New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi should pay more attention to the anxieties and grievances of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs. This unsolicited advice from this writer comes for one singular reason. The Narendra Modi-led BJP is the only political party at the national level that stands for growth and development. The Congress party has lost its reformist credentials of the early 1990s by wilfully blocking the passage of the GST law in the Rajya Sabha on one pretext or the other. That being the case, the BJP has to be strengthened for the country’s progress. For a start, its MPs must see themselves as owners of the present Central government. The record there is patchy.

It is fair to say that Narendra Modi was elected on his reputation as a strong leader. The absence of strong leadership for ten years starting 2014 (Manmohan Singh was not allowed to work) landed the country in all kinds of problems and they chiefly pertained to the economy. But strong leadership must be balanced with delegation and the building of team spirit. Several of Modi’s ministers even at the Cabinet level feel disconnected with the government. They feel they don’t have a say. They communicate their angst to supporters and constituents who spread the poison along, weakening the party and the government. Prime Minister Modi must reengage ministers and party MPs in novel and spirited ways. Talking to them collectively, in formal party meetings, as the Prime Minister is wont to do, won’t help. He has to step down from the dais now and then and be on a level with them.

The big problem that ministers and MPs face with the Prime Minister and the BJP president, Amit Shah, is one of accessibility. Amit Shah is not central to this piece. There will be another tangential reference to him later. On the other hand, things revolve around Modi. He has to become more accessible. The Prime Minister had a three-day interaction with state police directors general in Gujarat. It was the first of its kind outside Delhi and left a lasting impression on delegates. The Prime Minister also meets top Central and state bureaucrats on a dedicated basis. His idea is traditional but admirable in the execution. He means to get the whole administrative machinery smoothly working on his agenda of growth and progress. The huge missing link is BJP ministers and MPs. They represent the party to the country as a whole. They are in the nature of neurons transmitting two-way impulses for action. If Modi is disconnected from them, it is bad for the party and ultimately for his leadership. However strong, single-minded, sincere, focussed, incorruptible and visionary Modi is, he still cannot administer the country alone. No one can. His best allies are his own party MPs and ministers.

Certainly, Prime Minister Modi has constraints. He cannot irresponsibly expand the government. Quite apart from the limits placed on the size of the cabinet, Modi has a penchant for small government, which is good. This means he cannot accommodate a majority of party MPs in the executive. He cannot quadruple their salaries either as a local government has done. Modi is very particular about keeping government expenditure low. He is also conscious of public opinion in such matters. Nevertheless, there is the need to keep the flock together. The Prime Minister is a source of strength to the BJP. But the reverse is also true. If the BJP is neglected, the Prime Minister’s vision of growth and development will suffer. This is this writer’s sole concern. Modi must make time to address this concern.

A good starting point for the Prime Minister is A. B. Vajpayee’s style of dealing with ministers and party MPs. Leadership styles differ so Vajpayee’s style may not suit Modi. But it is good to look at it for one great reason. There was a sense of ownership about Vajpayee’s government that bound ministers and BJP MPs. He projected a sense of oneness with them. While he got his own way in important things, he also built team spirit. Modi does not lack here. But he has to do more. Every minister and party MP must feel wanted. It would be a good idea if the Prime Minister regularly meets ministers and MPs in small batches and pays individual attention to their anxieties and grievances. A top-down approach must be modified to include a bottom-up plan. MPs, for example, must be given some freedom to decide how to spend local area development funds. Sending MPs to Amit Shah is no good, because he is not the BJP’s mascot. It is Narendra Modi. Modi should not have filters between the party and himself. He should remain accessible.

Once Prime Minister Modi becomes approachable, a sense of belonging will return to the party. This is critical for Modi’s second term. And a second term for Prime Minister Modi is critical to the country’s growth and development. India has never needed one man’s leadership more than now.