A Win-Win Agenda Of BJP For 2023 As Key Conclave Opens

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Winning elections has always been a core concern of the BJP. More so, after the stupendous performance in Gujarat and the shocking setback in Himachal Pradesh.

The BJP is back to the drawing board for win-win strategies for the nine assembly polls to be held in 2023.

In fact, a two-day long national executive meeting of the BJP on January 16 and 17 in Delhi is to precisely endorse a course of action towards winning the assembly polls in Karnataka and Tripura in March-April and Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, and Telangana in November-December.

The polls in North East are also a crucial part of the BJP’s plans for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Besides Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland also go to polls in early 2023, followed by Mizoram in November.

Maybe, the four states send only six MPs to the Lok Sabha but for the BJP, the region as a whole is an important focus for its political narrative.

The reason: added to the main challenge is winning 160 parliamentary seats that the party thinks are problematic during the 2024 polls.

In the 2019 polls, the BJP contested 436 seats, winning 303 of them. The BJP found 144 seats were such where the ground situation is “difficult” due to various factors. They included those seats where the party had finished runner-up or third in the 2019 general elections or won with a slim margin.

After assessment by a team led by the Union Home Minister, the tally of such seats was increased to 160, with the possibility of it being increased to 200 — so that a winning game plan is worked for each of those seats by strengthening the organisational base.

At the core of the BJP’s approach towards these elections are ways and means to enhance the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, maximise its impact and reduce the problems of entropy in the state units that sometimes fail to take full advantage of factors in favour of them. It involves assessing the impact of the Modi government’s flagship programmes, enhancing the scale of implementation and also, and getting feedback from the beneficiaries.

The PM is keen that all BJP functionaries are tasked with ensuring that several achievements of the Central government are part of the talking points in the political campaign in the run-up to the 2024 elections.

Battles Of Early 2023

Among the states going to polls in early 2023, Karnataka poses a unique challenge for the BJP because of many anti-incumbency factors at work against the Basavaraj Bommai ministry besides large-scale factionalism. In 2018, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the 224-member House. It had lost power to a post-poll coalition stitched together by the Congress and JD(S), with H D Kumaraswamy taking over as CM. Within 14 months, BJP leader B S Yediyurappa formed the government after defections by Congress and JD(S) MLAs to support him. In July 2022, the BJP took the risky gamble of replacing Yediyurappa with Basavaraj Bommai. A sulking Yediyurappa is worrying the BJP.

In Tripura, which has an assembly of 60 members, the BJP came to power in the state for the first time in 2018, ending a 25-year reign of the Left Front. On May 14 last year, CM Biplab Deb was asked to resign for relatively low-key Manik Saha who was made his successor. The Congress and CPI(M) have joined hands and are wooing the tribal TIPRA Motha party for setting up a formidable front.

In Meghalaya, where the battle is for 60 seats, the National People’s Party (NPP) under Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has been ruling since the 2018 election. It was backed by the BJP and regional parties but contested 53 of the 60 seats on its own. Sangma recently announced that the NPP will fight the elections scheduled for next year alone, and had finalised 58 candidates. However, the NPP will support the NDA. That means the BJP too will have to fight a maximum number of seats on its own and later join the coalition after the elections
As for Nagaland, which also has a 60-member House, the Nationalist Democratic People’s Party (NDPP) and the BJP have been in power under a People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA). The NDPP’s Neiphiu Rio became the Chief Minister. The BJP won an unprecedented 12 seats in the 2018 elections.

Battles Of Late 2023

In Chhattisgarh, the BJP hopes to regain power, drawing on lessons from its humiliation in 2018. Congress CM Bhupesh Baghel hopes for a comeback on the impact of his government’s schemes and largesse. He does face rivals within the party but the support of the Sonia Gandhi family has ensured his tenure remains undisturbed. He got the state assembly to pass two bills raising the reservation quota to 76 per cent to woo major sections of the voters. In 2018, Congress won by securing 68 of the 90 seats.

In Madhya Pradesh, where 230 seats are up for grab, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath believes that he will be able to ensure his party’s win and capture power from the BJP, which displaced him from the CM’s post after Congress stalwart Jyotiraditya Scindia left with 22 MLAs. His government fell and Shivraj Singh Chouhan returned to power after two years. The Congress captured power after the 2018 elections, ending the tenure of BJP’s three-time CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

In Rajasthan, with a 200-member House, CM Ashok Gehlot is facing a stiff challenge from fellow party leader Sachin Pilot who was promised CM’s post by the Gandhi family. But Gehlot has held on to his position because a majority of Congress MLAs back him. However, the fight between the Gehlot camp and the Pilot camp has considerably dented the prospects of Congress. Of course, Rajasthan has always swung between the BJP and the Congress. The Congress came to power after defeating the then-incumbent BJP government under Vasundhara Raje in 2018. The Congress secured a majority of 99 seats in the state. The BJP got 73 seats. Raje has had problems working along with other BJP leaders. The central BJP leadership is trying to sort out this issue.

The most interesting battle is expected to be Telangana, where 119 seats are at stake. The BJP has displaced the Congress as the main Opposition party and is seriously challenging K Chandrashekar Rao, popularly known as KCR. He became CM for a second time in December 2018 after winning a landslide victory. An ambitious KCR intends to shift to the national scene in 2024 if he secures the state for a third time. He has renamed his party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, into the Bharat Rashtra Samithi.

The elections for a new 90-member Jammu and Kashmir assembly are also likely to be held. It will be the first election in the former state after the abrogation of Article 370 stripped its special status. Before abrogation, the BJP had parted ways with the alliance partner, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), ending Mehbooba Mufti’s stint as the last CM of the former state. J&K has not had an elected government now since mid-2018. Barring the BJP and Congress, all mainstream parties of the Valley are together in a new combine, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). Recently, Union Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the security situation during a visit to Jammu. He assured the people that irrespective of the designs of terror outfits, security agencies would ensure a foolproof security grid and protect civilians.

(The author is a senior journalist and a well-known political commentator)

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