Sanjay Bechan is a freelance journalist who started his career with Jansatta Hindi Daily of Indian Express Group. Later on, he moved to TV and worked with Nalini Singh and BAG Films
I was in the midst of a TV discussion on the eve of 23 May 2019 when elections results were being declared. The anchor took a break for a live feed from BJP HQ wherein Amit Shah was addressing BJP enthusiasts. Humbled by the massive victory bestowed on the Party he was thanking the nation. However, he was not humble in his approach while making special mention of West Bengal and Chandrababu Naidu. He proclaimed that the change of guard in West Bengal is inevitable and the BJP is all set to form the government in the state after the assembly election which is due next year. Following Shah, the tone of PM Narendra Modi’s address too was humble but its spirit was vigorous. New BJP-Sangh Both the addresses have one thing in common:– to target general elections of 2024. It was a different BJP that I have known so far. The message of both the leaders clearly indicated that the birth of a new BJP has taken place. This BJP is not only a party with a difference but it is talking differently too. It was staking claims in very clear terms as a natural incumbent of seat of power in New Delhi. And this endeavour to stake claim was not under any wrap as done in the past. It was straight and direct. It was no more keen to talk about the ideas toed by the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and the BJP in the past. Abandoning old ideas and picking new ones is not a new phenomenon for the party. But this new BJP is not picking a new idea. It went back to basics. Once again it rekindled the idea of Cultural Nationalism, the idea of Akhand Bharat and the idea of larger Hindu Pariwar and the idea of India as the supreme power and as a custodian of knowledge and culture which were put in a cold storage during Vajpayee regime for the sake of running the coalition with ease. In fact, going back to its root is a paradigm shift. However the birth of New BJP is not all of a sudden incident and had not happened in a day. Saying goodbye to Gandhian socialism, integral humanism and minority appeasement was not at all easy. But during recently held elections, these issues were not even in the reckoning, which not only helped the BJP immensely but prevented the opposition to rake up the issue of appeasement to clinch minority votes. It also paved the way for an election to be free from clutches of Iftar and fatwas which have lost their sheen during the election campaign. The current BJP has successfully blended the idea of New India, idea of cultural nationalism, idea of Akhand Bharat, Idea of Hindu Nationalism and idea of a greater Hindu Samaj into one to create a consolidated vote bank. It also mixed aspirations of young India and old India into one. It also redefined India’s world view and the world’s outlook towards India. It was able to deliver a message to its voters that only the BJP can convert the country into a strong and resurgent India. An India which stands tall in the world order, which can see eye to eye with world’s top powers and which can convert it into a superpower in terms of economy and national security and an India which strikes back and can stand before Chinese hegemony in the region. The concept of unstoppable India and unstoppable BJP are converted into one. So it’s new BJP of a new India. The newly emerged BJP is now a party with a difference in its real terms. It is now a confluence of diverse views. It is not opposed to creation of wealth and free enterprises. But it is not a capitalist party in rigid terms. It is pro-people at the same time. It is credited with launching world’s largest schemes. And its right wing lineage and nationalist approach have never been a secret. Under the leadership of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, the BJP has converted itself into a party which is always ready to face elections. The party has successively placed a mammoth poll machinery which is always election ready. While all other parties are still in aftershock of defeat in general elections of 2019, the BJP is preparing for forthcoming assembly elections in full throttle. Free from the tantrums of strategists and pollsters the new BJP is more focused on increasing its strength and the number of its members at booth levels. It focuses more on booth management and it is not complacent at all. Soon after the victory in recently concluded elections, Party President Amit Shah has very emphatically stated that the BJP may have notched up its best ever tally in the recent Lok Sabha polls but it is yet to reach its peak. He made it clear while chairing a meeting of top party office bearers that the party cannot reach its peak without forming governments in states like Kerala and West Bengal, among others. The Modi and Shah’s BJP is so concerned about its future victories that it decided to increase its members by 20 per cent soon after the elections The party’s goal to bump up the membership by 20 per cent more is not only aggressive but a guarantee to boost party’s performance in forthcoming assembly polls. Panna Pramukhs, vistaraks, RSS