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'Vikas' and Reliance on Brand Modi: BJP's Two-pronged Strategy for 2019 Battle in UP to Take on United Oppn

BJP's new strategy comprises of two clear plans — increased emphasis on the development narrative and more reliance on the brand of Narendra Modi.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:July 14, 2018, 11:15 PM IST
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'Vikas' and Reliance on Brand Modi: BJP's Two-pronged Strategy for 2019 Battle in UP to Take on United Oppn
File photo of PM Narendra Modi. (PIB Photo)
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Azamgarh: As Prime Minister Narendra Modi put forward his vision of development for eastern UP while laying the foundation stone for the 342km Purvanchal Expressway in Azamgarh on Saturday, his party seems to have taken to the 'expressway strategy' to fight a united opposition in Uttar Pradesh — a key battleground for the 2019 elections.

This new strategy comprises of two clear plans — increased emphasis on the development narrative and more reliance on the brand of Narendra Modi.

It is through this two-pronged strategy that the BJP now looks to counter the unique consolidation of Dalits, backwards and Muslims emerging at the opposition front of SP, BSP, Congress and other smaller parties in Uttar Pradesh.

For politics watchers, it is increasingly getting clearer that opposition unity has emerged as the biggest electoral threat for the BJP in recent times.

While the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha by-polls were the first proofs of this potential threat, it was in the Kairana by-election that the opposition’s caste consolidation was further strengthened with Dalit and other backward Hindu castes joining ranks with the Muslims to ensure victory for the joint candidate, Tabassum Hassan.

Sources within the BJP say, ever since the Kairana debacle, it has been worried over working out its counter-strategy against the growing possibilities of a united opposition in UP ahead of the 2019 polls.

Party president Amit Shah, too, during his recent visit to UP on July 4 and 5 had asked workers to prepare, keeping in mind the challenge of a united opposition.

A glimpse of BJP's two-pronged strategy against the opposition was first indicated when Prime Minister Modi recently visited Maghar in eastern UP, to pay homage to the 15th century poet and saint Kabir, who has a huge following among Dalits, backwards and Muslims.

While in Maghar, the PM emphasised on his and his party's commitment to development apart from conveying a larger political message to those who revered Kabir.

Then, PM Modi lashed out at opposition leaders, especially Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, accusing them of betraying the interests of the poor and downtrodden.

On Saturday in Azamgarh, as the prime minister spoke, any doubts about his party's future strategies were further cleared. In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, sticking to the development narrative will be the key formula and hammering on this narrative from the front will be the prime minister himself, thus putting 'Brand Modi' to maximum use.

As PM Modi first showcased the development dreams for the economically-deprived eastern UP, he claimed “the region will get new wings of development with the Eastern Expressway project”. The road will not only connect Lucknow to the Bihar border, but also provide better connectivity with New Delhi.

Launching a fierce attack against his opponents, PM Modi said, “Those who claim to be champions of social justice and followers of Dr BR Ambedkar and Lohiya, have done little for the poor and downtrodden.” He further added, “Dalits and backwards have only been used as vote banks and those who have won with their votes have only got richer.”

No doubt while building a narrative around development and growth, the prime minister also intends to alienate the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) among this particular section where caste consciousness has over the years propelled the politics of these regional parties.

During Saturday’s event at Azamgarh, while many were expecting an attack on SP and BSP, it was the one on Congress that came as a surprise. Slamming Congress president Rahul Gandhi for indulging in Muslim appeasement, Modi said, “If the Congress president wants to make his party a party for the Muslims, he is free to do so. But he should clarify if it is a party meant only for Muslim men and not their women.”

PM Modi’s attack on Congress on the issue of “rights of Muslim women” is not difficult to understand. In the run-up to the 2019 elections, while BJP is devising a state-wise strategy against the regional satraps, on the national level, it also wants to isolate the Congress party.

With Rahul Gandhi meeting a group of intellectuals from the Muslim community a few days ago, BJP sees this as an opportunity to portray Congress as indulging in Muslim appeasement and creating fissures among the minority community on gender lines. With its pitch, the party hopes that a section of Muslim women will come out to support the BJP for its stand on the issues of triple talaq and nikah halala.

BJP knows very well that the ‘Road to Delhi’ goes through Uttar Pradesh with the state holding key to 80 Lok Sabha seats. Hence, it is all set to eagerly pursue the two-pronged strategy to clinch victory in this crucial state. It’s because of this strategy of unleashing ‘Brand Modi’ and the development narrative that we will continue to see more of the PM in the state this year.

While the prime minister will reach Mirzapur on Sunday, on July 21, he will address a farmers’ rally in Shahjahanpur and on July 29, he will lay the foundation stone for development projects worth Rs 50,000 crores in Lucknow.

Sources in the BJP say further plans are being worked out to ensure that by the end of the year, the Prime Minister visits every part of the state.
| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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