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New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which turned 35 on Monday, plans to start a major outreach programme to strengthen its organizational base in constituencies and states where it has a marginal presence.

Party president Amit Shah told members at the BJP headquarters that they should try to reach out to farmers, labourers and those who are financially weak.

The party’s senior-most leader, L.K. Advani, was not present at the function. Advani had broken with tradition by refusing to address the BJP’s national executive meeting at Bengaluru last week.

This was the first time Advani chose not to speak at the function in a sign of continuing differences between the party patriarch and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“On the BJP’s Sthapana Diwas (foundation day) my greetings to all the BJP karyakartas (workers) and well-wishers. BJP’s phenomenal growth is due to the efforts & hardwork of generations of selfless workers who devoted their lives to our nation. BJP will leave no stone unturned to fulfil people’s aspirations & create an India that is strong, developed & inclusive," Modi tweeted on Monday.

BJP leaders said the party will now focus on states such as West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala where the party has a limited presence. Senior leaders of the party are also of the opinion that the constituencies in which the BJP is not strong should get special attention.

“When Bharatiya Jan Sangh (the BJP’s progenitor) was formed, there were only 10-11 members and now there are nearly 95 million members of the BJP. The party has governments in 12 states. We have reached so far because of the hard work and struggle of our seniors who have built this party on values of our country," Shah said.

Members of the BJP said people who have joined the party will be contacted and given training by party workers.

BJP leaders want these members to help spread awareness about the government’s development agenda and social programmes.

“Ninety-five million people is a huge number. Before this enrolment programme (which started in November and will continue till 30 April) started, the BJP had 35 million members all across the country. We have now decided to train at least one-third of these 95 million people. After the training, they will be sent to all the constituencies and districts where the BJP lacks organizational strength," said a senior BJP leader who asked not to be identified.

Senior leaders of the BJP emphasized that the new members will work for the party and that they will be different from the cadre of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the party’s ideological mentor, that sometimes helps the BJP.

Political analysts say the move is only to be expected.

“This is an expansion plan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He wants to pursue an independent line and doesn’t want to come under pressure from the Left (the communist parties) or the Right (extreme right-wing forces within the BJP and some of its affiliates). This move will ensure that there is a substantial structure with Modi and independent of the RSS," said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst and professor of political science at the city’s Christ Church College.

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