whole timers and thousands of its office bearers and workers are engaged in making preparations for forthcoming elections round the clock throughout the year. Panna Pramukhs play pivotal role in election management at primary level. Now, in elections it’s BJP which sets the agenda, manages issues successfully and forces others to respond. While, before the polls of 2019 the BJP used to respond to the issues set by others. However during 2014 to 2019 it perfected the art of setting agenda and managing issues at every level. Recently held elections were an example wherein the opposition was forced to abandon its tried and tested tricks of secularism vs communalism, minority vs majority, Dalit versus OBC. etc. Nehru-Gandhi family scions Rahul and Priyanka were seen shuttling Hindu Holy Places. Akhilesh and Maya were seen refraining from meeting Muslim clergies and throwing lavish iftar parties. Not only that, they also failed miserably to make GST & demonetization to occupy centre stage during the elections. Issue of cow vigilantism and mob lynching also failed to gain momentum. Issue of corruption -Rafael deal – and much talked about scheme NYAYA also collapsed without yielding any result. And it all happened due to aggressive campaign by the BJP which prevented these issues to take centerstage. While erstwhile BJP derived its strength from the bashing of the Congress and the Communists for constantly raking up the issue of minority appeasement and ignoring Hindu interests. The new BJP derived its strength from its delivery through the governance. It converted the whole election campaign as Modi vs all. Earlier it was Congress vs. others, now it is BJP vs. others. Modi was positioned in such a manner that it outsized everyone. Not only that it exposed the negative narrative being pestered against it and turned them into its strength and built the campaign block by block. Earlier, it was perceived that if you are a BJP wala you are communal. Now, Modi and Shah took the issue of Nationalism at such a level wherein everyone talking against BJP was perceived as Anti National. The issue of nationalism not only attracted young voters but also silenced its detractors. It made a situation wherein anyone talking against the BJP was treated as anti-national. The BJP took the spirit of nationalism on such a high level that the communal angle failed to match its intensity and effect on the electorate. In fact it turned the tide. Balakot strike was an icing on the cake. And the entire strategy was designed in a manner wherein Indian Muslims were insulated from mischief played on them by the Congress and third front that their existence would be in danger if the BJP comes into power. The BJP did not allow them to play a faux pass this time. And this was the reason that everyone believed Modi’s statement in the NDA parliamentary party meeting wherein he declared that Muslims are BJP’s potential voters and his Government would work for their wellbeing. The journey from being untouchable to a most preferred party is remarkable in the political history of India. After the demise of its predecessor, the Bhartiya Jan Sangh, the BJP was formed to revive Hindutva but it was put on back burner under the wrap of coalition Dharma in past. Now The New Avatar of the party is working successfully to push Hindutva and issue of Indian nationalism as its core. It would be interesting to understand that how the BJP got benefitted by bringing the issues of Indian and Hindu Nationalism in centre of its entire election strategy. A series of surveys conducted in almost all Indian states between 2016 and 2018 by Lokniti-CSDS and Azim Premji University unfolds its chemistry. As per the findings of the survey the majority of Hindus are in agreement with the BJP’s idea of Indian and Hindu nationalism. This support is remarkably broad-based. The survey reveals that a majority of Hindus from different caste and tribal communities believe that those who eat beef should be punished. A majority of Hindus across different castes also believe that those who do not say “Bharat Mata ki Jai” at public functions should be punished. The majority of Hindus also believe that most of the Hindus are patriotic. According to the survey 44 percent of all Hindus voted for the BJP in 2019, which is 8 percentage more what it got in 2014. The support for the BJP has also widened. As per the findings : 52 percent of Hindu upper castes, 44 percent of Hindu backward castes, 34 percent of Hindu Dalits, and 44 percent of Hindu Adivasis voted for the BJP in the 2019 elections. For each group, the percentages of support for the BJP were significantly higher in comparison to 2014. Most interesting is the case of conversion of Indian youth especially first time voters into BJP’s votaries in 2019. To target young and first time voters was a great strategy. Connecting with youth’s aspirations with a concept of new and resurgent India was its strength. While Modi was communicating with youths giving tips for examinations and engaging with them in a series of activities everyone took it as a ploy to avoid real issues. No one has the clue that Modi was basically building a future vote bank for the