dalit bastion in these areas. It has already used it successfully in Uttar Pradesh and won the election. BJP is depending upon Uttar Pradesh again to win back power in 2019.
All these will make 2018 more interesting than it usually should be. The year 2018 will also see the last budget presentation by the current dispensation. The idea is to make it an electoral budget. The efforts are already underway towards this goal. The government has postponed the controversial Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill. Initially, the government was all set to have it passed in the Lok Sabha in the current session itself. However, keeping in view the massive backlash from the people, the bill has been temporarily postponed. If sources are to be believed, North Block is all set to postpone it even beyond 2018.
Sources also confirm that the overriding theme of the next budget will be “Gaon, Gareeb aur Kisan” (Village, Poor and Farmers). Like most of the things, Prime Minister Modi will be the sole advertiser of this theme. The PM is supposed to do several rallies in the run-up to the polls to highlight this theme. In a calculated move, several provisions will be put in the general budget that will go in sync with this theme. Most of the announcements will either be done in Benaras or in different provincial capitals. While the focus will primarily be on the rural votes, the government is all set to announce as many as 12 new programmes keeping in mind the urban voters as well. This will include new railway stations, new trains, new ports, commissioning of new waterways etc. The list is under preparation for quite long, and it is expected that it will be revealed very soon.
There is another issue the impact of which is being accessed. This is the issue of overpopulation. The government believes that by raking up this issue, and politicising it, it can p ut several people in the crosshairs. PM Modi has done several meetings on this issue. The Prime Minister is the chairman of the Population Commission, and that’s why he has called at least three meetings of the commission in the past. However, all these meetings were low-profile in nature. RSS has been tasked with finding out its traction among the masses. The idea is to bring in a cut-off year for the implementation of “TwoChild Norm” in the government jobs. The whisper campaign on this issue has already started. It has already found some traction among the people. However, this issue can backfire as well. While this is clearly targeted against Muslims, it will also ruffle feathers among the rural population where more than two children are very prevalent among the Hindus as well.
While the PM himself never had any qualms in lowering the political discourse, as was seen during the Gujarat elections recently, the party believes that it might not work in other states. Therefore, it will seek the services of rabble-rousers like Subramanian Swamy. Even the Sangh knows that an otherwise suave-looking, Englishspeaking Swamy will have more acceptability than the spin doctors who come from Sangh’s own stable. Since Sonia Gandhi– Swamy’s bête noire– is now out of active politics, Swamy must be feeling withdrawal symptoms. Also, whatever Swamy says, offers the BJP with plausible deniability. It can always say that what Swamy says is his own ideas, and not BJP’s.
This way, the BJP can play both ways. Also, it has a battery of rabble-rousers in the provinces who are well apt in their mother tongues and can sway the masses. They are also trying to rope in doctors, lawyers, journalists and professors who are sympathetic to Hindutva ideology. Local cadres have been asked to come up with a list of such names who can be roped in. Another list is being made of those leaders who campaigned effectively in Gujarat. They will be offered chances again. This includes names like Meenakshi Lekhi and Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
There is another clandestine list. This list features those names who are attached to Amit Shah for secret duties. It is difficult to guess their exact numbers as most of these people are faceless, and they work silently like sleepercells without the expectation of any reward or recognition. While this role was earlier performed by Sangh cadres, lately outsiders are also being roped in for such jobs. Their role is crucial from finalising winnable candidates to raking up issues of local interests. Rumour has it that the party has come up with winnable candidates in most of the constituencies with their help. The implementation of Plan B cannot happen without their active support.
There is another dimension to it all. In the original plan, the party was all set to cut the tickets of as many as 60 percent of the MPs. That is almost impossible under Plan B. The party implemented it successfully in local polls in Delhi but failed to do so in Gujarat. It was only partially successful in the local polls in Uttar Pradesh. This has put this plan in limbo.
Modi-Shah duo had time and again maintained that only those MPs with satisfactory performance will be fielded again. This was also an attempt to discipline the MPs. But later it was seen as a solid plan to cut the tickets of sitting MPs. This prompted several MPs to approach Amit Shah directly. They maintained that they were the most hapless members of the party as their powers have been severely curtailed. This led to some change of heart, we are told.
Some really powerful MPs had started to look for other options including floating regional outfits. They were afraid that if BJP cuts their ticket, they will not find a place in any other party. These are things of the past now. Stalwarts are being called and heaped with prizes and praises. However, there are plenty of others like Shatrughan Sinha, Bhola Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Kirti Azad who are out of favour. They will not be given a ticket for sure. The party got the wind that many of the fearful MPs will rally around these leaders. This was especially true for Odisha, MadhyaPradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. It was being said that anti-Modi corporate lobbies might agree to place their bet on this formation. Then there are others who want to encash the rural anger by floating farmer forums and rural pressure groups. The BJP has already lost as many as three MPs recently to these forums.
While 2019 looks a tougher battle for Modi-Shah than it was some months ago, they are not sitting idle. They are trying to learn from the recent Gujarat elections and are coming up with an effective roadmap. After all, they have surely not come at the Centre for one term only. They are looking at new avenues. Some people also maintain that BJP might be able to form the government in Tripura as well. Says senior leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, “While 2019 is still a bit far, I must say that the party will seek votes based on its exemplary governance record. The voters have supported us with one victory after another, and we are sure that we will come back with a thumping majority.”

there are plenty of bjp leaders like shatrughan sinha, bhola singh, yashwant sinha and kirti azad who are out of favour