The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s new team of national office bearers has some surprises , but the composition of the team is in line with the party’s established approach of always keeping an eye on elections, rewarding those who join the fold, and focusing on communication and outreach.
Almost 60% of the team is now, and the 70-member team has 12 women as well as representatives from scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and Other Backward Classes.
Eye on elections
The presence of representatives from states that will pick new assemblies over the next year is an indication that the party is already in election mode and preparing for major poll battles in states such as West Bengal and Kerala.
Representatives from the election-bound states of Bihar, West Bengal and Kerala are conspicuous by their presence on the team, which took over nine months to finalise. A notebale exclusion is that of functionaries from Tamil Nadu, which also goes to polls in 2021. As against three and two members from WB and Kerala respectively and five from Bihar there are none from TN.
The party has pitched itself as a contender for the seat of power in West Bengal; it has dislodged the Congress as the prime opponent of the Pinarayi Vijayan Government in Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, where its chances of becoming a strong political force is still weak, there is speculation that the party is playing a role in bringing together warring AIADMK factions. The AIAIDMK has been supportive of the government in Parliament and has lent support for the passage of critical bills, including the recent farm laws.
While the BJP leadership asserts that the team has been picked for ensuring regional balance and the optimal mix of social groups, the elevation of t those who joined the party after 2014 has stoked some unrest.
The picks from West Bengal, former TMC leaders Mukul Roy and Anupam Hazra, have proved contentious already . BJP leader Rahul Sinha who was dropped from the list was the first off the block to criticise the appointment of former TMC leaders instead of loyal RSS and BJP workers.
In Kerala too, the party has picked a former Congress leader Tom Vadakkan and a former Congress and CPM leader Abdullah Kutty riling the state unit. Both the West Bengal and Kerala units of the party are rife with factionalism.
The regional balance and the outreach towards the North Eastern states has also been ensured with the naming of two representatives from Nagaland. While well known faces from the South, Ram Madhav and Murlidhar Rao have been dropped as national general secretaries; representation has been maintained through the nomination of representatives from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repeated instruction to party members to communicate with the electorate at regular intervals has meant that the party has to undertake massive outreach campaigns not only ahead of elections or policy announcements, but to counter the opposition’s narrative in real time. On Friday, the PM gave direction to party workers to counter the opposition’s criticism of the farm bills.
The party has a long line-up of spokespersons and it is not surprising that it has strengthened its team of national spokespersons. The new team has 23 members, up from the previous 11, and includes three former ministers and 9 MPs.