National Elections are 12 to 14 months away. Country has entered into an election mood already. BJP has already launched its Election campaign for the upcoming state elections and also for national election next year and opposition is starting to realise that they need to start getting their acts together. The question I want to analyse right now is whether BJP is on the right track to win.
Before delving any more on this, let us look at what is BJP’s current value proposition and claim to vote from the voters. Looking at the current media blast going on from BJP, it is harping on the slogan of “Vishva Guru”, “Amrit Kaal”, “Panch Praan” etc etc. If we dissect the layers of these slogans, following come out clearly
1. Article 370 and integration of Kashmir plus Tripple Talaq bill
2. Ayodhya Temple which will get inaugurated sometimes in the new year 2024.
3. More pronounced and nationalistic foreign policy
4. Economic growth and management of the economy during the Pandemic
Let us now analyse if these are sufficient to win the elections in 2024. Before that let us look at where are the possibilities of an increase in seats for BJP. It has to win 272 seats and currently it has 303. It will still be able to form the government if it looses 30 seats from the current pool and does not win any new. The problem although is that BJP has all maxed out in all the states where it has advantage. In addition, it has also strong incumbency in all the states where it has strong nationalistic support. The states where it needs to increase its seat are the southern states.
Let us assume that even if BJP looses 50 seats from current base, it is able to garner support to form a government. So let us analyse where that 50 seats shortfall may happen. These state sare Bihar, WB, Rajsthan and Maharashtra. All these states have their own challenges. In some like Bihar and WB, the opposition unity may disturb the applecart, while in Rajsthan and Maharashtra the internal sqabbles can break the camel’s back. If this happens, there is no other place where BJP can compensate its shortfall. Currently, Karnataka is undergoing electioneering process and the early estimates suggest that it is not looking good for BJP.
In summary of the above, it is not as rosy for BJP as it appears. Elections are a year away and lot of things can happen to disturb the core constitutency for BJP. In such a situation, any political pundit will advice BJP to stick to its core constituency and not experiment with new ideas to expand the constituency. The time for expanding in the new territory has passed or will start after winning the elections.
When we look at the “Amrit Kaal” campaign, the only item that will impact the voters now is the economy. Ayodyha has lived its utility and any more political mileage from this may become counter productive. Modi’s Foreign policy is definitely one of the best India ever had, but does foreign policy win votes? Extremly rare! and, anyone thinking about foreign policy becoming vote catcher would be termed Optimistic at the best. Article 370 is past and does not bother to the masses outside J&K. That leaves with the economic and growth agenda which is a good agenda, but time and again we have seen that economic agenda alone does not win elections. Let us remember “India Shining” campaign of Vajpayee. It was the best times from economic perspective when all the major road and rail projets were conceptualized. No one even thought that a economic growth lead campaign by Vajpayee will get defeated by Sonja Gandhi lead opposition – it was such a shock. It took India 10 years to regain BJP at the centre again.
So, economic growth alone can be a risky proposition because growth does not touch everyone at the same time and it touches massess in different proportion. Growth also creates its own problem of inequality between different strata, different regions and different groups. So, in order to use growth as an election agenda, there is a need to have another catalyst which can add and accentuate the agenda of growth.
Sanatan nationalism has been a time tested agenda for BJP which has worked over last few decades; but, it appears that BJP has been trying to relinquish that agneda and trying to woo traditionaly anti-BJP votes on to its own camp. Muslim segment is one of them. The BJP minority cell is trying to replicate the appeasement agenda of congress to woo so called pasmanda muslims and trying to break the unified block of Muslim votes. This strategy is not coming without any risk. BJP is risking its core sanatan nationalist votes. The problem is that the core BJP states like UP, Gujrat, Rajsthan, Maharashtra have large population of votes who support sanatan nationalist agenda. The BJP strategy of muuslim appeasement and the activism of BJP minotiry cell ( Muslim Vichar Manch) is already irking big segment of BJP’s core constituents. The other concerning aspect is that large part of BJP’s active workers at ground level are part of this sanatan nationalists and that may have far reaching impact on how BJP’s election machine works.
In conclusion, all is not completely well with BJP for 2024 as it may appear in the campaign media. BJP may be taking a big risk by annoying its core constituency of sanatan nationalists. The questions that are being asked in muted voice are about real value that Sanatanis have derived from BJP’s 8 year rule. Article 370 and Ram Mandir can not be treated as long term fundamental changes in the legal asymmetry that is annoying to the sanatan followers. There is no step towards implementation of CAA even when the law is passed, there is no progerss on repealing/ammending “Places of worship act”, Abrogating All India Muslim Waqf Board Act, efforts towards independence to Temples, investment and efforts towards changes to curriculum etc. In addition episodes like “Nupur Sharma”, killings and beheadings, RSS chief making out of place statements have only alienated the strong supporters of BJP. It is high time therefore that BJP recognises the fact that one year away from elections is not the time to experiment on such sensitive issues. It will be better for them to look after their core constituency and nurture rather than trying to garner support from completely alien group of people.
Image source: Google.com