BJP will go into 2024 polls with more aggression, renewed strength and confidence which will be laced and embedded in Modi Magic and center’s ten-year achievements but its southward journey has been stopped by Congress in Telangana though it has won 8 seats in the house 119. Earlier, BJP had to face defeat in Karnataka and loss of its ally, AIADMK in Tamil Nadu had also put the saffron party in a dilemma.
2024 Challenge For BJP In South
A stunning victory of BJP in three states in Hindi heartland will have demoralising impact on the Congress but it needs to chalk a new strategy to create an impact in southern states which have got 130 Lok Sabha seats. Political observers believe that BJP has been turned into a heartland organization as it may struggle to make inroad in 2024 in five southern states including - Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana which constitute 130 seats of Lok Sabha out of total 543. BJP led NDA had won 30 seats in 2019 which included 25 from Karnataka. As per 2022 assembly polls, Congress has captured Karnataka which may make difference in 2024 especially when voters exercise their option differently in assembly and parliamentary polls which may be swayed by Modi factor.
Congress was optimistic about metamorphosis in its fortunes as it expected to retain Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and snatch power from the saffron party in Madhya Pradesh. The Modi factor has dashed their hopes to the ground as BJP has performed exceedingly well in three states. But BJP proved an outside ring player in Telangana and it will have to console with an increase of its one seat tally to 8 .The senior BJP party leaders expect to reap harvest in 2028 assembly polls as they are confident to relegate KC Rao’s party, BRS to third place and it may be congress versus BJP.
Congress Defeat May Prove A Good Omen For INDIA
The experts feel that Congress party's defeat in Madhya Pradesh and its’ failure to retain Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh may act as blessing in disguise for the future of INDIA. First, Congress victory could have enhanced its bargaining power but defeat has snatched it from the grand old party. Second, it will bring Congress at equal playing level with other constituents of INDIA thereby neutralizing any iota of arrogance and inflexibility. Third ,the jolt to Congress will act as an eye opener to leaders like Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav etc. who may be forced to shed anti-Congress rhetoric and see reasoning in 2024 polls while agreeing to seat sharing formula in the states like Delhi and Punjab (AAP)and West Bengal (TMC) and Samajwadi Party(UP)respectively. Fourth, the critics of Kejriwal and Mamata argue that both leaders may face corrupt cases and land in jail if Modi returns to power for a third time which may be the predominant reason of their desire to be part of INDIA alliance. Fifth, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was feeling alienated due to political maneuvering by Congress which was aiming at a pivotal role in new INDIA Block. None can deny the fact that it was Nitish Kumar who had been responsible for bringing warring regional straps at one platform but hurdles were created in assigning him an important position of convener of INDIA. Now Congress president, Mallikarjun Kharge has convened the meeting of INDIA to iron out differences and move forward with an eye on 2024.The biggest challenge INDIA faces relates to seat sharing and finalization of the common minimum programme. The glitches are huge which may require flexibility and broad-minded spirit of ‘Give and Take’ to make INDIA alliance as a reality because it is still confined to paper only.
BJP's Task In 2024 Will Be Different From 2019
While riding on an extreme popularity of Modi coupled with Ram Temple led Hindutva campaign, BJP may not enjoy the comfort and resurgence of nationalism which emanated from Pulwama terror attack and surgical strikes in 2019.Observers opine that it will face problem in breaking the stronghold of Navin Patnaik in Orissa which remained unaffected in 2019 hence it could win 8 seats only whereas BJP secured 13 . Similarly, West Bengal is controlled by Mamata who will leave no stone unturned to retain her hold as her party TMC had won 22 and BJP 18 seats in 2019. An identical situation prevails in Delhi and Punjab which have got states governed by AAP and BJP is not in dominating position in both states. Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) comprising of Shiv Sena(Udhav Thakre group),Congress and NCP. BJP and undivided Shiv Sena alliance had won 23 and 18 Lok Sabha seats in 2109 but situation will be different in 2024 after the split of Shiv Sena and NCP. The ruling coalition of BJP, Shiv Sena(Shinde) and Ajit Pawar faction may not find it easy to sweep polls in 2024 like previous general election in 2019.
