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Modi’s outreach advice to BJP leaders — host Sufi nights, visit church, observe Valmiki Jayanti

At BJP national executive meet, Modi urged leaders to build trust with Muslims and other communities. Subtext is that outreach will offset ‘Hindutva saturation’, party sources say.

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi had some practical advice for Bharatiya Janata Party leaders this week, ThePrint has learnt — they should organise Sufi music nights, attend church programmes, visit Valmiki temples, and hold gatherings with university students and pensioners to expand the party’s support base.

BJP sources said that in his concluding address at the party’s national executive meeting Tuesday, one of Modi’s core messages was to look beyond the Ram Temple and to forge a “bharose ka rishta (relationship of trust)” with Muslims and other marginalised communities.

Modi also asked leaders to stop making incendiary speeches about Muslims and “unnecessary remarks” about films, and to focus on governance and positive politics instead, party sources said.

The subtext was clear. Championing Hindutva alone wouldn’t be enough to win a hattrick in the 2024 general elections, nor to register victories in Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Karnataka, which will go to polls this year.

However, party leaders said Modi also emphasised that votes in the short term should not be the only reason for outreach efforts. Instead, building goodwill and an inclusive narrative would be key to strengthening the party in the coming decade.

“[Modi said] we should be in front of a church on Sunday when mass gatherings take place. Similarly, we should reach out to the Sikh community beyond Punjab. Our objective to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya has been achieved, but we also need to introspect whether we have been to the temples built for Sant Ravidas and Maharshi Valmiki,” said a senior BJP leader who was present at the closed-door meeting.

“We should develop strong bonding with the marginalised and downtrodden communities,” he added.

A second senior BJP leader, who also attended the meeting, told ThePrint that Modi’s message was an “awakening” for the party that it had achieved “Hindutva saturation” and needed to branch out beyond core constituencies.

“The PM was raising questions about our roadmap for the next 10 years as we have achieved Hindutva saturation. We have fulfilled the core Hindutva agenda of building the Ram Temple and abrogating Article 370. We have to look for other constituencies also to sustain momentum in the long term,” this leader said.

“Modi was referring to expanding electoral boundaries to reach more geographical constituencies. The government’s line has always been sabka saath sabka vikas (everyone’s support, everyone’s development) but Modi telling us to offer the olive branch and build a bharose ka rishta inspires the party to adopt a more focussed approach,” he added.

A third BJP leader added: “The PM asking us to celebrate Ravidas, Kabir, and Valmiki Jayanti and to build temples for them reflects his quest to build the party’s community base. Sometimes we forget to reach more such communities and the PM reminded us why it is important.”

Modi’s speech was not limited to mere abstractions. He also enumerated various strategies that leaders could use to win hearts and minds.

Also read: Modi wants BJP to reach out to two very different Muslim groups. All about Pasmandas & Bohras

Sufi nights ‘in the open’, Sikh outreach beyond Punjab

During his speech, Modi stressed that the party should not worry about votes when reaching out to communities such as Pasmanda Muslims and Sikhs, who are not known to be BJP supporters.

The bigger aim, he said, was to build confidence and trust. He said BJP leaders should not forget about Sikhs who live outside Punjab and to reach out to them too, even if they did not represent many votes.

To augment the party’s soft power, Modi suggested that party leaders should rope in Sufi singers and organise musical festivals in their constituencies to help bridge divides.

“The PM even said that such programmes should be done in the open. We should not try and host such events under any other name out of fear that other vote banks will get upset,” said a fourth BJP leader. The PM also asked party leaders to attend church programmes.

In addition, Modi said party leaders should visit universities to connect with young people, visit the homes of ex-servicemen and pensioners, and listen to their grievances and expectations from the government.

“The PM also said that the government has got a separate department for fisheries, but how many leaders have visited the homes of fisherfolk to know whether schemes have reached them,” said the fourth leader. “He said we should visit divyang (people with disabilities), widows, fisherfolk… any section of society that is living in India.”

A call for ‘positive’ politics

One of Modi’s central messages was that leaders should develop a new style of positive rather than combative politics.

BJP sources said that Modi warned leaders that there was no space for “arrogance” in the party. Instead, “sensitivity” should be shown in speeches since one misstep could reverse big gains.

The PM did not name any names, but made an apparent dig at Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra, who has of late adopted a rather hardline stance.

Most recently, Mishra went on a tirade against the upcoming film Pathaan, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. He threatened to ban the film in MP because of its “objectionable” song ‘Besharam Rang’ and even brought up Padukone’s support of the “tukde-tukde gang in JNU”.

In his speech, Modi asked party leaders to stop making “unnecessary remarks about films” since such controversies overshadowed the party’s work. The fourth BJP leader told ThePrint: “Modi asked what kind of popularity did people get from making such impulsive statements?”

In addition, Modi advised leaders to tweak the language they used while communicating with constituents, the third leader said: “One important suggestion he made was that if we keep saying that a project has succeeded due to Modiji, it does not create a sense of belonging. If we say that something has happened ‘due to your effort (i.e. vote)’, common citizens will feel empowered and their sense of belonging will increase.”

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Also read: Nadda’s message at BJP national meet: ‘Learn from Gujarat, can’t lose single election in 2023’




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