Reviving the Regional Fortunes of BJP A Bumpy Road Ahead for JP Nadda
Politics is more complex than all other areas of human activities. While in other areas some aspects of leadership can be taught, in politics leadership cannot be taught. In fact, it comes to one through one’s personality and experience. More so, in a traditional society like India, where leadership is clan based and decided on feudatory lines, people with non-political background joining the party and consequently becoming the leader of that party is quite rare. Defying all odds, Jagat Prakash Nadda has emerged onto the political lexicon of India. From a grassroots worker of Bharatiya Janata Party, he went on to become the President of BJP – the largest democratic peoples’ political party of the world in January 2020.
Shri Nadda popularly known as JP _ an outstanding statesman, politician and prominent leader of national importance _ is the most fascinating personality of national politics who remained at the helm of affairs in recent years for which he has been entrusted with the responsibility of the President of BJP.
A humble man with a non-political background unlike other political parties, Shri Nadda was elected as President of BJP unopposed by sheer dint of his dedication for the ideology and hard work. Born on December 2, 1960, Shri Nadda completed his schooling from St Xavier’s School, Patna, and graduated from Patna College. A strong academic background with ideological affiliation is evident from his colleges days, where he was associated with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). He did his Post-Graduation in Political Science and LLB Degree from Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, where he was the first-ever nominated ABVP President in the University. From 1991 to 1994, Nadda had worked with BJP stalwarts like Nitin Gadkari and Amit Shah in the party’s youth wing — the Bharatiya Yuva Morcha. Shri Nadda won his first Assembly election from Bilaspur (Sadar) in Himachal in 1993. In 1998, he again won from the seat and became the state Health Minister. He lost the Assembly election in 2003, but again won in 2007. Shri Nadda held the portfolios of environment and forests and also science and technology in the Himachal government during the chief ministership of Mr. Prem Kumar Dhumal. As the Forest Minister, Nadda was the brain behind opening forest police stations to check forest crimes, launching community-driven plantation drives, setting up forest ponds and the massive plantation of deodars to boost the depleting green cover of the hills. He was appointed the party General Secretary in 2010, a post he held under BJP Presidents Nitin Gadkari and Rajnath Singh. Shri Nadda was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2012 from Himachal Pradesh. Soon, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, inducted Shri Nadda into the Union Cabinet in 2014 as Health Minister. His role as the election in-charge for Uttar Pradesh for the 2019 polls was much appreciated as BJP won majority of the seats from the crucial state. Due to his success in the UP elections, Shri Modi chose Shri Nadda as BJP working president in June 2019 to replace Shah after he became the Home Minister. Due to his proven track record as a successful organizer, he was unanimously elected as the President of BJP in January 2020.
At a time when BJP is losing some big states that matters much in Indian politics like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra and recently Delhi, the responsibilities of the new President become even more, and challenges harder. Major challenges before Shri Nadda are to keep the Modi wave afloat as has been since 2014 which requires continuous balance between party ideology and winning elections. Forging alliances with more regional parties and maintaining relations with allies may help him strive the winning streak.
Amidst anti-CAA stir in some parts of West Bengal, Shri Nadda has the challenges as well as the opportunities to breach the TMC fortress in the state in the forthcoming assembly election to be held in 2021. Further, he can follow the Amit Shah strategy for strengthening the foothold of BJP in the southern states specially in Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, which go to polls in 2021. His ability to revive the party cadres and instilling spirit in them can certainly help BJP in retaining governments in Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
BJP has suffered too many reverses in recently held assembly elections with the loss of key states in Hindi heartland. While the loss in Madhya Pradesh is heartbreaking, BJP has suffered serious blows in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh whereas it has barely scraped through in Gujarat. Although it could manage a successful deal with Dushyant Choutala in Haryana, it miserably lost to Maha Agadhi alliance in Maharashtra despite winning the election in alliance with Shiv Sena. Its in Jharkhand is more worrying as the sitting Chief Minister lost the election to another former party member contesting election on independent ticket. Its dilemma in forging alliance with AJSU in Jharakhand, growing discomfort of LJP and SAD with BJP and hard bargaining of JDU poses some serious challenges before Shri Nadda as President of BJP.
Another emerging challenge for BJP is the invocation of soft Hindutva by some of its opponents, which has the potential to dilute the perception of the masses as the only party with Hindutva agenda. Although, Congress’ Hindutva card has not gone down well with the masses due to its duplicity in its speech and deed, of late, Aam Aadmi Party during the last assembly election in Delhi overtly played its Hindutva card.
At a time when the country is gripped with misinformation over CAA and political duplicity of Congress, BJP needs to be very careful about its own opportunist leaders. It is, therefore, an imminent challenge before the new leadership to change people’s perception of BJP and spread the agenda of ‘Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat’ amongst the Indians to highlight the achievements of the BJP government. The amicable solutions by the Modi government of historical blunders created and perpetuated under the long- term Congress regime need effective propagation while maintaining the ethos of Hindutva, which will perhaps help BJP come back to power in the Hindi heartland and make successful inroads into the unpenetrated states. Going by the track record of Shri Nadda – a man with a low profile without shooting from the hip yet getting things done for the party he will undoubtedly stand up to the expectations of Prime Minister Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
By Dr. Atanu Mohapatra
(The writer is Chairperson, Centre for Diaspora Studies, Central University of Gujarat.)