As Opppsition Sprouts Wings, Is BJP Lacking The Zing Thing?

As Opppsition Sprouts Wings, Is BJP Lacking The Zing Thing?

The Opposition has suddenly discovered wings. Its body language has changed and its leaders look more energetic

AshutoshUpdated: Monday, May 20, 2024, 10:26 PM IST
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The general election 2024 has become one Hitchcockian suspense thriller. Nobody knows the climax. Will the BJP get the majority mark, is the biggest question now. Normally after the 3rd or 4th phase of polling, one gets an idea in which direction the wind is blowing. The BJP, which started as favourite in this election is now struggling. If the prime minister’s tone is any indication then it is apparent that he is not sure if he will get the third term; he and his army of supporters are making every effort to cross the finishing line.

The Opposition has suddenly discovered wings. Its body language has changed and its leaders look more energetic. In contrast the prime minister who is known for his energy and articulation, looks tired and is repeating himself. It is apparent that after Ayodhya Pran Pratishtha, when the saffron wave was palpable and it was felt that the BJP was winning with a big margin, victory was written on the wall; the prime minister was confident of his next tenure. Now that zing thing is missing. The Ram Mandir issue, which was considered to be the X - Factor in the election, has disappeared. For BJP, the state (UP) which was supposed to get the maximum seats, is now giving a different vibe, and nothing can be said confidently as to how the BJP will perform in the state.

UP was the game changer for the BJP in the 2014 elections. In 2009, BJP had only 10 seats from the state with 20.27% vote share. Even in the 2012 assembly election, the BJP did not do well but in two years’ time, its vote share jumped from 15% to 42% and parliamentary seats unprecedentedly increased to 73 along with its ally Apna Dal and since then the BJP’s dominance has remained unchallenged. It had a few jitters in the 2022 assembly elections but finally it sailed through comfortably despite the Samajwadi party improving its vote share by 10%.

Even this time in the month of January, It was believed that the BJP would gain about 70 seats thanks to the Ram Mandir wave. But now the same thing can’t be said. There is no wave against the Modi government but an undercurrent can be felt now, a definite anti-incumbency is visible. The voter is unhesitatingly expressing their disappointment with the central government. Though it is true that people are not angry with Modi, but, a certain amount of dejection is definitely discernible. Hindutva is no longer the deciding factor, though the prime minister and Chief minister of UP Yogi Adityanath are trying their best to polarise voters on the lines of Hindu - Muslim binary but it has not had the desired effect.

Like UP, Karnataka is another state which can be the Achilles heel for the BJP. This is the state that had wholeheartedly supported BJP in national elections since 2004. In 2019, the BJP had won 26 seats along with its ally out of 28 seats. This time it can easily be predicted that BJP is in deep trouble. The party has already lost assembly elections with a huge margin. The party is greatly factionalised on caste lines, ego battles between senior leaders are out in the open and campaigning in the state is lacklustre. Modi is popular but freebies offered by the Congress government have neutralised the Modi factor. And now it will be a miracle if the BJP can retain even half the seats it won in 2019.

Rajasthan has emerged as a surprise package this time. On earlier occasions, in 2014 and 2019, the BJP has won all 25 seats. But this time, the noise from the ground is telling a different story. Again like Karnataka, Modi is still the most popular leader in Rajasthan but people are very upset with BJP MPs which has turned the election into a local battle. This time the battle is being fought on local issues and the image of the sitting MP will be the deciding factor. This is the state which BJP won just a few months back in the Vidhana Sabha elections.

Haryana is also going to disappoint the BJP. There is so much anger in the air that the party has had to change its chief minister. A new chief minister from the backward community has taken over but people are not willing to listen. Three independent MLAs who had extended support to the BJP government, have withdrawn their support and the BJP government is hanging precariously by a thread. In other North Indian states too the BJP might lose a few seats. Even MP and Gujarat can throw a surprise. These are the states where in 2019 and 2014, BJP’s strike rate was more than 85% and vote share was more than 50%.

Maharashtra and Bihar are unique cases. In both the states the BJP carried out damage control exercises. In Bihar Nitish Kumar’s somersault will be talked about for long and in Maharashtra, the BJP tried to decimate the Shiv Sena and NCP which were called political master strokes then. But now it is not giving the dividends the party expected. There is so much confusion in the state that it is hazardous to make any guess as to the electoral outcome. The state might be up for a big shock. In my opinion this time, Maharashtra will be the Kingmaker.

It will be wrong to infer that the BJP is losing everywhere. Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are the states where the BJP might gain extra seats. In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee is engaged in a terrible fight. Last time BJP stunned everyone by winning 18 seats against TMC’s 22. In the assembly elections, the BJP did not perform as per expectation but it did maintain a respectable vote share of 38%, 2% less than the parliamentary election. Mamata Banerjee is a fighter and she knows that if the BJP gets more seats than TMC then she will find it difficult to retain her government in 2025. Odisha is another state which can open new opportunities for the BJP. In 2019, it had won 8 seats against BJD’s 12 but Naveen Patnaik is defensive this time and Odisha can write a new chapter in Modi-Shah’s book.

Despite a disappointing performance in the recently-held assembly elections, Telangana is fertile ground for the party. The Congress is very well placed after the magnificent victory but BRS is on decline. The state is poised to see a direct fight between the BJP and the Congress. The BJP had four MPs in the present parliament from the state, and this tally might improve. Though in Andhra Pradesh the BJP drew a blank in 2019 but this time, in alliance with Chandra Babu Naidu and Pawan Kalyan, the party is likely to gain a few seats. In order to improve BJP’s footprint, Modi has majorly focused on Tamil Nadu and Kerala and any gain in the two southern states will be a bonus.

The truth is that every election is a new election and one can’t be compared with any in the past. There are still two rounds of polling to go. As they say, till the last ballot is cast, no election is won or lost. Modi is known for his gladiatorial instincts, therefore let’s not hazard a guess. Hold your breath and wait for EVMs to be opened on June 4.

The writer is Editor, SatyaHindi.com, and author of Hindu Rashtra. He tweets at @ashutosh83B

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