I was delighted to be received at the headquarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in New Delhi on Saturday February 1, honoured with a citation and an audience with some of its leading personnel, along with several of its Parliamentarians.
Hosted by the Overseas Friends of BJP and its Chairman, Vijay Jolly, this was an expected but welcome opportunity to exchange views in areas of campaigning and international cross-party relations.
For an overseas political party not aligned to Labor in Australia, I was genuinely surprised by the level of interest and time invested by the BJP in myself as a visiting parliamentarian. From the outset, the BJP stressed that such engagement was one of its primary functions. National Governments, they commented, come and go – but it is the relationships between individual parliamentarians which last and serve as a basis for future dealings in whatever capacity we may respectively hold.
Another notable feature was that the BJP headquarters was a hive of activity. A large compound in a busy area of Delhi, the huge security gates at the entry gave way to an obviously well-organised and heavily-staffed outfit. An enormous number of volunteers were busily organising every campaign aspect from broadcasting in a purpose-built studio, to young people tapping away on laptops running their social media component, to elderly volunteers in the publications and materials building distributing everything from BJP pamphlets to Modi clocks and framed pictures.
The immediate sense was a political organisation that feels itself on the verge of something big. There was a definite tone and vibe of anticipation that change is going to happen in India and that Modi may well be headed for a destiny which has already been predicted amongst many commentators. However, I did not get a feeling of inevitability or hubris. Our discussion was an honest one, where I touched on how the Australian electorate in general judged harshly those incoming governments who failed to deliver on high promise. This was a view not dismissed by those BJP personnel in attendance, as one might expect from a party which does not feel the need to take advice from anyone, let alone a Member of the Australian House of Representatives.
Rather, there was enormous interest in comparative organisational structures and activities that may be harnessed in an election campaign. I was greatly impressed by the number of women in senior positions within the BJP hierarchy, and the intense focus on the youth component of the campaign and the need to engage with young voters. It is also clear that the BJP has drawn its candidates and senior party workers from across the religious and cultural spectrum with Sikh, Muslim, Hindu and Christian representatives all working together.
The BJP was also intensely interested in the Indian diaspora in Australia and I was able to report that their colleagues down under were doing them proud in all aspects of academic achievement, senior positions in industry and participation in our own democratic processes.
After many photographs and goodbyes, I departed with the conclusion that whatever the election outcome, this is a campaign that will be able to declare on election night that they put in their best efforts.
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