BJP, a vote bank which was not captive of RSS which was exclusively created for the BJP by the BJP. These are the voters who will keep the BJP in power in future . Modi specifically underlined the aspirations of teenagers and developed devices and campaigns aimed at them. Evidence is now available to indicate that most of first time voters voted for the BJP and party is strategizing in a manner that this trend is bound to be maintained for a long time. It would be interesting to mention that some top stalwarts of the Party were always of the opinion that party means the parliamentary or legislative party and rest is the RSS responsibility. Modi and Shah worked relentlessly and successfully came out of this by establishing a BJP’s loyal youth vote bank which has no leaning towards the RSS. Interestingly RSS is also happy with this addendum, as this youth vote bank and RSS both are the votaries of the concept of a great Indian Nation. Earlier it was RSS who through Akhil Bharitya Vidyarthi Parishad acted as a nursery to groom BJP voters and workers. But by targeting first time voters and connecting with them by addressing their aspirations and convincing them that Modi is building a new India. The BJP has created a vote bank which is exclusively for the party and has nothing to do with RSS .Off course the idea of Indian nationalism is a common connect between them. The preceding avatar of BJP, the Bharitya Jansangh was founded in 1951 to push the agenda of cultural nationalism at centre stage of national politics and oust the so called unholy alliance of the Congress and the Communists from the power. The initial years of the Bhartiya Jansangh were not very encouraging. The first general elections in 1952 were a great disappointment. Only Dr. Mukherjee and two of his friends were elected to Lok Sabha. However on the basis of its scoring 3.06% of the votes, the party was recognized as a national political party. However, despite a general belief in political circles that the Bhartiya Jan Sangh will cease to exist after the death of its founder, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. The results of the second general elections proved that the Bhartiya Jan Sangh not only survived, but moved in upward direction as well. After a long struggle and facing numerous rough weathers during Nehru-Indira era it reached its pinnacle in post-Emergency Janata Party regime during 1977-79 when it had 93 MPs. After the downfall of Desai ministry due to the rift within the Janata Party on the issue of Jan Sangh’s affiliation with RSS, the BJP was established in April 1980. The BJP was distinct in thought from its predecessor and propounded a new concept of Gandhian Socialism and a tag line of “party with a difference”. The adoption of Gandhian Socialism as a policy concept faced open defiance from stalwarts like Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia, the founder Vice President, and Bhairo Singh Shekhawat, the late Vice President of India and former Chief Minister of Rajasthan. But Party has accepted it as one of its core values. And on the basis of that in the same convention Justice Mohammed Currim Chagla, perceived BJP as “the alternative that can replace the present (Indira Gandhi) Government.” Chagla proved to be right in 1998 when Vajapyee led Government was formed at the Centre. But this success was nothing to do with the idea of Gandhian Socialism which was actually put in side after debacle in general elections of 1984. After merely securing two seats in the 84 elections, the party had very rigorously and aggressively pushed a hardline Hindutva agenda which ultimately brought it in power in 1998. However the idea of Gandhian Socialism helped Vajpayee to attain a greater acceptability with a liberal face .Vajpayee always accepted the contribution of Gandhian Socialism in shaping his political image and always pushed it in his political musings. In September 2004, when the book “The Quest, The Hurdles: A Socialist Testament” written by former PM Chandra Sekhar, was being launched Vajpayee took up the issue and questioned why the nation had stopped talking about socialism. “It is in the preamble of our Constitution and is a guiding goal for all parties. For the Bharitya Janata Party, Gandhian socialism is what we want to achieve and make society free of exploitation and full of opportunities. So, we need to start this debate again,” he said. Despite Vajpayee’s penchant and insistence to continue with Gandhian Socialism BJP got rid of it and resorted to its hard-line Hindu ideology to secure power and succeeded. The towering personality and popularity of Vajpayee helped the party In forming a grand alliance of 13 political parties which proved instrumental for the victory in Lok Sabha elections, 1999. The victory ramped up political acceptability of the BJP among all parties in general and amongst alliance constituents in particular. The old BJP always tried to camouflage or sugar-coat its Hindutva agenda and ambition of power under the idea like Gandhian Socialism or integral humanism for its non-supporters. The new BJP is not at all apologetic about its Hindu ideology and RSS ideology. Whenever and wherever it