The BJP claims it has around 10.50 crore members now.
Its six-month long membership drive came to a close on 30 April. These numbers have been attained just when the Modi government is about to complete its first year in office. These numbers should have ideally brought about a sense of pride and jubilation among the party’s rank and file but the cheers were predictably missing. There are three reasons for this lack of enthusiasm.
One, the conclusion of the membership drive coincided with the announcement of civic bodies poll results in West Bengal where the party yet again failed miserably.
Two, it came on a day when the Modi government hit the aam aadmi with a very steep hike in petrol and diesel prices and
Three, the party had already made the announcement of a record number of enrollments last month when it claimed to have become the largest political party in the world.
With a member base as large as 10.50 crore people, the BJP could win all states where it already has a presence and make its presence felt substantially even in states where it does not have an organisational base if each party member manages to win over one voter. It should be noted here that BJP won 2014 parliamentary elections without being the biggest party in the country.
“The membership numbers should not be linked with the possible outcome of elections. These are not linked with the elections and have not been aimed like that. By increasing the organisational base we intend to make more and more people aware of ideology and programmes of the party. We are reaching out to larger numbers,” BJP party president Amit Shah told Firstpost.
While the membership numbers may perhaps give a psychological boost to the party leaders, it doesn’t necessarily mean these numbers will translate into votes. The outcome West Bengal municipal polls are a clear indication of that.
As per BJP’s official records, in the last six months, the party’s organisational base in the state has risen 6.5 times, from 6,25,000 to 42,19,418 but the same strength was not reflected in local bodies elections. Even though the issues in municipal elections are largely local, the BJP has only itself to blame for creating such a big hype about these elections in the first place.
The big test would come in 2016 when West Bengal goes to polls. In Kerala too BJP’s membership has risen over three times, from around 4,68000 to 1,473,441. These two states are part of the “seven special attention states” – West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana – where BJP’s organisational structure had been weak.
In UP for instance, where BJP won 73 seats in the Parliamentary elections, the party now has around 1.80 crore (including few lakhs from Uttrakhand) primary members. The BJP had won around 3.2 crore votes in parliamentary elections in the states. In 2012 assembly elections, Samajwadi party had won a clear majority in a 403 member state assembly by winning around 2.20 crore (29 percent) votes. The BJP had got around 1.13 crore votes (47 seats). Assembly elections in UP are due in 2017.
In Bihar, which goes to the polls in six months time, the BJP organisational base has, at least on paper, substantially expanded. In Bihar-Jharkhand it has gone up to over 93 lakh members but that has not made the BJP leadership any more confident. The party is gearing up for a tough fight against Nitish-Lalu and Congress combine.
Party leaders say having a data base of 10.50 crore is a huge achievement but acquiring their unconditional loyalty to the party or party leader Narendra Modi is a tall task. It has thus outlined a series of programmes and connect strategies.
From May 1, the BJP has started a `Mahasampark Abhiyan’ to mobilise its members. Whoever has been enrolled as a primary member through the missed call initiative will get a personal visit from “active” party workers with a set of literature and an information or verification form. The literature includes details about the evolution of the party and life and time of its leadership. It will also contain achievements of the centre and states (if a BJP government is there).
This would be followed by a training programme in July and September for 15 lakh active workers. This data base would come in handy for Modi to establish a two-way “Samvad”. In the next couple of months, these new members would receive several messages on their phones from PM Modi, Amit Shah, as well as state and district level functionaries. The members would also have the number of local office bearers to give feedback and other impressions”, another senior BJP leader told media.