India election: 1.1m BJP workers trained to lure electors

Indian PM and leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Narendra Modi (centre) gestures to supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi, on April 25, 2019.
Indian PM and leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Narendra Modi (centre) gestures to supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi, on April 25, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) - India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has trained over 1.1 million workers on ways to influence citizens in the world's biggest democracy to vote for the party.

The trained pro-bono cadres have fanned out across the world's seventh-largest landmass to contact voters and educate them about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's programmes and policies, Mr P. Muralidhar Rao, a general secretary of the party, said in an interview.

They have been discussing issues ranging from the economy to "national pride and identity politics".

"No other party has this kind of strength,'' said Mr Rao, who is also in charge of training the workforce.

"Our cadres are ideologically motivated and driven. They are our main force.''

Mr Modi's government, which has been criticised for failing to create enough jobs and reduce distress in the agriculture sector, has been trying to weave its narrative around the Prime Minister's "strong and decisive" action in tackling security issues.

Mr Modi's authorisation of air strikes on Pakistan in response to a deadly attack in Kashmir has been a recurrent theme in poll speeches by the BJP's leadership.

 
 
 

It is also counting on the welfare programmes - including the provision of toilets, electricity connections and cooking gas for the poor - to woo voters.

The workers have been trained about the party's ideology, Mr Rao said. They have also been educated on how to reach out to the deprived section of the society, manage journalists and devise social media strategies, he said.

This pool of trained party workers have grown five-fold since the 2014 polls, Mr Rao said. The Hindu nationalist BJP's membership has crossed 110 million, making it world's largest political party, according to him.

The programme called the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Prashikshan Mahabhiyan has books that refer to China being a challenge to India's interests as part of its curriculum, the Economic Times reported.

Its leaders have been highlighting Indian Air Force Feb 26 air strikes on a terrorist training camp inside Pakistan - to stave off challenge from main opposition Congress party-led by Mr Rahul Gandhi, which has pledged jobs and as much as 72,000 rupees (S$1,400) annually for the country's poor.