State Polls Show No Real Challenge To Modi Before 2024

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Months before the announcement of national elections, the close of year 2023 couldn’t have been better for the BJP, with its thumping victory in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and its improved tally and vote share in the southern state of Telangana.

If at all there was anything more to energise party workers and sympathisers with, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at the BJP headquarters at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg in Delhi, a road named after the organisation’s foremost ideologue, and declared, “a hat-trick of wins is a guarantee of a hat-trick in 2024 polls”. Behind him, a new banner said – “Sapne nahin, haqeeqat bunte hain; tabhi toh sab Modi ko chahte hain (Not just dreams, he shapes reality. That is why everyone wants Modi)”. A big message conveyed in simple words, easy to understand in almost any part of the country.

“Guarantee” is the new buzzword in politics. It was not original BJP coinage but lately, when the Congress and a few other opposition parties started using it full throttle to announce pre-poll freebies, Modi adapted it and added his punch – “Modi ki guarantee ka matlab guarantee poora hone ki guarantee (Modi’s guarantee means the guarantee is guaranteed)”.

In July, hours after the Congress and its allies moved a no-confidence motion against his government in parliament, Modi had “guaranteed” that in his third term, India would become the biggest economy in the world.

The election results for four states, announced on Sunday, suggests that voters in those states believed in him and his guarantees. The BJP had projected Modi’s name and face for the governance model that it would provide in each of these states for the next five years. The results also indicated that Modi’s personal charisma and goodwill remained intact or even somewhat enhanced in nearly a decade in power. This is based on his sincerity, strong political will, clear vision for policies and fair and transparent last mile delivery on the ground.

On Monday, after attending the opening day of the winter session of parliament he was off to Maharashtra for two events – to unveil a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj at Rajkot Fort in Sindhuburg and to attend the Navy Day celebrations. The political, social and security significance of the trip can be easily comprehended.

For the BJP, the massive victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh were even sweeter because nobody was giving the BJP a 3-0 possibility, no opinion poll, no exit poll, no media reportage. The Congress and its ‘echo system’ had created such hype that some predicted just the opposite – that the Congress would beat the BJP 3:1.

What do these results tell us in terms of messaging?

First, that there is no real challenge to Modi and the BJP in 2024. Modi is likely to return to power for a third consecutive term. In the four states where results were announced Sunday, the BJP has 65 of the total 82 Lok Sabha seats. Telangana saw a triangular fight and out of 17 seats, the BJP won four.

In 2019, the BJP and Congress had direct face-offs in 186 seats. The BJP won 170, which amounts to a bit over 90 per cent strike rate. In 2014, the BJP had won 162 of these seats, with a strike rate of about 85 per cent.

Second, abusive words and language used against PM Modi is counter-productive and backfires on those who use it. The Congress has clearly not learnt its lessons since Sonia Gandhi’s “Maut Ka Saudagar” remarks against Modi in the Gujarat election campaign in 2007. In these elections, Rahul Gandhi called him “Panauti” (misfortune) and “Pocket-maar” (pickpocket). The results are for everyone to see.

Third, the results pose a real challenge to the longevity of the opposition INDIA grouping. After winning Telangana, some Congress leaders, in their enthusiasm, went over the top to say that decimating a regional party was a huge achievement. It indeed was, but the fact is that the INDIA grouping is about recognising the importance of regional parties and forming alliances with them. It’s also a fact that regional parties emerged and came to the fore at the cost of Congress. The Congress’s assertions is bound to upset them.

Since the results, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal), Janata Dal United (JDU) and some others have made uncharitable remarks about the Congress’s attitude.

Fourth, the Congress and the INDIA grouping lost the central and perhaps only poll agenda, the caste census. The results proved that the agenda had no takers, so much so that two OBC Chief Ministers, Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel, were shown the door. For Nitish Kumar, who championed the caste survey, the chips are down in Bihar after the language he used for women and young men while releasing socio-economic data in the Bihar legislative assembly and council. There is much talk about Nitish Kumar’s status in Bihar.

The Congress, in its wisdom, called the INDIA meeting on December 6, the day the Babri mosque in Ayodhya was razed by Hindu activists. The Congress, as hosts, will ignite debate and attempt to play on grounds where the BJP is a master of the game. More so, as the Ram temple in Ayodhya is to be inaugurated by Modi on January 22.

Fifth, the results have exposed that freebies don’t always work. The announcement has to be accompanied by good governance, delivery on the ground and the manner in which it reaches last mile. Modi stands tall because of his credible track record, both as Gujarat Chief Minister and Prime Minister.

Finally, ‘Modi and Mahila’ is the most potent combo for the BJP, something that the Congress and its alliance partners may find even harder to counter when the nation votes for a new government in next few months.

(Sanjay Singh is a senior journalist based in Delhi)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.

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