Lesson of 2018 in mind, BJP looks to win back SC, ST support in MP

In the 2018 elections, the BJP suffered considerable losses in its support base in the SC and ST communities.

THE BJP may have regained power in Madhya Pradesh on the back of defections in Congress, but the electoral setback of 2018 got the party into deep thinking after which it identified certain key issues – including shrinking support base among tribals and Dalits in the state – that needed to be addressed ahead of the next elections.

According to party leaders, it was felt that the eroding support base among Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes could be largely attributed to poor representation of these communities in organisation posts, lack of sensitivity towards their concerns and a lull in the organisation’s expansion and consolidation efforts.

Efforts to win back lost ground picked speed over the past four months during which the Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP, under supervision of central leadership, held a series of brainstorming sessions to identify the areas where it had slackened during the party’s 15-year uninterrupted rule in the central state.

Later this month, the party is expected to launch a “Janajatiya Abhiyaan” or tribal campaign to revive its popularity among the indigenous people. Union Home Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah’s visit to Jabalpur on September 18, during which he is expected to launch the campaign, will provide fresh energy to the cadre to work on the front, party leaders said.

In the 2018 elections, the BJP suffered considerable losses in its support base in the SC and ST communities. Of the 82 reserved seats, it won 34 – 18 SC and 16 ST seats. This was down from the 59 reserved seats it won in 2013 elections – 31 ST and 28 SC seats.

In the BJP’s scheme of things, central India, where former BJP president Kushabhau Thakre built the organisation, is its mainstay and now the party leadership has realised it needs to rebuild the organisation, infuse fresh blood and strengthen the process of expansion and consolidation of its support base. In order to maintain Madhya Pradesh as the anchor state of BJP’s cultural, nationalist and political project, party cadres in the state have been asked to pull up their socks again to roll out the new plan, said leaders familiar with the developments.

Senior BJP leader P Muralidhar Rao, in charge of Madhya Pradesh, agreed that the party is focusing on the SC and ST communities. “The party’s influence among SCs and STs has to gain further in order to remain the party of dominance and a party of governance. There will be a guideline on which a roadmap has to be constructed. Ultimately, mobilisation of these sections will be central point for future programmes of both the government and for the party,” Rao told The Indian Express.

Rao, who was in charge of BJP’s training department, which helped the cadre to strengthen its ideological foundation, was given the charge of Madhya Pradesh unit in last November when BJP president J P Nadda reconstituted his team.

Sources said the learning from Madhya Pradesh would be shared with other states where the BJP has to consolidate its electoral base made on the back of Narendra Modi’s popularity since 2014.

“The party has concluded that our support base and influence among the tribals and Dalits in the state has to be expanded. The BJP, in the past, had benefited from splitting of anti-incumbent votes among smaller parties such as the BSP and Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GGP). In the scenario of the bipolar politics in the state, these parties helped the BJP keep its dominance. But we found that support for these parties among Dalits and tribals respectively is coming down,” said a senior BJP leader.

While the BSP had a vote share of 8.9 per cent in the 2008 assembly elections, it came down to 6.29 per cent in 2013 and 5.01 per cent in 2018. For the GGP, it was 1.69 per cent (2008), 1 per cent (2013) and 1.77 per cent (2018). The total vote share of all the registered unrecognised parties was 9.47 per cent in 2008, 2.98 per cent in 2013 and 3.48 per cent in 2018.

The BJP’s inability in adequately sharing the power with the Dalits and tribals has also been identified as a reason for its inability to expand support among these communities in the past two decades. “Our mobilisation power also has come down. That’s mainly because there is no division of power beyond a level. So we need to start from there,” the leader said.

The BJP ended the Congress dominance in Madhya Pradesh political scene in 2003 when it defeated the then Digivijay Singh-led Congress in the state.

In the blueprint the BJP has prepared for the state, enhancing representation of multiple communities is a significant point. “Sensitising the party cadre about our new stand of giving more space to the tribals and Dalits in the organisation and appropriating their local heros and propagating their messages will be given priorities,” a source said.

Not just the organisation, the BJP government in the state also will play a role by taking up programmes for empowerment of these communities and addressing their education and health issues. The state government is expected to announce schemes that would give more share of the forest rights to the tribals.

To address the “fatigue” in the organisation and to make it more effective, the BJP would equip itself with modern technology. “We are also looking at how to use technology to provide friendly services as well as for evaluation of the performances of leaders at different levels without human intervention,” a source said. “For example – technology can keep a record on the touring and activities of every leader and it can be assessed. This will reduce the reflection of likes and dislikes or favoritism of a particular leader on the performance assessment of those who are under his or her supervision.”

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