BJP president Amit Shah elicits frenzied crowd response on Ram temple, says 2019 elections are like third battle of Panipat.
New Delhi: Completely skirting the Bharatiya Janata Party’s three-state poll loss and choosing to play to an already favourable gallery by predictably bringing up the Ram temple issue, BJP president Amit Shah Friday set the stage for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in his trademark style.
In his inaugural address at the BJP’s two-day mega national convention, attended by over 12,000 party leaders and workers, Shah brought up the Ayodhya issue, though only much later in his speech, but managed to get the maximum audience response for it and in fact, even a frenzied reaction.
The BJP’s top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several of its chief ministers, Union ministers and veterans, were present on the dais.
In a sign that the BJP may be more worried about the polls than it reveals, the BJP president raised the pitch and drew an unlikely analogy by comparing the 2019 Lok Sabha polls with the third battle of Panipat.
“The 2019 polls will be a decisive contest. In the third battle of Panipat, the Marathas that had won 131 battles lost one decisive battle which led to 200 years of colonial slavery,” Shah said, indicating how if the BJP was not brought to power in this election, it would damage the country for years to come.
Ram temple — the crowd pleaser
“The BJP wants the Ram mandir to be built at the same spot at the soonest. We are committed to it. It is the Congress that is causing hurdles in the process. But we are trying to expedite the case which is currently in the Supreme Court,” Shah said, as the audience erupted into dramatic cheers.
By then, Shah had already touched upon a multitude of issues, but it was the Ram temple that got the BJP workers gathered there the most charged, forcing Shah to interrupt his speech and chant “Bharat mata ki jai” along with the crowd. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was seen smiling as the audience continued to express its enthusiasm.
As elections draw closer, the party’s top leadership is expected to take cue from the effect the Ram temple issue has on its supporters, thereby using it to whip up sentiments constantly.
No mention of assembly poll losses
Shah, however, steered clear of any mention of the party’s losses in the December 2018 assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The former CMs of these states — Vasundhara Raje, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh — were also present on stage.
The decision to not bring up the losses and, in fact, talk about how the BJP has been doing well was, perhaps, an attempt to boost the morale of the party by focusing on what the leadership considers as the positives.
The BJP president’s speech was much of the same, where he touched upon his party’s favourite issues — from the government’s welfare schemes to national security, “infiltrators”, the One-Rank-One-Pension (OROP), Swachch Bharat and of course, a generous dose of Congress-bashing.
The party wants to ensure the Congress’ charges of the PM being corrupt have no electoral resonance, and so, Shah spent a considerable amount of time slamming the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi, as well as underlining the narrative of the PM being a “chowkidar (watchman)”.
Shah, who repeatedly mentioned how Modi was a “popular leader not just in the country but also internationally”, sought to make it unequivocally clear the PM is the party’s only face in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.
“This election will be Modi versus the rest. For the opposition, there is no leader or policy. Parties with opposite ideologies have come together,” Shah said.
“The chowkidaar (watchman) is catching all the thieves,” he added.
Mindful of the poor optics caused by several allies walking out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Shah made it a point to mention the BJP will form the government with an absolute majority, along with “NDA ke saathiyon (NDA partners)”.
In an indication of the big role the BJP’s recent move to give 10 per cent reservation to the ‘poor’ in the general category will play in its campaign, Shah began his inaugural speech with the topic, besides explaining how the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was beneficial.
The UP factor
Uttar Pradesh, a state key to the BJP’s fortunes and where it won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, found special mention in Shah’s speech.
To send a morale-boosting message to the leaders and workers from the state present at the convention, Shah said the party will win more seats in the state.
“I can assure you we can get 73 seats in UP,” Shah said.
Incidentally, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath was greeted with the loudest cheer among all other CMs and top ministers from the audience.
On Saturday, PM Modi will deliver the concluding address that is expected to last over an hour.
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