The Bharatiya Janata Party – battling an image crisis fueled by criticism over its handling of the pandemic – has set itself ambitious targets as it tries to claw back goodwill and celebrate the seventh anniversary of the Narendra Modi government, which came to power May 30, 2014.
The party plans to reach out to one lakh villages to provide Covid-related assistance, which includes the distribution of dry rations, sanitisers, face masks and oximeters.
Specific instructions have gone out to union ministers – they must reach out to two villages each. If they’re unable to make physical appearances, they must ensure they are seen via video meetings.
The party is also planning to organise 50,000 blood donation camps across the country.
The plans were revealed by party chief JP Nadda, who held a video conference with national- and state-level office-bearers on Monday. Mr Nadda has also been speaking to party MPs over the past to emphasise the need to be seen mobilising efforts to help people affected by COVID-19.
Wary of possible negative press, Mr Nadda also repeated his warning to state units and party workers – that they must not organise or be seen participating in celebratory functions.
Last week he wrote to state units and said: “Party workers should dedicate themselves in the service of the society… and thank the people for giving the BJP a chance to serve for seven years”.
These efforts come amid a tidal wave of criticism aimed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government over their management of the COVID-19 crisis.
Earlier this month, sources said public anger over the scale of devastation in the second wave was worrying the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
“If you lose someone, the grief and anger remains for a long period and it can be expressed in any form,” a party leader told NDTV, after the BJP slumped to defeat in Tamil Nadu and Bengal polls.
There are still three years to the next general election but key states like Uttar Pradesh will vote next year, and the results of recent local body polls suggest the ruling BJP has cause to worry.
On Monday the Prime Minister and Home Minister Amit Shah were among senior leaders at a BJP-RSS meeting in Delhi, where the party’s image ahead of the UP Assembly polls was discussed.
Apart from criticism from opposition leaders – which is, perhaps, to be expected – the BJP has also been rocked by angry words from within. Union Minister Santosh Gangwar wrote to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on local administration ignoring BJP MLAs’ efforts to help constituents.
The Congress’ youth wing has been active and visible in efforts to help people during the pandemic.
This morning India reported over 2.08 lakh new cases and more than 4,000 deaths in 24 hours.
The active Covid caseload in India is now nearly 25 lakh.