The BJP national meeting is set to begin Saturday afternoon in which the party is expected to articulate its response to the opposition's combined attack on the government over the rise in oil prices and also formulate its strategy for the state assembly polls and the Lok Sabha elections. The two-day meeting will be attended by its key leaders from all states and Union territories besides its national leadership. It comes against the backdrop of signs of unrest among upper castes, a core support base of the saffron party, over its push for pro-Dalit laws to woo the backward community.
Party president Amit Shah inaugurated the meeting of its national office bearers Saturday and it will be followed by the national executive meeting. He will give the inaugural address while Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled Sunday to give the valedictory speech. The ruling party is likely to highlight the central government's steps for "social justice" and "economic successes" besides its schemes aimed at empowering the poor. Significantly, it has chosen the Ambedkar International Centre, which works to promote the works and ideas of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar, for hosting the meeting, a symbolism for its Dalit outreach.
However, it will have to do a balancing act as groups claiming to represent the upper castes, its core vote bank, have been protesting the government's decision to restore the original and stringent provisions of a law on atrocities against Dalits and tribals, after the Supreme Court had relaxed those. The groups had called a "Bharat Bandh" Thursday. Senior BJP leader Kalraj Mishra has gone on record seeking a rethink on the law, which non-Dalits/tribals claim is often misused.
The issues of the National Register of Citizens, passage of key bills -- including the one to restore the original provisions of the law on atrocities against Dalits and another that accorded constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) -- in Parliament will also come up for discussion at the national executive meet, the sources said. BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters the executive will discuss all the topical issues. He, though, did not elaborate further.
It will be the first such meeting of the party following the death of its stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The executive will pay tribute to the former prime minister, Hussain said. The sources said the hike announced by the government in the Minimum Support Price for a number of farm produce and the rise in the economic growth in the last quarter to 8.2 per cent would also find a mention, besides the ongoing "Gram Swaraj" campaign to cover the poor with a host of welfare programmes. Modi has often cited his government's pro-poor programmes and push for laws to empower the Dalits and Other Backward Classes as an evidence of its work for "social justice", a theme likely to be picked by the BJP national executive.
The BJP is likely to present itself as a party that has promoted the interests of the backward classes -- a constituency it has constantly been wooing to big electoral successes since 2014. Party leaders said the government's "honest" image and "successful" handling of the economy, besides the Hindutva credentials of the organisation, would keep its core constituency tethered to it in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. They added that the likely alliance of its rivals such as the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samajwadi Party and other regional parties would be a red herring for the upper castes. The BJP national executive is meeting almost after a year.