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Interview: 11 crore members is no wild claim, says BJP’s P Muralidhar Rao

BJP chief Amit Shah on Sunday launched his party’s Mahasampark Abhiyaan for northern states with the claim that it had enrolled 11 crore members — a number Cong has scoffed at. Party general secretary P Muralidhar Rao, the man in charge of the membership training programme, explains details of the recruitment process — and why it should be taken seriously.

Does each one of your claimed 11 crore-plus members actually exist?

It isn’t just a claim. There is a process, scientific and technologically sound, and those who have enrolled following this process are members. The party has worked from the grassroots level to achieve this result. Some members had no existing link with the party. In the Lok Sabha election, BJP added 100 seats to its earlier highest tally, and 9 crore votes, which came largely from the youth. We are verifying the data, and I think we will have over 10 crore members ever after verification.

How many missed calls have you actually verified?

The first stage is technology verification — most people gave their addresses after the missed calls, following which their membership was accepted. The second is mass contact — Mahasampark Abhiyaan — which is currently under way. In this phase, we are going to reach out to every single individual.

How will you make sure that each person is contacted, and their credentials verified?

There could be people who enrolled while travelling, or while they were away from their native places. Unless we are able to connect them with the local party network, their utility for the party is zero. So, we have sent the data to our units at the mandal level, from where they will be sent down to the booth level. Party workers will then go to every address, meet the individual, and verify the information. This process of booth-wise data verification will be the test for the Sampark Abhiyaan. Party workers will give them literature on what the party stands for, a letter from the party president, and the government’s achievements. All those who are contacted will have to give another missed call, and only after this confirmation will they be made a member. So, it’s a rigorous exercise.

The BJP says the system allows only one registration per number. But the CPM and Congress have said that the same individual can call from more than one number, creating many ghost members.

From one number we have allowed enrolment of one, plus four family members. During verification, details will be verified for each, and each one will have to give the confirmatory missed call. We’re not doing this exercise to be able to brag about it, we’re doing it to establish BJP as a truly pan-Indian party.

Even so, 11 crore sounds huge — almost a tenth of India’s population. Is there a way to independently verify the claim?

Our country does not have an institutional mechanism to ascertain the membership of a political party in the same way as, say the Labour Ministry has a system of checking the membership of a trade union. As far as the BJP is concerned, we are doing the exercise seriously, with proper follow-up. There are categories of memberships: those who want to become active members will have to follow another process. Only active members can become office bearers. An active member must enroll 100 members, and we have created a training programme for them. We are targeting 15 lakh active members.

The CPM runs background checks to ensure a new member is ideologically compatible with the party line…

We have seen how much the CPM has been able to achieve in terms of ideology or political expansion despite this so-called meticulous exercise. The BJP has always been a cadre-driven party. Based on our experience, we have developed a methodology or training module. All BJP members need not know everything about the party — only that it stands for Nation First, and is committed to democracy. They will be given some literature, and will form the outer circle of the BJP’s growth. Building and developing the party will be the responsibility of active members.

How will you train 15 lakh in 4 months?

We have designed a three-tier training programme down to the mandal level, a first in independent India. Training camps will be run at 11,000 mandals, at which workers will be chosen for training at the second tier, which will be at the district level. Those chosen at the district level will be trained at a state-level training camp. This process will be completed in four months. We will then decide about the national-level camp.

How will the camps work?

The entire module is standardised, with a certain protocol for each level and prescribed blueprints for premises, arrangements and logistics. Even details such as the pictures to be displayed on the dais have been laid down. No camp will have more than 150 attendees. If there are more, there may be more than one camp. Mandal-level camps will be for 24 hours, district-level ones for two days, and active members will stay together for another day to build camaraderie. They will be taught to work together and decide collectively. There will be sessions on the party’s history, development and ideology, and cultural nationalism, and integral humanism. Every state can introduce one subject of its choice. Training will become more intense as we go up. We will not publicise the training camps. No extravagant arrangements, simple food. Only the teacher and presiding authority will sit on the dais, no one else.

http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/there-are-multiple-levels-of-verification-tech-and-physical-11-cr-members-is-no-wild-claim/