Drawing imagery of war, BJP chief Amit Shah said the 2019 general elections will be a decisive battle, whose repercussions will be felt for ages to come. “Marathas won 131 battles but lost the most decisive one, the third battle of Panipat, which led to 200 years of colonial slavery,” Shah said as he exhorted the party faithful to bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi back to power again.
Shah, who has a task of marshalling party cadre for Modi's campaign, went on to explain whom the contest was between.
“It's an ideological battle between two. On one side is those who believe in cultural nationalism. There are 35 parties in the NDA. On the other side is an alliance of opportunism. Unke paas na neta hai, na niti. (They neither have a leader nor any policy),” Shah said during his presidential address at the start of BJP's two-day national council meeting at historic Ram Leela Maidan in Delhi.
The BJP chose the same venue to formally launch its Lok Sabha campaign for 2019, as they had done in January 2014 during the open house national council meeting. Modi will speak on Saturday laying out the contour lines of his campaign.
BJP's aim is to galvanise its cadre. Over 12,000 people gathered for the national council from across the country, which includes elected representative from parliament to panchayat level, and office bearers right up to the district level. The saffron party had made massive arrangements for the plenary as delegates also battled Delhi's chill.
Shah had inducted three former chief ministers of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh into the organisation as national vice presidents a day earlier. So, they were also seated on the dais along with all the present CMs of the BJP ruled states. For the saffron party, it's a show of strength before the big battle.
“We have gathered here to resolve that Modi returns in 2019,” Shah said as he assured the audience that a grand Ram temple will be built in Ayodhya. The loudest cheers from the partymen were reserved for Shah's temple assurance. Modi is always star of BJP's gatherings. As Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath entered the stage, the rousing welcome for him from the crowd also stood out.
This is the first national council meeting in the absence of party founder Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His large picture, along with that of Swami Vivekanada, flanked Modi and Shah's portraits on the stage.
Shah listed Modi government's achievements as he rattled off a number of beneficiaries of various government schemes like Jandhan, free LPG connections, toilet construction and One rank One pension scheme.
But the biggest takeaways from Shah's speech was his attack on the opposition, and pitching Modi's image as an unassailable leader. Shah, in his speech, targeted the opposition alliance, Rahul Gandhi, Congress and former prime minister Manmohan Singh.
“The Samajwadi Party and the Congress had an alliance during UP elections. But we won 325 seats. This time we will win over 73 seats in Lok Sabha,” Shah said and claimed that the alliance was formed as they know they alone cannot defeat Modi.
“Earlier it used to be Congress versus all, this time it is Modi versus all. BJP has become the nucleus of Indian polity,” the BJP chief added.
The BJP president said when there was Mauni baba ki sarkar (government of a silent PM), there used to be a delay in Army action. But Modi ordered Army to go for a surgical strike. Now India ranks along with the USA and Israel who are known for similar action, he added.
Shah reminded the audience that his government brought the National Register for Citizens (NRC) through which 40 lakh illegal infiltrators were identified. “Rahul baba and company tried to bat for infiltrators, as if they were their mausare bhai (maternal cousins). But we will not let them stay.”
The BJP chief said the biggest achievement of Modi government was a corruption-free regime. “When Rahul Gandhi could not produce documents regarding Rafale deal, he kept talking about the court. His B-team (former BJP members Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan) filed a case. But court rejected their petition.
Responding to Congress' jibes on escape of Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallaya, Shah said they escaped because chowkidar had come to power. Now the chowkidar will bring them back, Shah said referring to PM Modi.
Shah laid the ground work for BJP's campaign. Modi, during his speech on Saturday, is likely to give a direction to the party's campaign.
The 2019 elections are expected to be bloody.