BJP has made a good beginning by nominating Ram Nath Kovind as the NDA nominee for the post of President of India as its attempt to reach the Dalit Community was under serious threat with attacks on them in U.P and ban on slaughter of animals which has robbed them of thousands of jobs as they are employed on a large scale in the leather industry and meat products processing. They alone carry out the job of lifting dead animals and skinning them to procure hides for leather industry.
Yet another advantage in selection of Mr Kovind is that he enjoys a good image having maintained a low profile and not having rubbed even the State Government headed by Mr Nitish Kumar in Bihar who rode to power after defeating BJP and opposing nomination of Mr Narendra Modi as BJP choice for the job of Prime Minister. At the same time he enjoys the support of Nagpur and BJP ideology having worked in the ranks of RSS.
Such tactics have always helped BJP when they wanted to present a soft face. The best part of the strategy is that BJP has nursed hard core leaders committed to philosophy of Hindutav and others who presented a soft face by undertaking social service and maintaining low profile at the same time. BJP leadership which made Yogi Aditayanath as U.P Chief Minister to project its strong commitment to Hindu hardliners has now played its second card by offering an olive branch to Dalits who are important if BJP is to make a good showing in 2019 poll in Hindi belt.
This strategy is not new as in the past also BJP has allowed hard liners as well as those who projected soft face to co-exist. The only requirement was commitment to Nagpur should not be in doubt. Earlier BJP projected Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee as he was more acceptable being the soft face of BJP. But at the same time the burden of projecting commitment to Hindutav was left to Mr L.K Advani who served as Deputy prime Minister. Hard liners like Mr Subramaniam Swami and Mr Gobind Acharya, strong critics were sidelined, as they criticised Vajpayee.
Mr L.K Advani who nursed strong ambitions for Prime Ministership tried to change his image and made comments about the role of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in creation of Pakistan. The result was that he became a persona non grata with RSS bosses. A person who was credited with building BJP and raising its strength in Lok Sabha from two to a level where it could lead a coalition Government at Center was forced to retire prematurely. One whom Mr Advani had protected when he was under a cloud became the new star of BJP.
Games of using different faces to achieve larger objecting is common to political parties in general, but BJP has turned it into a fine art. It uses various outfits under its umbrella while remaining the background as a cultural organisation. All outfits like Vishwa Hindu parishad, BJP, Shiv Sena and many more all make no secret of their commitment to Nagpur which can direct them but can not be held responsible for any of their acts. Nagpur is happy to allow conflicts between parties like BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad or between BJP and Shiv Sena as long as commitment to Nagpur remains. This has come under stress as Shiv Sena has taken a position of adversary. How far they will go is yet to be tested This is in sharp contrast to confusion in the ranks of opposition where Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Bahujan Samaj party leader Mayawati have become lukewarm to any idea of setting up a candidate to oppose NDA nominee in the contest for President of India. As such the election of NDA candidate becoming the next President has become a certainty. The edge which NDA held has become more formidable.
As such one can say in the battle for 2019 BJP has fired the first shot by winning the toss. The second formidable challenge will be to deal with farmers agitation as distress in rural areas is growing. Fall in inflation low prices for agricultural produce may be a boon for urban people but is leading to suicides in rural areas. Agriculture sector share in GDP has fallen to fifteen per cent while fifty percent population depends on it. Result is the farmer communities like Jats, Patidars are all agitating for quota in jobs.
BJP has made a good start for 2019, but in fifty overs game much more will have to be done to win the match. Fortunes can change as fast as they are built. (Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator) [IFS]