New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party is concerned that the Narendra Modi government’s image has taken a blow due to the migrant crisis amid the Covid-19 lockdown, and has launched a concerted drive to publicise the steps it has taken for migrants, farmers and the economically weaker sections of society.
In states where the BJP is in opposition, it is launching agitations and coming up with ‘report cards’ on the failure of the state governments.
“The opposition has been misleading the people that the government has not taken adequate steps, so all the state units till the district and block level have been asked to directly get in touch with those who have been affected the most,” a senior BJP leader told ThePrint.
“People need to be made aware of several announcements made by the Modi government as part of relief measures, not only for the migrant population but for other sections too,” the leader said.
Delhi and Rajasthan
In Delhi, for example, to counter Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party government, the BJP is set to launch an agitation from the north-eastern part of the city. Party workers carrying placards will stand six to eight feet away from each other, to maintain social distancing and highlight how the Delhi government failed to deliver on providing rations to the needy.
A second senior BJP leader told ThePrint that the party, including Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari and leader of the opposition in the Delhi assembly Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, will raise slogans such as “where are the rations given by Modi ji?” and “Modi ji sent rations, Kejriwal didn’t distribute them”.
“Kejriwal has messed up Delhi, and with the migrant crisis, the situation has gone out of control. These agitations will be carried out in all 70 assembly constituencies, starting Friday. We will follow all social distancing norms at the same time,” this leader said.
Delhi BJP chief Tiwari added: “There is something for everyone in the government’s announcements. We are providing free rations to all those who are not even covered under PDS; at the same time, another important announcement is that the Centre will provide help of Rs 10,000 to vendors. Many people may not get to know about the announcements, so we have started highlighting them.”
Meanwhile, Rajasthan BJP president Satish Poonia said in this Congress-ruled state, his party has launched a three-phase campaign, in which the announcements by the Modi government will be highlighted through short video clips and social media. Senior BJP leaders and functionaries will be part of the campaign.
“We have already exposed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the bus scam. They were only trying to mislead the migrants. We have already started raising issues of water shortage. At the same time, this entire month, we will be highlighting the steps taken by the Modi government at the Centre,” Poonia said.
Plan for Bihar and MP, with eye on polls
The BJP has made a pointed strategy for two states where it is in power and faces crucial elections: Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
The BJP rules Bihar with its ally, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), and the state is scheduled to hold assembly elections towards the end of this year.
In Madhya Pradesh, meanwhile, the BJP has recently formed the government after 22 Congress MLAs withdrew their support from Kamal Nath and resigned from their seats. The rebel MLAs have now joined the BJP and the state is set to hold crucial by-elections to their old seats, as well as two seats that have fallen vacant due to deaths.
Both state units have specially been asked to focus on the announcements made for the migrant workers and measures for food security — such as the ‘shramik special’ trains that are being run to ferry migrant workers to their home states, free grains without ration card announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and the additional funds the government has assigned for the rural employment guarantee scheme MGNREGA.
The state units are also getting experts to write articles on the steps taken, as well as using WhatsApp messages, audio and video conferences to promote the work done by the Modi government.
All senior BJP leaders, including party president J.P. Nadda, Union ministers Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh and Harsh Vardhan, among others, have already been tweeting about every announcement made by Sitharaman.
Make returning migrants in Bihar comfortable
During a core committee meeting on Bihar, BJP president Nadda asked the state unit to highlight not only the stimulus package, but all the steps that have been taken, especially for the migrant population.
Sources said the committee discussed that since 25 lakh migrants are expected to return to Bihar and will most probably remain there until the elections, the BJP workers should help them with rations and ensure they don’t face any other difficulties.
“The committee discussed a range of issues, including the migrant crisis, the upcoming elections and the overall situation of the state. It was felt that the migrant issue is being used by the opposition to tarnish the image of the government and while a number of steps have been announced for their welfare, the messaging so far has not been great,” a third senior BJP leader said.
“In Bihar especially, it has been decided to not only highlight the stimulus package but make the stay of the migrants comfortable too,” the third leader said.
Other state units of the BJP have started preparing lists of the major announcements, and have been sharing them on social media like Twitter and on WhatsApp.
With opposition parties highlighting the failures of the government in its handling of the migrant crisis in states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and MP, the state units have been asked to facilitate the governments.
“Those who are already helping in feeding the hungry are being asked to divert some of those packets to, say, railway or bus stations from where migrants are heading home. Some at the district level have also started providing water and biscuits to those walking on the highways,” said a fourth BJP leader.