After successive defeats in the Lok Sabha elections in 2004 and 2009, the Bharatiya Janata Party hopes to start a new chapter at its Indore conclave, which begins in Indore on Wednesday.
With a new president elected — the choice of Nitin Gadkari will be ratified by the National Council — and two new Leaders of the Opposition — Sushma Swaraj in the Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha — taking charge, the party hopes to send a message that a new and younger leadership is in place, though L.K. Advani, now moved up as the Parliamentary Party Chairman, will continue to hover in the background.
The party is waiting for Mr. Gadkari to unveil a policy that could help it recover lost ground, adding 10 per cent to its under 19 per cent vote share in 2009. At the three-day conclave — the National Executive committee meeting will be followed by a two-day National Council session with some 5,000 delegates attending — Mr. Gadkari is expected to do precisely that, when he makes two presidential speeches: one to the National Executive and the other before the Council.
Development is the new Gadkari ‘mantra’ as he will try to strengthen the party organisation to enable him to reach the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the last man in the line.
He has already announced that he will like all partymen to take up antyodaya projects to reach out to the poorest people. In fact, an antyodaya exhibition has been planned at the conclave to showcase what the BJP is already doing.
The organisational machine has been in tatters with infighting in many State units — Delhi and Rajasthan witnessed some bitter factional battles — and after the 2009 chintan baithak leading to the ouster of senior leader Jaswant Singh and a spate of articles by the former Union Minister Arun Shourie comparing the party leadership to ‘Alice in Blunderland’, party discipline is at its lowest ever.
Those close to Mr. Gadkari say that with the full backing of the party’s “friend, philosopher and guide,” the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, his main job will be restoring the BJP’s health.
Mr. Gadkari has already identified three issues that he wants the party to take up at the people’s level — price rise and its back-breaking effect on the poorest people; security issues that affect everyone and in this he wants to include terrorism and India’s relations with Pakistan and China, India-Pakistan as well as the issue of China; and the Congress attempt to provide reservation for Muslims.
General secretary Ananth Kumar, who is already in Indore, told The Hindu that two resolutions would be adopted — one on price rise and mishandling of the economy by the government, which the BJP would describe as a “scam,” and the other, on terrorism and the “government’s soft approach” by refusing to reconsider resumption of talks with Pakistan.