After the BJP lost the recent assembly polls, one of Shah's first acts was to appoint new prabharis before the Lok Sabha election. Radhika Ramaseshan reports on the significance of this post that doesn't exist in the BJP's constitution.
The multi-tiered hierarchy of the Bharatiya Janata Party is designed to allow a measure of decentralisation to co-exist with the authority and decree of the central leaders.
The system works both through the offices embodied in the BJP constitution and those that are not.
While the constitution is elaborate on the appointment and functions of a general secretary (organisation), who silently but surely pulls the strings and holds office at the discretion of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, it says nothing about the prabhari or minder, an equally significant position.
The prabhari's post was spawned as an afterthought in the 1980s, when the BJP won state elections on its own steam.
Aware that provincial leaders could potentially become a law unto themselves at a time when the BJP was far from acquiring power at the Centre, the post was created to sanction responsibility to the central organisation in the affairs of a state, especially during an election.
The sole caveat was a prabhari must not be from the state assigned to him because he/she was expected to sit on Vikramaditya's throne and appear even-handed.
"Over time, a prabhari was recognised as an instrument to facilitate the writ of the central bosses to prevail over the states, whether it was shortlisting candidates for an election or fleshing out a campaign," a central official said.
BJP president Amit Shah enlarged the prabhari's profile and mandate to be in line with his target to hit the bull's eye in elections.
Currently, every state has two central minders, a sanghatan prabhari, who oversees the organisation’s working, and a chunav prabhari, to preside over electioneering.
"Their functions are clearly defined. The sanghatan prabhari micro-manages the organisation, down to the polling booths. The chunav prabhari straightens out intra-party dissensions, coordinates working with the RSS and front organisations and allies wherever we have them," a source explained.
After the BJP lost the recent assembly polls, one of Shah's first acts was to appoint new prabharis before the Lok Sabha election.
For Andhra Pradesh, where the BJP incrementally ceded space, thanks to its intermittent alliance with the Telugu Desam Party and an overall neglect of the organisation, Shah teamed up the seasoned duo of V Muraleedharan and Sunil Deodhar to pull the party out of near-stupor and ready it to a level where it can at least augment its vote share.
"The duo has to start from scratch. Muraleedharan is experienced and Deodhar proved himself in the Tripura elections. Together they will pull off something," a source claimed.
Shah considers the RSS's student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, as the seedbed of organisational skills and political savvy. Most of the new prabharis have served in the ABVP.
"The ABVP is a nursery for ideological grounding. It also gives lessons in setting up an organisation, organising a campaign and mobilising crowds,” a prabhari said.
Shah has told the prabharis that they must not seek tickets to contest the Lok Sabha polls.