Targets poor, ease of living

BJP Eyes 2047
By Shivaji Sarkar

In the 75th year of Independence, the BJP is setting the goals to work continuously till the centenary, 2047, riding on its strong eight years of reign ‘ensuring ease of living’ for the poor and the middle class.
The goal is set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his address to party workers in Jaipur and the strategy finalised for “Sewa, Sushashan and Gareeb Kalyan” (Service, good rule and welfare of poor) campaign. The party and the government carved out an intense blitzkrieg of publicity, one-to-one contact with a view to capturing all the States that are not in its fold. Too ambitious, but with 744 central schemes and 72 sponsored programmes and millions of cadre across the States, it finds the task tough but not impossible.
Even the march to Dakshin (South) is part of BJP’s yatra. Its senior dedicated leaders are carving out strategies in Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The Rs 31,500 core project foundation stones laid by Modi in Chennai, target Tamil Nadu.  But would Chief Minister MK Stalin let it happen! None knows as the proverbial saying politics makes strange bedfellows.
The massive campaign is to make all believe in its economic feat, improvements in living standards, digital economy, inclusion of the poor, a caring government for a grand success by 2024 in Lok Sabha and at least 16 States that go to the polls in the next two years.
The thrust of the BJP in government or the party would be to focus on the wider benefits that programmes such as Direct Benefit Transfer, PM Kisan and Swachha Bharat, universal vaccination, various pension and employment schemes, including Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee.
The core would be nine-plus programmes that have touched the neo-aspirant classes. They reach the households and are said to make qualitative difference to the living conditions.  It is not aspiration but sheer basic needs such as Har Ghar Jal (Jal Jeevan Mission), Har Ghar Shauchalay (Swach Bharat Mission), Har Ghar Bijli (Saubhagya Yojana), Har Ghar Gas Cylinder (Ujjwala Yojana ), Har Ghar Ration (Gareeb Kalyan Yojana), Har Ghar Bank account (Jan Dhan Yojana), Har Ghar Swasthya (Ayushman Yojana), Har Ghar Teeka (Largest Vaccine Drive), Har Ghar Pakka Ghar (PM Aawas Yojana).
The schemes are reaching grass root levels and stated to better lives of the poor. Even separate meets with different caste and dalit groups are planned. The BJP claims such strategies have led to shifting of the eight per cent extreme poor minority votes in Uttar Pradesh elections. The Rashtriya Muslim Morcha is drawing crowds, financial support to the madrassas, the party hopes should help them catch the young.
Is GDP growth or inflation not a problem? The party does not believe so. Growth has been around 8.2 per cent, even 7.2 predicted by the Reserve Bank of India this year is the world’s highest. This apart in real terms GDP has doubled despite the pandemic. People have accepted 7.79 per cent inflation as normal. This is less than the US inflation, now at an unprecedented high of 8.3 per cent. Inflation during the UPA rule was one reason for the NDA coming to power. But its publicity management has blunted the criticism as also sweetened by the free food dole.
The income of the common man has also almost doubled. It’s not untrue but a recent PM’s Economic Advisory Council report mentions that five to seven per cent of the country’s income comes from the top one per cent, while 15 per cent earn less than Rs 5000 a month. Top ten per cent earn Rs 25,000 a month, about 30 to 35 per cent of the total income.
The report card says that the MSP for wheat in 2014 was Rs 130 per quintal and rice Rs 1310 per quintal, in 2022 wheat is Rs 2015 and rice 1940; farmers’ monthly income has risen to Rs 10428 from Rs 6426 in 2014. Employment rate was 42.8 core and now 39.98 crore; 3.4 per cent were unemployed and now it is 8.7 per cent. According to Pew research, the middle class shrank by 35 million, while the number of people who were pushed to poverty was 75 million because of Covid-19 pandemic-led recession.
It may be one of the longest canvassing and campaigning for a party that has to capture a number of States held by the Opposition. Some like Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao heading TSR has visibly posed a challenge. Parties such as the AAP are eyeing Himachal and Gujarat, going to hustings in December this year. Ten States will form new governments in 2023 and four States that are to have election by June 2024 may cast vote with the Lok Sabha elections.
An election is a tough battle so the party is taking its publicity blitz to the booth level, according to BJP President JP Nadda. India’s international standing, Prime Minister’s charisma in foreign lands, the success at Quad or the Pacific meet, et al would be communicated to the people. In addition would be the message of possible wheat exports, managing critical power situation and creation of jobs through Mudra, Skill India, Rs 15 lakh crore Jandhan, the latest National Family Health Survey figures about the amelioration of the people’s living conditions, etc. Hindutva may be the icing, subtly.
The BJP’s stress is more on man-to-man contact, through lakhs of its party workers up to the remotest villages, to explain to people what the party has done for them beyond the free food dole that is sustaining 80 crore people. Thousands of groups would carry on re-education of the masses in all States.
How big is the splash is anybody’s guess. The UPA government too had splurged Rs 2658 crore as per official statements on publicity. During the eight years, the BJP has also spent a substantial sum. To cite the extent it has, it would be suffice to say that an election to last Delhi assembly had a splurge of Rs 170 crore by BJP and Opposition put together. The cost was Rs 5500 crore in 2017 UP elections, according to Centre for Media Studies (CMS). This surpassed Rs 8000 crore in 2021 UP elections, according to reports. In 2021 West Bengal elections, the publicity expenses were estimated around Rs 500 crore. An early start by the BJP will pressurise its opponents to match the splurge to remain relevant.
The Central government spent Rs 1698 crore on publicity and advertisements between 2018 and 2021 for print and electronic media. Plus, the party has a different State-wise budget. The campaign for the next 25 years is ambitious, not easy and aims at changing the gamut of Indian politics. The cost immaterial! — INFA