Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asked Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members to spread the message of the "pro-farmer" Union Budget 2018-19 by hosting "tiffin parties" for the people on every polling booth of their constituencies.
By way of a story, the PM exhorted party MPs to pull their weight to ensure that the BJP does well in electoral contests. Modi suggested that he has had to work overtime to deliver wins for the party, and the MPs needed to do more. The BJP was routed in the two Lok Sabha bypolls of Ajmer and Alwar in Rajasthan recently, and its fortunes looked up in the Gujarat assembly polls after a blitzkrieg of a Modi campaign.
Addressing a meeting of the BJP parliamentary party before he left for his four-nation tour to Palestine, Jordan, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman, the PM said announcements of the Budget should be taken to the people.
While Modi didn't mention the forthcoming assembly polls, those present said the context of his remarks was to ensure victories in the polls in key states of Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and others in 2018, and the subsequent Lok Sabha polls.
In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the PM had held 'chai pe charcha' events across the country. Modi on Friday asked party MPs to host lunches for their constituents in each of the polling booths of their respective constituencies. He also underlined that the Budget has announcements for the middle class as well. Modi said the party would do well if its MPs performed.
Modi recounted a story of a villager who organises a puja for nine days, invites a priest to read scriptures, and after the ninth day invites the villagers for a feast. The villagers partake of the feast and leave.
The PM's message, according to party sources, was clear that he was shouldering much of the burden to ensure the victory of the party in elections, and that MPs needed to contribute more and reach out to the people.
The PM highlighted the salient pro-poor and pro-farmer features of the Budget, particularly the health insurance scheme for 100 million families. In his address, BJP President and Rajya Sabha member Amit Shah blamed the Congress and its chief Rahul Gandhi's "undemocratic" politics of sloganeering during the PM's reply to the motion of thanks on the President's address in the Lok Sabha.
The PM praised Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for his reply on the discussion on the Budget in the Lok Sabha and Shah's speech in the Rajya Sabha. Modi also told party MPs about the good response he received in Tripura, which votes on February 18.
Shah said never before has a PM's speech been disrupted by the Opposition. The Congress MPs had shouted slogans throughout the PM's speech in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. He said the BJP never disrupted Manmohan Singh's speech when he was prime minister for 10 years.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said that the BJP chief also told party MPs that Jaitley has responded to Gandhi's questions on the Rafale fighter jet deal. "The broader details of the deal have been shared in Parliament. But every detail, including those about its weapons and their cost, cannot be made public," Kumar quoted Shah as saying.
On Friday, the Election Commission announced Lok Sabha bypolls to Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh and Araria in Bihar. The voting is on March 11. Phulpur and Gorakhpur seats were vacated by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya.