BJP’s membership drive  

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When Narendra Modi government retained power sensationally for a second time, it dominated Lok Sabha in his government’s favour, leaving just a tiny space for alternate political ideology. Modi has successfully positioned himself as the custodian of national interests, whether on security or foreign affairs or the economy. The biggest blow to the party system has ironically been dealt by the biggest beneficiary of this stunning verdict: the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Prime Minister Modi has single-handedly pulverised the Opposition in large parts of the country. The mahagathbandan and the bonhomie that existed between various parties determined to stop the Narendra Modi juggernaut seems to be collapsing in a heap. It is true that India’s most powerful Prime Minister since Indira Gandhi was expertly aided at every stage of the election campaign, and in the meticulous planning that preceded it, by BJP president Amit Shah. Whatever may be its number, the pulverized Opposition parties must join hands to make their presence felt in Lok Sabha, for that matter in Parliament. The opposition, however few in numbers, is an indispensable part of legislation and its presence is irreplaceable. In questioning the government, the healthy practice of checks and balances is engaged in. So, as the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha commenced, the Prime Minister asked the Opposition to speak out on issues and not to bother about their numbers in a House where the ruling National Democratic Alliance holds 353 seats.

Post-election results, it was assumed that the Opposition would go for a post-mortem — introspecting, understanding reasons for their failure, strengthening their organisation, reaching out to social groups and individuals etc. Nothing significant has happened in this regard save – BSP leader Mayawati declaring that her party would content future elections on its own – meaning no more alliance with Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi resigning from the top party post accepting moral responsibility for the grand old party’s poll debacle. On the contrary, BJP has approached the new situation differently.  On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off a fresh membership drive for the BJP in Varanasi. In 2014, the party had embarked on a similar exercise. With that NaMo app, the official app of the Prime Minister, has opened an option of membership for the BJP.  Around 10 million people already have installed the app so far. The party has taken the right move at the right time given Modi’s present popularity and his dominance in Indian politics.

For Opposition parties there are many lessons to draw from the debacle in the last Lok Sabha polls. Opposition parties, particularly secular democratic parties, could not provide a credible, viable alternative by uniting and accommodating each other in every state. BJP’s organisational strength was in no match for the Opposition. Now with new membership drive, the BJP clearly has its eyes set on both strengthening the organisational base and preparing for upcoming polls. The Opposition would do well to learn.

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