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BJP must have a credible story to sell to their voters

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Two things to note in this election are that 1) BJPs campaign was primarily built on the past sins committed by Congress/UPA, which was forgotten by most voters. And 2) The urban voters largely middle class who were earlier mostly preferring BJP, did this time opt for Congress as the results in the urban centres largely show. So, BJP needs to assuage its core base, the salaried classes, the middle-income office goer, the traders – and do that fast.

On the whole, one thing that the Hindi Heartland election has proved is that Modi magic is no longer working enough to carry BJP on its shoulder alone. Modi govt. is now held responsible for non-delivery of its promises. The main accusations against it are negligence of farming or agriculture, middle class, joblessness and Hindu agenda.

Across Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, farmers spoke of low minimum support prices, rising input costs and losses that have built year on year. Some angrily recall Modi’s promise to double farm wages by 2022. While agriculture has no doubt suffered on account of consecutive droughts, the govt. has taken many measures to ameliorate the sufferings of farmers. in areas of crop yield and input subsidies, procurement and support prices, improving access to credit, technologies and markets, food security systems and rural employment programs. However, the results are not yet visible and the voters’ perception reflects this.

So, the NDA govt. at the centre must do more and Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) that help the agricultural sector deal with weather shocks, and allow farmers to minimize risk through insurance, can be a crucial helping hand.

On job front also, there have been many schemes launched. While there has been considerable job creation in the organized sector, the unorganized sector and SMEs have reportedly suffered very much mainly due to demonetization and GST. Again, the voters did not apparently see many jobs that have been created.

The BJP has done practically nothing to promote a Hindu agenda so far, and many supporters including its foot-soldiers from VHP and RSS are not particularly pleased about being ignored for most of the past four-and-a-half years and now being called to put their shoulders to the wheel. There is a lot of ruffled feathers to be smoothened.

Also, there was extremely high local anti-incumbency against its MLAs. Several names in the party have been contesting since the 1990s when the party grew in stature in the state. Times have changed, voter profile has changed, but the representative face has not. The party changed only about 25 per cent of its sitting MLAs – this was very much inadequate.

During the campaign for 2014 elections, BJP also made two tall promises. One, Ache Din and two, anti-corruption drive. Ache din was simply a reference to better economic management towards which it has brought a wide range of policies ranging from agriculture to innovation in the fields of science and technology. But oil prices rose due to external factors. So, all these need to be conveyed.

On corruption, there has not been a single case of conviction except that of Laloo Yadav in this BJP regime. Thus, promises of bringing to book of all these culprits have not been fulfilled. The pending cases, therefore, need to be expedited. Modi Govt has worked on three-pronged strategy – strengthen the institution and make them capable of self-remedy, reduce corruption in public and private lives and investigate some big-ticket corruption cases involving powerful politicians like P Chidambaram and the Gandhi Family of Congress. But people have to be convinced that the corrupt will be punished.

BJP is losing the perception battle and it needs to get a fresh communication strategy put into place. It needs a team that specializes in this job and they surely need to train up their cadres to enable them to communicate clearly to the voters the relevant achievements of the govt.

Be that as it may, Modi made promises regarding jobs, corruption, development etc. Now, with a full term, he is being questioned on delivery. Going ahead, the BJP will need to think of substantive measures to address the above problems, much before the general election and thereby build a credible story to sell to the electorate.

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