After a crushing defeat in Karanatka, the victory in three Hindi heartland states has come as a big morale booster for the BJP. The saffron party enters the 2024 poll fray with a spring in its feet and a winning template in its kitty where ‘Modi guarantees’ and women voters will be the key attributes.
The results have come as a rude shock to the Congress which was hoping to win the Hindi belt to keep the challenge of opposition alive in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The INDIA alliance would need better coordination and control over the messaging to counter an aggressive BJP in 2024.
“Today’s hat-trick has given us the guarantee of 2024,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his victory speech at the BJP headquarters in Delhi. Modi has once again proved that he remains a formidable political force and the BJP an agile performer which can tweak its strategy after a setback to overcome the challenges.
The BJP claims that it has blunted the Congress and the opposition grouping’s main weapon – caste census – as the electorate in the three main impact states voted in favour of the party. The issue of caste census had put the BJP on the defensive after it got traction in Bihar, the only Hindi heartland state which is not in BJP’s kitty.
However, now with the December 3 mandate, the saffron party is expected to bat on the front foot in the 2024 elections.
Modi and BJP in its messaging before the people had said there were only four castes in the country which needed a boost—women, youth, farmers, and the poor.
“There were attempts to divide the country into castes, but I have said there are only four castes. OBCs also come from this section. In these elections they have stamped our roadmap and schemes,” Modi said.
During the election, the party also went for a massive outreach to the tribal community and announced a national scheme during the polls. It was in addition to the work the party had done among the community by celebrating their icons.
One of the takeaway from these elections is that even the anti-incumbency can be beaten with well oiled machinery of foot soldiers who when motivated can change the tide on the ground. This was what the Congress lacked—the cadre on the ground. The BJP has been training its army of booth workers, cadre, and voting page in-charges in the past one year even when the Congress was hoping that the sentiment was for change.
Taking a cue from the Karnataka polls, the BJP went for Modi as its main mascot. However, it contested the elections under a collective leadership. The strategy has delivered on the ground as it created many CM aspirants who then got energised and performed well in their respective areas of influence. Though only one may get a chance to become the chief minister, in the process, the party has been able to create a new line of leaders who would be ready to take on the mantle when the need arises.
The big challenge before the party now would be picking up the chief ministers. In Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s performance and turnaround in the ground situation has again strengthened his claims to the top post. The fact that he comes from OBC community also works in his favour.
Similarly in Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje is still the front runner along with a host of leaders like central minister Gajendra Shekhawat, Baba Balaknath and Diya Kumari.
In Chhattisgarh, the BJP would need a leader to cement the gains made in the assembly elections. Former CM Raman Singh had held the post for 15 years. There are others in line.
For Congress, Telangana has been the only face saver. But there, too, the BJP has displayed a better performance, improving its tally from one seat to eight. The saffron group is hopeful that it would do even better during the Lok Sabha polls.
These results could also be an indicator that when it comes to a direct contest between BJP and Congress, the saffron party has an edge. The BJP got 48 per cent vote share—six per cent more than Congress—in Madhya Pradesh as CM Chouhan aggressively wooed the women voters. In Rajasthan, the Congress’s vote share was just two per cent less than BJP’s 41 per cent as Gehlot, too, wooed the voters with sops, though they came during the last few months of his tenure.
In Chhattisgarh, BJP got 46 per cent vote share—six per cent more than that of Congress. In Telangana, BJP got 14 per cent votes and stood third.
To bridge the divide, Congress would need help of allies.