Alarmed over a series of electoral setbacks and fearing their potential consequences in 2019, the BJP recently launched an ambitious campaign to garner support from India’s influential celebrities. Billed as Sampark for Samarthan (Contact for Support), the campaign entails reaching out to top names from different backgrounds with an aim to secure their support for the next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
The move assumes incredible significance for BJP President Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, both of whom face the danger of being pushed into political wilderness if the BJP fails to replicate its 2014 performance next year. You may disagree with the policies of Shah and Modi, but they ought to be applauded for their never-ever-give-up attitude and also their ability to outsmart their political rivals with creative outreach initiatives.
Only an Amit Shah will have no qualms in eating humble pie and make efforts to reach out to disgruntled Uddhav Thackeray knowing that the BJP’s inability to have the Shiv Sena chief on board will sound the death-knell for the saffron party in Maharashtra. In 2014, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance had swept the polls by winning 41 out of 48 seats. Uddhav has for long been a fierce critic of the BJP and has repeatedly mocked PM Modi while attacking his policies. But this did not deter Shah from requesting for a meeting with Thackeray.
As part of the BJP’s Sampark for Samarthan campaign, Shah and his other BJP colleagues have so far met Patanjali founder and known RSS supporter Ramdev, actor Madhuri Dixit, industrialist Ratan Tata, former cricket captain Kapil Dev, former army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag, cricketer R Ashwin and the owners of news agency ANI.
While Shah made a personal effort to meet Ramdev, Madhuri and Ratan Tata, he left it for his party colleagues to rope in others such as Ashwin and ANI bosses. Bihar BJP functionary Bhupender Yadav visited the ANI office, before posting photos of his meeting with owners and key editors of the news agency. They included the ANI’s director Surinder Kapoor, Ishaan Prakash (son of ANI owner Smita Prakash) and other key editorial functionaries.
सम्पर्क फॉर समर्थन अभियान के अंतर्गत आज @ANI के डायरेक्टर श्री सुरेंद्र कपूर, एडिटर लाइव सर्विस श्री ईशान प्रकाश व नेशनल ब्यूरो चीफ श्री नवीन कपूर से भेंट कर उन्हें पीएम श्री @narendramodi जी के नेतृत्व वाली केंद्र सरकार की 4साल की उपलब्धियों व जनकल्याणकारी नीतियों की जानकारी दी pic.twitter.com/hvTSXNE4GN
— Bhupender Yadav (@byadavbjp) June 6, 2018
Yadav then also met the editors of Dainik Jagran, a newspaper often associated with overtly supporting the BJP and the RSS. More recently, an explosive investigation by Cobrapost had exposed how Dainik Jagran had agreed to push the agenda of Hindutva in exchange of money. In the sting video, Dainik Jagran executives were seen flaunting the paper’s contacts with the BJP and how the media group’s directors had been elected to the Rajya Sabha on a regular basis in the past.
“सम्पर्क फॉर समर्थन” अभियान के अंतर्गत आज दैनिक जागरण के संपादक श्री प्रशांत मिश्रा जी व विवेकानंद इंटरनेशनल फाउंडेशन के डायरेक्टर श्री अरविंद गुप्ता जी से उनके दफ्तर में भेंट कर उन्हें मोदी सरकार की 4 साल की उपलब्धियों व जनकल्याणकारी नीतियों की जानकारी दी। pic.twitter.com/CJW3YW3usi
— Bhupender Yadav (@byadavbjp) June 6, 2018
Ramdev’s mask as a self-styled Yoga guru too has come off long ago. His transformation from luring people as a Yoga guru to a man with ruthless ambition to establish himself as the most successful businessman in India has been nothing short of spectacular. The man in a saffron robe no longer feels the need to hide behind anything to support his favourite party, the BJP. He once famously threatened to cut off the heads of thousands of Muslims if they did not chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai. His business fortunes have shot up astonishingly since the Modi government came to power. His company has acquired land at throwaway prices from several BJP governments in states across India.
Ratan Tata too has come a long way from being perceived as a known backer of the Congress to someone, who famously went to Nagpur and bowed before the founder of the RSS, Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.
As for Madhuri Dixit, she has often earned her critics’ ire for being silent on developments that could potential embarrass the BJP or project the party in bad light. She was widely condemned for being silent on Kathua gang-rape and murder case even when the entire Bollywood except some usual suspects spoke in unison condemning the ghastly act of the Hindutva supporters. She was recently trolled for her decision to meet Shah, but the trolling did not appear to bother her.
The grapevine has it that the BJP intends to send some of these celebrities to the Upper House of the Indian parliament in return of their support for the party since collectively they wield some clout over a significantly large group of people.
From the looks of it, Sampark for Samarthan appears to be quite a creative outreach campaign, but the jury is still out on whether this would be enough to ward off the huge anti-incumbency against the Modi government coupled with the unprecedented unity taking place among the opposition parties.