New Delhi: Hit the ground running and don’t rely on crowds coming to the chief minister’s rallies or those of other party leaders, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told Madhya Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in Bhopal Wednesday. This was his first meeting with state BJP leaders after the party appointed Union ministers Bhupender Yadav and Ashwini Vaishnaw as its election incharge and co-incharge for MP.
“The state president or chief minister will not be changed at this juncture. Amit Shah ji‘s message to all senior leaders was asking them to work together. The party has decided that responsibility of different parts of the state will be assigned to different leaders,” said a senior BJP leader. He, however, pointed out that Shah was careful in not stating whether Chouhan would continue as chief minister if the party were to win the assembly polls.
For some time now, it was being speculated that the party could replace Chouhan and Sharma in the run-up to the elections.
During the meeting Wednesday, Shah is also learnt to have discussed election strategy for the state in detail, as he urged all senior leaders of the MP BJP to create an atmosphere of confidence ahead of the upcoming assembly elections.
A second senior BJP leader said Shah emphasised that the polls will be fought unitedly and asked the various ‘power centres’ to put their egos aside and work for the party. “Shah stressed that crowds at rallies are good but they alone can’t be an indicator of whether we are doing well in that region or not. Rather than becoming complacent after ensuring big crowds at the rallies, leaders and workers need to work on ground,” said the leader.
Speaking to ThePrint, BJP’s Madhya Pradesh unit chief V.D. Sharma said the party will organise a ‘Vijay Sankalp Abhiyan’ ahead of the assembly polls to connect with the masses.
Meanwhile, sources in the state BJP said an internal survey found that the performance of 40 percent of sitting BJP MLAs was not up to the mark — which could hamper their chances of getting a ticket to contest the assembly elections to be held later this year.
Having lost power to the Congress in Karnataka in May, the party has already started holding marathon meetings in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
‘Winnability the only criteria’
Further, in order to ensure that there is no in-fighting ahead of the crucial Madhya Pradesh elections, the party has also decided to give important responsibilities to all senior leaders. At the same time, ‘team Amit Shah’ will monitor poll preparations from Delhi. “He (Shah) will keep visiting the state at regular intervals and will keep an eye on the poll campaign. He is likely to be back in MP by the end of the month,” said a state BJP leader.
A third senior BJP leader said efforts are underway to ensure ticket management is done efficiently since many in the party are upset at the possibility of ‘Scindia loyalists’, who joined the party last year, being fielded on a BJP ticket in the assembly elections.
“For ticket distribution, it will be the mandate of central leaders to ensure that there is no bias and winnability is the only criteria. All leaders have been told to ensure that they reach out to all sections of society, especially tribals and the Scheduled Caste (SC) community,” the leader added.
Shah, in the closed-door meeting Wednesday, also asked the state BJP to run a pro-government campaign and highlight the work done by the party’s governments in the state and at the Centre.
The meeting with Shah Wednesday was attended by senior leaders of the MP BJP including CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Home Minister Narottam Mishra, MP poll incharge Bhupender Yadav, co-incharge Ashwani Vaishnaw and state BJP president V.D. Sharma. Union ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia, Narendra Singh Tomar and Prahlad Patel, besides state incharge P. Muralidhar Rao, among others, were also part of the meeting in Bhopal.
“In the meeting, Shah said the job of the state unit is not merely to highlight the welfare work carried out under the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chouhan but to ensure that both governments in the state and at the Centre are in sync,” said the leader.
Shah also expressed concern over the party’s ‘inability’ to aggressively hit out at the Opposition in the state and asked Madhya Pradesh BJP leaders to ‘target’ former Congress chief ministers Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh on a daily basis.
“He (Shah) was also not happy with the way the entire campaign has been shaped so far and asked them to be more aggressive,” a second state BJP leader said.
In 2003, the BJP won 173 seats and the Congress 38 in the 230-member assembly. Cut to 2008, when under Chouhan’s leadership, the BJP was reduced to 143 seats. Its tally rose to 165 in 2013, when the Congress was able to get only 58 of its candidates elected to the legislative assembly. However, the 2018 MP elections marked a major setback for the BJP, with the party’s tally dropping to 109 seats, while the Congress’s rising to 114 seats.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)