Political strategies

The secret of Modi’s success? Innovations in Party Building Strategies


If there had been any doubts, none survived 2019. Narendra Modi-led BJP’s landslide victory in 2014 was not a flash in the pan, and the renewed mandate was even stronger than before .

The “Modi phenomenon” which has been going on since 2001 has inspired numerous studies and works aimed at explaining it. His Hindutva ideology, coupled with his emphasis on economic development and effective governance, has been a factor that many commentators have singled out as the key to his unprecedented popularity. Others have also highlighted his personal traits – charisma, hard work, eloquence and more – as ingredients of it.

A new book, “The Architect of the New BJP: How Narendra Modi Transformed the Party” by veteran journalist Ajay Singh, puts forward a new hypothesis.

He says that Modi, from the moment he moved from the RSS to the BJP in the late 1980s, focused on consolidating the party’s support base and that is the precise reason why the BJP was able to maintain influence with people. and expand its footprint in regions where it was not present. In this process, he also deployed unusual strategies, relying on the traditional “Sangathanist” model of the ancient Jana Sangh – the forerunner of the BJP and innovative party building techniques.

American political scientist Myron Weiner was the first to stress the importance of “party building” in contemporary politics with his classic work, “Party Building in a New Nation: The Indian National Congress” (1967). His argument – and it also applies to the case of Modi and the BJP – was that not enough attention had been given to the art and craft of party building, as most analysts assume that it has to be an organic process that takes place on its own.

Singh, currently press secretary to the President of India, also points to this blind spot in journalistic and academic analyzes of the Modi phenomenon. While ideology and charismatic leadership certainly played a role in this phenomenon, they may not be as important as Modi’s innovations in party building.

Modi worked this line quietly, away from the limelight in the early years and so few know about it. Singh recounts – and analyzes – several episodes of this lesser-known side of Modi and his mission, beginning with the relief work following the Machchhu dam breach disaster in Gujarat in 1979.

As renowned South Asia scholar Walter Andersen writes in the preface to this book, “Ajay Singh has written an important book that analyzes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s impressive organizational skills used to make the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) India’s predominant political party and, in the process, advancing his own career to the post of Prime Minister.

Andersen, the co-author of the oft-cited RSS study, “The Brotherhood in Saffron,” notes the results of state elections held earlier this year and writes, “The electoral performance of the BJP in these states appears to affirm the opinion of Ajay Singh. key propositions regarding Modi’s ability to successfully use the party organization as an interface between the people and what they want on the one hand and the government/bureaucracy on the other. Much of the book is an analysis of why Singh thinks this system is likely to survive even when Modi disappears from the political scene.

Andersen, former head of South Asian studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in the United States, believes that such work requires more than textual research. Deep knowledge of the organization requires years and years of conversations with its key players. Singh is uniquely positioned for this task, as he has reported on major BJP developments over the past three decades for a host of major newspapers, TV news networks and digital platforms.

Yet it is not a “journalist’s diary”, for it is informed theoretical analysis from a wide range of sources, as seen especially in the concluding chapter which presents a great overview of the genesis of the party, its progression through the turbulent middle phase, followed by the last two decades, much analyzed.

Extending this line of analysis further, the author also delves into the possible future of the BJP. “As of now, the BJP has managed to fill the vacuum caused by the exit from the Congress as a national party. Unlike Congress, which has downgraded its vast organizational network and rendered it obsolete, Modi assures that the organization is not a political expedient for the government. He created a unique harmony between government and organization that had never existed before. This predominant political position is unlikely to be disrupted in a post-Modi phase, as he will leave behind a robust political structure that will continue to create its own icons of the era,” Singh concludes.

‘The Architect of the New BJP’, which arrived with praise from Professor Arvind Panagariya, Professor SP Kothari and others, is not just another book on Modi: it is this rare work that will appeal to journalists and academics – not to mention the well-informed citizen. It is destined to become essential reading for party apparatchiks of all political organizations. (IANS)