requires, the party expresses emphatically and that also without any sort of shame. The new BJP is not keen to have any mask. While Vajpayee era BJP was RSS driven but its new avtar is a self-propelled organization. Defining roles regarding the three dimensions- the party, the government & the pariwar is totally demarcated in the new BJP. The new BJP proclaims its root of Hindu Nationalism with proud. In new BJP there is an exclusive room for Hindutva and the rest has been immersed in nationalism now. So the BJP now wants to convert and rebrand itself as a Nationalist party rather than a right wing Hindu party. And the party is doing it in a manner that its all the votaries are happy and think that its their own show. The RSS is happy that NRC is being implemented and minority appeasement has gone. The RSS long cherished idea of a casteless broad based Hindu society is taking shape, Article 370 and 35A will go. Hardliners within the Sangh Pariwar are happy that the Ram Mandir will be build, triple talaq is being banned, two child norms and common civil code for the country is in offing. In fact every constituency and constituents are happy as this new BJP is addressing them all. Mastering such an art with perfection is new BJP’s forte. It has mastered the art of feel good which has never been witnessed before. Vajpayee came to power bashing the Congress, the Communists and the third front. BJP 2.0 came to power on its own steam and has nothing to do with the downfall of others. Under leadership of Atal–Advani the BJP for years tried hard for political acceptability by adopting a liberal mask but that did not help the party much. However it helped Vajpayee to get a liberal face and a greater acceptability in national politics which helped him to lead two successive coalition governments from 1998-2004. Elections of 2004 proved to be a debacle despite India Shining Campaign and the BJP had to sit in opposition for ten long years. In 2014 rising on wave of anti-incumbency and Modi’s positioning as an alternate to UPA misrule BJP came back to power with full majority. But it decided to stick to its coalition dharma following the footsteps of Vajpayee. However at the same time, it also decided to change its outlook totally. After landslide victory in 2014. Amit Shah was made BJP head which proved game changer. Shah and Modi realized and recognized that politics without power is a lifeless object. The new BJP has tweaked the proposition of “Nation First, party second and self-last” as “Nation first power must.” This new BJP knows how to tackle its opponents. We have seen the bonhomie between the Congress and NDA during Vajpayee’s regime. Now it does not fussy about that any more. To destroy its enemies it can go beyond the so called culture of mutual respect. It’s not shying away from taking up a fight to finish. It is not apologetic in claiming and working in a direction to make India Congress Mukt. It is not shying away in taking legal actions against Gandhi family. Issues related with political courtesy are now a matter of the past. The advent of the New BJP after victory in General elections in 2019 is a natural corollary of the churning which took place in the BJP between 2014 -2019 that power and party are two inseparable organs of the politics and politics without power is a life without soul. Departure from the policy of “one person one post” is an evidence of the same. BJP always adhered to the policy of one man, one post since its beginning. However recent elevation of JP Nadda as working President of the party and retention of Shah on the top slot is a clear cut statement that BJP has changed. Nation and elections are its top two priorities. From single digit number in the Lok Sabha in 1984, the party has successfully scored 303 seats in the House of 545 in 2019. But even then it’s not complacent in approach. As Amit Shah described recently that the BJP is yet to reach its peak and till it reaches the top, there is no full stop. It’s always on move. The statement of LK Advani describing the BJP is very apt and explains new BJP in right perspective, “It has risen to become one of the strongest national-level parties in the country based on its progressive agenda of focusing on overall speedy growth of the nation. The party has always remained indefatigable in its approach to national unity, integrity, identity and strength through its individual and national character. The BJP, which is nurtured by and akin to the Rashtria Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS), is wedded to India’s intrinsic identity and cultural fabric of unity and distinctiveness that have been the hallmark of this great country and its people for millennia. The BJP, today, is all set for a great leap forward which can bring about a paradigm-shift in the life of every Indian, so much so as to rewrite the history of this great nation in a way that its future generations would be proud of. Even the party’s detractors now believe that BJP has transformed into an ‘unstoppable’ force.” Echoing the views expressed by its patriarch, the BJP is now converted it into an organization which is born to rule with a concept that Nation first, Power Must.