Will BJP’s Sampark for Samarthan outreach be more than just a photo-op?
In the fifth and final year of its term, the Narendra Modi led BJP government has nothing much to show on the ground. Battling rising unemployment, spiraling prices, agrarian crisis and reverses in recent bye-elections, going has been getting tough for the BJP. And now the saffron party is banking upon star quotient and propaganda to bolster its fortunes ahead of the 2019 mega battle.
While political parties often field celebrities as candidates in elections, the BJP has undertaken a massive campaign reaching out to cine and sports stars, religious leaders, business magnates, jurists and other prominent faces from the society to hard-sell Modi government’s “achievements”.
Packed with statistics and graphs collated data from across ministries, the initiative christened 'Sampark for Samarthan' (Connect for Support), is a door to door campaign about “transformative initiatives” undertaken by the Centre.
Having reached out to the likes of Bollywood superstars Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt, sports icons Milkha Singh, Kapil Dev, former CJI RC Lahoti among others, the BJP firmly believes each one of them could influence the opinions of people around them.
It not just the 'Sampark for Samarthan' campaign but the BJP has gone overboard using various media to endorse the government’s “success stories”.
Going through testing times, the party known for its reliance on propaganda, has fallen back on the tried and tested formula. From TV, movie theaters to the social media and the internet, all are flooded with advertisements of Modi and the achievements of his regime.
The extravagant propagandist that he is, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has joined the bandwagon. Interacting with selective beneficiaries of Ujjwala Yojana, Mudra Yojana, Awas Yojana etc., Modi has been endorsing how the various government schemes have “transformed” lives of Indians.
Outreach a success?
Party leaders are now claiming the programme to be a success having swayed popular opinion in BJP’s favour.
“The outreach initiative is a massive success. The narrative of unemployment, price rise or agrarian crisis has been overshadowed and people are talking about the huge achievements and successes of the Modi government,” said a BJP leader.
“All the personalities, to whom we are reaching out, command a high place in the society and are all convinced by the great work done by the Modi government. This has led to people around them getting influenced. The result is people are talking about how every village in India has electricity and not about unemployment,” added the leader.
While the BJP functionary may boast about the success of the outreach programme, the question remains about the efficacy of the entire campaign particularly for the fact that whether the celebrities leaving aside their busy schedule, would come out endorsing Modi and his government.
The outreach programme surely is grabbing eyeballs and providing photo opportunity for Shah and the likes, but it is only to be seen whether the efforts yield the desired result for the BJP in its next big battle.
At a time when Opposition parties are steadily closing ranks, the much vaunted “Modi wave” which propelled the BJP to power in 20 states, also appears to be on the wane, particularly in the wake of recent bye-polls.
Dealing a blow to the BJP, Opposition parties emerged victorious in 11 out of 14 Lok Sabha and Assembly bye-polls, including the high-profile Kairana Parliamentary seat in Uttar Pradesh.
The outreach programme is also crucial for the BJP which is up against huge anti-incumbency in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh- three states which are slated to go to the hustings later in the year.
While the BJP may harp on the positives and achievements of its government, but it has failed entirely in giving answers to the questions raised by the Opposition and the common man.
The statistical jamboree provides facts such as how much loan has been given to the youth for self-employment or the millions of women who have been benefited under the LPG scheme. But it remains eerily silent on the question of rising unemployment, on the question of growing agrarian distress and farmers suicides or the rising fuel prices.
Reaching out to disgruntled allies
It’s not just eminent personalities, Shah used the initiative also to mollify disgruntled allies, Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
Having lost an important ally in Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the BJP chief met Thackeray in Mumbai where he is said to have discussed several issues.
It may the oldest BJP ally, but the Shiv Sena, but it has not missed any opportunity to have a go at Modi and his policies. Be it the Prime Minister’s China visit or ceasefire violations by Pakistan or fuel prices, Thackeray and his Sena has been attacking Modi left, right and Centre.
The meet came days after the two parties fought a bitter bye-poll in the Palghar Lok Sabha constituency which the BJP won.
Shah also met SAD patriarch and former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in Chandigarh. It may not be as critical as the Sena but SAD too has been expressing its displeasure with BJP’s ways and asking it to “treat its partners better”.
While the BJP may be hoping Shah’s talks would help in diffusing tensions between the allies, the party is yet to get a positive response either from the Sena or the SAD.
In fact, Sena just after Shah’s meeting raised suspicions on why former President Pranab Mukherjee was invited to a RSS event.
The Sena said that the “RSS was preparing itself for a situation where it might project Mukherjee as Prime Minister if the BJP fails to get required numbers".
Meeting the who’s who
Shah who has 50 personalities on his list, met former army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag, former cricketer Kapil Dev, Olympian Milkha Singh, actress Madhuri Dixit, industrialist Ratan Tata, Union minister Nitin Gadkari met actors Nana Patekar and Salman Khan.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met former cricketer VVS Laxman and tennis ace Sania Mirza, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath met actor Sanjay Dutt.
While the prominent leaders have been meeting the who’s who, party cadres have been entrusted with spreading the message at the grassroots. Meeting with farmers and commoners, party activists are informing them about the various central schemes and how the BJP government has been working to change their lives.