BJP chief Amit Shah has been meeting MPs and allowing them to air grievances but many feel it’s just optics, and their suggestions won’t be part of 2019 strategy.
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah, seemingly “chastened” by the party’s recent defeats in three heartland states, has been reaching out to his MPs but for many of them the efforts are too little and too late.
The BJP chief has been meeting the MPs in batches from 20 December. He has so far met MPs from states such as Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Delhi. The exercise is to end on 4 January.
Sources said that unlike in the past, Shah spends little time speaking in the meetings, instead, allowing the MPs to air their grievances and proffer suggestions for the party’s poll strategy ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Many of the MPs that ThePrint spoke to said the poll defeats in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh had brought about a change they “least expected”. They also feel that their suggestions may not be incorporated in the party’s strategy and that the attempt to reach out to them is nothing but optics.
“We have been asked to speak up so that we cannot complain that we were not heard. This realisation of involving MPs in party matters by the high command has come too late and I am still not sure that it will mean anything,” said a senior BJP MP who did not want to be named.
“They may or may not take note of what all we said. We may think we were allowed to speak and contribute, but thinking our views will shape the party’s strategy is unrealistic.”
Another senior MP present in the first meeting that Shah took last week said only a few MPs managed to find their voice as for four-and-a-half years they were relegated to the role of silent listeners at meetings, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah being the chief speakers.
“They (high command) knew that they have not entertained views from most of us and we have learnt to listen and not to speak over a period of four-and-a-half years,” the MP said.
“Not just us, even many senior ministers don’t dare speak up in front of the PM. In the meetings that the party chief has called, however, he has been humble. It was absolutely an attempt to reach out to us.”
Another MP who attended the meeting said that for those who spoke out, the meet was cathartic.
“The defeat in three states has humbled the top brass and that is why we could make some noise and force them to listen,” the MP said. “Some did that by asking uncomfortable questions that were not answered but at least heard.”
Ahead of polls, disquiet in the part
Sources in the party said the high command was aware that the disgruntled voices within the BJP had reached a point where it could affect the party’s chances in the 2019 elections.
“It is this sentiment of an urgency to listen to the MPs, which made the high command open a two-way-communication with leaders in the states,” a source told ThePrint.
Sources also said that after listening to those present, Shah asked the MPs to hold meetings with booth workers, mandal units and gear up for the Lok Sabha elections.
“He said that the defeat in three states should not let the morale down as the party’s vote share had seen an increase,” said an MP. “We were told to be upbeat and assured that our concerns have been heard.”
Allies, Ram temple…
The issue of allies leaving the alliance did find an echo in the meetings. According to an MP present in one of the meetings, several MPs voiced their opinion on the subject in wake of a threat posed by the opposition parties allying together.
“Shah remained quiet on the issue and assured that the allies will be taken care of and that the MPs have nothing to worry about,” said the source.
The Ram temple also found an echo but this too did not evoke a response from Shah, a source said, adding that apart from the temple, there were some speaking on the party’s stand on the SC/ST act.
“There were a few who said that the party has made upper castes upset with its stand on SC/ST act ordinance where it was restored in its original state despite the Supreme Court order,” said the source.
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