BJP high command and the top brass of RSS have taken a big risk by making Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the face of the party and refrained from naming chief ministerial candidates in poll-bound states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram.
Based on a different analogy, BJP has experimented with new strategy of fielding 24 MPs and 4 union ministers in three poll bound states including MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh which reflects the saffron party’s ‘desperate move and resolve’ to ensure victory in these states to create better narrative for 2024 parliamentary polls. 2nd, it may be aimed at ‘neutralizing’ the anguish of the voters with sitting MLAs and they may have to rethinking when new faces (MPs and ministers) are fielded from such constituencies.
Political observers say that the party's strategists may have a twin purpose to opt for innovative methodology. First, Modi is a vote catcher, who has got national and international image which could be exploited to woo the voters. Second, due to the presence of several aspirants for top slot and as a preventive step to check factionalism and desertions, BJP might have refrained from naming one candidate for the post of CM in each state.
Risk-Oriented Strategy May Backfire Also
As per outcome of Karnataka and Himachal assembly elections, Modi’s all out aggressive campaign and Hindutva did not work hence if BJP fails to oust congress in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and C.S. Rao’s ‘Bharat Rashtra Samithi’(BRS) in Telangana besides losing MP then it may have direct bearing on 2024 parliamentary elections in 2024.But in case the results go in favor of BJP then it may have double impact to ensure victory of Modi for third successive time. Experts say that BJP’s think tank might have assessed the possible impact of Modi government’s nine-year performance and welfare measures which may give the weightage to the party’s nominees in the state polls also.
But contrary to it, there is no denying the fact that assembly polls are fought on local issues and voters may be swayed owing to freebies being distributed by CMs of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Telangana besides being dispersed by CM of BJP ruled MP also. The political dynamics may be different when Modi appeals to the voters in the country to vote for him in 2024 and subsequently I.N.D.I.A fails to decide the PM candidate which would be attributed to inner contradictions and personal ambition of each regional satrap as well as that of the Grand Old Party.
Raje Loyalists Denied Tickets
In Rajasthan, the ground reports say that ministers like Ganjendra Singh Shekhawat, Ashwani Vaishnav, Arjun ram Meghwal and even former union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore do not have grassroot level mass appeal like Raje in Rajasthan. Diya Kumari, a member of ex ruling family of Jaipur, is sitting MP from Rajsamand will be contesting from Vidhayadhar Nagar segment in the pink city which was being represented by Narpat Singh Rajvi, son- in -law of late octogenarian, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. At the same time, Meena community leader, Rajya Sabha MP, Dr Kirori Lal Meena may prove an asset in eastern region in Rajasthan as he will contest from Sawai Madhopur seat, dominated by Meena-Gujjar communities.
Political observers say that BJP kept Raje in political oblivion for five years which has alienated the ex CM from party workers to some extent though she still has got maximum loyalists MLAs. Raje was missing from BJP’s ‘Parivartan Yatras’ even in her home turf, Jhalawar in Kota district where she wields immense influence which can be attributed to her long association with people. BJP could not play the role of an aggressive opposition during the 5-year regime of Ashok Gehlot as high command kept on experimenting with younger generation leaders but the outcome was not as per expectations of central leadership.
Entry Of Ministers And MPs May Change Existing Equation In MP
To checkmate sitting CM, Shivraj Chouhan, BJP high command surprised its ministers like Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Singh Patel and Faggan Singh Kulaste who figured in the first list of candidates for MP polls. As per party calculations union ministers may have their influence across the state though they have yet to prove their statewide appeal amongst the people. Questions being asked whether they have nursed their respective assembly segments which is so essential to defeat the rivals? Political observers believe that ministers normally focus on bigger areas and hardly deal with a particular segment in their home states which may create problems for them. None can deny the fact that voters spread over right up to villages have become more demanding as well as conscious of their right to make logical decision .The aspirations of unemployed youths are very high besides sky rocketing prices of essential goods etc. hence they may see a track record of five years of every candidate prior to exercising their franchise?
Experts say that the ministers or MPs hardly do micro level management of particular constituencies which should worry them in MP. They may not have the state level stature when compared with Chouhan who may be sulking as he has not been declared as CM candidate despite being at the helm of affairs.
It will be Baghel versus Baghel in Chhattisgarh which is considered the strongest turf of the Congress due to the leadership of Bhupesh Baghel. The India Today-CVoter survey has predicted that BJP may narrow the gap of five percent but it may not be sufficient to block Congress from surpassing the majority mark of 46 seats. BJP has named CM’s nephew Vijay Baghel, Lok Sabha MP as a candidate for the top slot. BJP’s Chhattisgarh unit could not put Baghel government on the mat during the entire 5-year term which may give an advantage to Congress to retain power. Former CM Raman Singh does not figure in the scheme of things of high command. Ahead of the assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, BJP leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Ranvijay Pratap Singh Judeo, the present Raja of the erstwhile Jashpur state, has expressed his desire to resign from organizational posts but asserted his commitment of not quitting BJP.
While toying with the new idea of relying on ‘Charisma’ of union ministers or MP, BJP high command has given the command of state unit to union minister, G.Kishan Reddy who faces a big challenge of bringing the party on track which is faction- ridden. The removal of Bandi Sanjay Kumar who was vociferous against KCR government has not sent the right signal to the party cadres though the party denies it.
Analysts opine that BJP’s ‘Gujrat Model’ of replacing older generation leaders yielded positive results in Uttarakhand, Goa and Tripura but it miserably failed to deliver in Karnataka. Now it will be interesting to see whether the new strategy to push union ministers and MPs in electoral fray will work to the advantage of the party or it will backfire?
(Writer is political analyst and senior journalist based in Shimla)