Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone for the party’s pitch in the poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur, saying the poor and poverty were not vote banks for the BJP but “an opportunity to serve”, and that despite their hardships, the poor had been “extremely supportive” of demonetisation. Modi was delivering the concluding speech at the two-day national executive of the BJP. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad quoted the PM as having said that “the poor of India have the inner strength to fight their poverty and it is the government’s intention to strengthen them” and that they had voluntarily responded to his appeal on demonetisation. Addressing the audience comprising former party presidents, incumbent BJP chief ministers and delegates from across the country, Modi said, “For us, poor and poverty are not just about winning elections; we do not look at them only through the lens of vote-bank politics. This is our opportunity to serve because serving the poor is equivalent to serving the Lord. I was born into poverty and have lived it. Do not be scared of any criticism or accusations. Our inner conviction will see us through.” According to data given out by the erstwhile Planning Commission in 2013, in 2011-12, the percentage of people living below the poverty line (BPL) in these states ranged from 36.9 per cent in Manipur to 5.1 per cent in Goa. In Punjab, 8.3 per cent people were BPL, 11.3 per cent in Uttarakhand and 29.4 per cent in Uttar Pradesh. Defending the decision to demonetise high-value currency notes, Modi said unregulated flow of currency was the “mother of corruption”, that the “evil of benaami properties” derived its strength from cash and that corruption bred poverty.
The Prime Minister expressed confidence that the party would do well in the upcoming Assembly elections, including in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh. He asked workers to focus on booths and said, “The situation is in our favour in the elections.” Modi also warned party activists against exerting pressure on the leadership for tickets for their family members. “We are all for transparency in political funding and the prime minister spoke about the need for transparency in elections,” said Prasad. He said the prime minister had started off by congratulating the party and its workers for their ground connect. “Our workers are our strength and they not only know the direction of the wind but have the capacity to change it too,” Prasad said. BJP national vice president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe made a presentation using data from the Niti Ayog and other government sources to show how BJP-ruled states were better performers when compared to states ruled by other parties. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan made a presentation on how to double the income of farmers. Prasad said the party would hold its next national executive meeting on April 15-16.