The loss of Telangana does not augur good for BJP which may have tie up with former CM, K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR)-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) as his party has grown weak after losing assembly polls . Chander Shekhar Rao may need a ‘Saniveeni’ to survive which may bring him closer to saffron party. The BRS won nine of the 17 Lok Sabha seats IN 2019 whereas BJP was able to make some inroad in the state and won four seats while the Congress picked up three. One, Hyderabad seat, had gone to AIMIM's Asaduddin Owaisi.
In TN, AIADMK has severed its ties with BJP and DMK is in alliance with Congress which won the assembly elections. In this backdrop, BJP will find it difficult to have an influential partner in 2024 hence it may opt for smaller parties. In this backdrop, BJP will find it difficult to have an influential partner in 2024 hence it may opt for smaller parties. AIADMK had suffered a major setback in 2019. From the height of having 37 Lok Sabha MPs, the AIADMK tally had come down to one whereas vote share dropped to 44.92 per cent in 2014 to 18.48 per cent in 2019. The DMK, the principal opposition party in Tamil Nadu had won 23 seats as against zero in 2014. DMK’s vote share had increased from 23.91 per cent in 2014 to 32.76 per cent in the Lok Sabha election.
BJP expects to improve performance on the basis of Modi Magic and smaller groups may become part of the alliance in Kerala. Congress led united progressive alliance had swept polls and won 19 out of 20 seats in the state in 2019. NDA , which formed the government at center, however, failed to win single seat but gathered around 15% vote share. The ruling Left Democratic Front was decimated in the elections with just one seat.
A cursory look at Andhra Pradesh shows that present CM, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has got friendly relations with BJP though his party may contest 2024 polls interpedently but he may always stand by saffron party if it retains power. Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu may opt for new alliance partner as BJP has distanced itself from him. He had indulged in hectic parleys with opposition leaders to form an anti-BJP grand alliance in 2019 but he was left with nothing to hold on in 2109. The TDP had suffered a humiliating defeat as it could win only three of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh. Chandrababu Naidu had suffered an identical defeat in the assembly elections which were won by YS Jagmohan Reddy-led YSR Congress and registered its best performance in Lok Sabha elections by winning 22 seats.
Pollsters agree that It was all the way Modi though collective leadership led by PM did wonders to BJP in these polls bound states. A huge gamble and risk had been taken RSS and BJP high command to make Modi as face of these assembly polls but it paid rich dividends. It did help in generating the trust of voters who did not hesitate in reposing faith in his leadership though the situation had been different had CM candidates were declared by BJP. Modi’s outreach to tribals also created history as they shifted their loyalty from Congress and supported Modi who promised to look after their welfare in future. Caste census narrative of Congress was neutralized by PM who stressed the need of having faith in four castes viz. women, youth, farmers and the poor, such connotation worked to the hilt. PM’s focus on congress party’s image of corruption also neutralized anti-incumbency factor in MP besides women voters’ overwhelming support to welfare schemes of Shiv Raj Singh government. Contrary to it, Hindutva's dose in Rajasthan bore the fruit which was compounded by fielding of ministers and MPS who influenced surrounding assembly segments. It was true in MP also which is considered the factory of experimentation of Hindutva politics. A Well-oiled machinery of RSS strengthened the killing spirit of BJP cadres in these poll states besides vast resources at BJP’s command. Last but not least, poll management and strategy of union home minister Amt Shah and party president, J.P.Nadda was successful in putting the rivals on the mat which matters a lot in winning the elections.
Experts opine that BJP and RSS will bank on Modi factor and center’s ten-year performance to win in 2024 but there will be a dire need of formulating new poll strategy for south as dominance in Hindi states may not be sufficient.
Analysts also opine that It is extremely difficult to predict whether I.N.D.I.A alliance will be able to agree on seat sharing formula as it will be an uphill task though it can save the split in the votes in 2024 polls. If it fails to materialize then ‘Inflated Egos' and ‘inflexibility’ of regional straps as well as senior leaders of Congress will be responsible for such a fiasco. The scare of Modi’s return to power for 3rd successive time may, however, contribute in forcing them to come together though chances are not very bright.
BJP may consider the outcome of 2024 polls in Hindi belt as foregone conclusion but litmus test of Modi Magic will lie in southern states as the saffron party is completely devoid of an effective alliance partner and lacks mass base in five states which is mandatory to win the elections.
(Writer is political analyst and senior journalist based in Shimla)