Amit Shah’s clarion call: cajole, pay, buy but win elections

BJP president’s blunt message to party workers in Madhya Pradesh: Win elections whatever be the cost

Photo by Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

L S Herdenia

BJP president Amit Shah’s announcement that the next assembly election in Madhya Pradesh next year would be fought under the leadership of Shivraj Singh Couhan has raised eyebrows. According to those who interacted with him, when asked to rate the chief minister’s performance, Shah gave Chouhan 100 out of 100 marks.

During his three-day visit to the state between August 18 and August 20, Shah interacted with ministers, legislators, party functionaries and the media. And his message to the party, that the election would have to be won by all means, fair or foul, did not cause any ripple although it came days after Election Commissioner OP Rawat’s lament at the ‘new normal’ which demands winning at all costs, without ethics.

“The winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing over to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all the guilt as also possible criminality, etc. It is this creeping ‘new normal’ of political morality that should be the target of exemplary action by all political parties, politicians, media, civil society organisations, constitutional authorities and all those having faith in democratic polity for a better election, a better tomorrow,” the Election Commissioner had said in a lecture he delivered at a regional consultation on political and electoral reform hosted by the Association for Democratic Reforms.

But unfazed by the Election Commissioner’s lament, Shah’s message was unequivocal. “Saam-daam-dand-bhed se chunav jeeto” (Pay, cajole, divide or coerce but win at any cost), was what Shah told partymen.

A shocked party veteran exclaimed that Shah did not deduct a single mark for Chouhan’s handling of the Vyapam scam. Nor was he pulled up for mishandling the farmers’ protest during which six farmers were killed in police firing. Nor did Shah find anything amiss in the state government buying onion worth ₹700 Crore, storing them in the open and allowing half the stock to rot. The BJP president apparently had no patience to listen to grievances related to the anarchy prevailing in the health and education sectors in Madhya Pradesh or the state government’s poor fiscal management.

There were murmurs of protest at the manner in which Shah dealt with ministers. Dispensing with the usual courtesies, disclosed a minister, the BJP president would call out ministers by their portfolio and ask them to stand up. “He behaved like a feudal lord and treated ministers like serfs,” exclaimed the disgruntled minister.

To be fair, Shah did give a hearing to former MPs and MLAs who were upset at being sidelined in the party. Parasmal Mudgal, Rakesh Singh Chaturvedi and Balendu Shukla among others complained that neither the government nor the party was taking them seriously. Complaining that they were neither invited to official functions nor called by visiting ministers.

Shah assured them that he was working on an action plan. “Within the next two months, all former MPs and MLAs will get some responsibility,” he announced.

Significantly, Shah flatly denied the existence of any policy that BJP would deny any post or position in the party or the government to people above the age of 70. A livid former chief minister Babulal Gaur, possibly the senior most legislator in the country having won 11 assembly elections in a row, revealed that BJP’s organisational general secretary Ram Lal and the state BJP in charge Vinay Sahasrabuddhe had demanded his resignation as minister on the ground that he was older than 75 years.

Claiming that he was 'evergreen, ever-clean and entirely fit', Gaur quipped that clearly the chief minister had conspired with party leaders. In an apparent reference to Shah he said, "Tumhi nein dard diya hai, tumhi dawa do" (You have given the pain, you should now provide the cure).

Both Gaur and Sartaj Singh were asked last year to step down on the ground that they were ‘over-age’. But Amit Shah claimed there was no age bar for contesting elections and that constituting the ministry was entirely the chief minister’s prerogative.

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