Amit Shah to lead BJP in 2019 polls; party sets tone for campaign

Shah's tenure was due for renewal in January next year

bjp-NE-meet-arvind-jain Prime Minister Narendra Modi with L.K. Advani and Amit Shah at BJP's National Executive meeting in New Delhi | Arvind Jain

The venue itself is part of the message. Large pictures of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee—outnumbering those of Prime Minister Narendra Modi—donned the newly constructed Dr Ambedkar International Centre at Janpath as the BJP began its two-day national executive meeting. Visually, it is Vajpayee meeting Ambedkar, the two icons BJP will be betting on as the ruling party strategises for the upcoming elections.

BJP chief Amit Shah told his team of office-bearers that an attempt was being made to create confusion about the dalit issue, but it won't impact the 2019 elections. His views came in the wake of protests by some upper castes groups, who have traditionally voted for the BJP, over the 'stringent' SC/ST Act passed by the government. BJP has been consciously wooing the dalits whom it needs to retain its winning streak. Even the new Rs 195-crore Ambedkar centre was built by the Modi government in heart of the capital to commemorate the architect of Indian constitution.

Significantly, the party decided to delay the organisational elections by a year to let Shah continue as party president so that next Lok Sabha elections can be fought under his command. His tenure was due for renewal in January next year.

On the first day of the meeting, Shah addressed his office-bearers and later spoke during the inauguration of the national executive meet, which saw Modi and all senior ministers, and several leaders from across the party attending it.

He said the BJP will form the government again in 2019. “We will do well in 19 states where the party is in power. And we will even do well where the BJP is in the second place—in Odisha, Bengal and Telangana,” he said. BJP was 'ajay' (invincible), Shah said.

He called upon the party cadre to work with renewed vigour. He told the office-bearers that the work done by the Modi government from 2014 to 2019 will form the basis of the election campaign.

Shah said the opposition was frustrated as they have been defeated in many assembly elections.

"He [Shah] called out opposition unity saying it was an eyewash, falsehood and illusion. He asked his party leaders to expose this unity move to the people and tell them we are not worried," Defence Minister and party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.

He said the BJP is for "make in India" while Congress is for “breaking India”.

As the Congress is stepping up attacks on the government on the economic front, Shah said every leader of the party should be able to counter former finance minister 'P. Chidambaram and company' on facts.

He even took a jibe at former prime minister Manmohan Singh for criticising Modi government.

The BJP chief also lauded NRC initiative in Assam. He, however, stressed that India was ready to accept Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Christians who were migrating from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Shah also spoke about key initiatives of Modi government like enhanced MSP for agriculture produce, health insurance scheme, OBC commission, on India becoming world's sixth largest economy and post payment banks.

It is the first national executive of the party since its formation is in absence of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. "It's impossible to express Vajpayeeji's contribution in words. A void has been created in Indian politics. He was a poet, nationalist, orator and Ajaatshatru (without any enemy)," Shah said. He then went on to narrate Vajpayee's achievements.

Shah also spoke on floods in Kerala and called on the party cadre to contribute to the relief measures. He said four trains of relief material were dispatched by the party.

He said the party will also announce a detailed programme for the campaign.