December 13, 2023
NEW DELHI – After completing five state elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Opposition prepare for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP is confident about maintaining its stronghold in the Hindi belt, and the Opposition has failed to challenge the party effectively. The BJP has broadened its reach and currently holds power in 18 states. The BJP won elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi considers every seat necessary to perform a hat trick.
However, the BJP must establish a strong presence in southern India. Although the party briefly ruled Karnataka, no other state in the South has supported it. The BJP is a significant political force in India. It is due to its decisive leadership, strong organization, unlimited resources, and effective communication. Additionally, there has been a substantial shift to the right in Indian politics. The gap between Mr Modi’s popularity and that of other opposition leaders is enormous.
The party’s new slogan is “New Momentum, New Pledge.” Modi has been successfully promoting Hindu nationalism for the last decade. His supporters are thrilled about the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, which is scheduled for January. The BJP has introduced welfare schemes such as cash transfers, free rations, and affordable gas cylinders to appeal to voters. Despite facing challenges such as high unemployment, inflation, and price hikes, these schemes remain popular among the masses.
The BJP must adopt alternative strategies beyond relying solely on Modi’s charisma to win elections. The party must first address any internal disagreements that may exist. Secondly, the BJP must create a new narrative to win over voters in the southern states. The current ideologies of Hindutva and Sanatan Dharma do not resonate with the people in these states. They perceive the BJP as a party of north India. In contrast, Dravidian parties have been advocating for social justice for decades.
The southern region holds 131 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. Kerala has a significant number of communist supporters, Tamil Nadu is predominantly atheistic, while the BJP has some base in Karnataka. However, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have regional parties, limiting the BJP’s support in these states. The Congress lost Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh, winning only Telangana. Their chances of defeating Modi are low unless they step up their game.
The Opposition group I.N.D.I.A. is dismayed by the Congress’s poor performance in the recent polls. Rahul Gandhi might have succeeded if the Grand Old Party had won in at least two northern Indian states. Congress must improve its leadership and create a new poll strategy before the next elections. Opposition parties must unite to prevent the division of non-BJP votes in the next four months. They can increase their vote share if antiincumbency sentiment grows closer to the election date.
As a good beginning, they have already agreed to field a single candidate in seats where the BJP is the primary contender. The Congress party should focus on winning those constituencies where it has a higher chance of success. They could let their alliance partners contest the remaining seats. It’s essential to prioritize defeating the ruling party over personal gains and pride. The Congress leadership needs to get on with the times and stop living in the past. The Trinamool Congress leadership has publicly criticized the Congess’s performance.
“It is not the victory of the BJP, but rather the failure of Congress,” they stated. The Congress lost elections due to internal conflicts, poor alliances, and an unrealistic understanding of the current situation. To improve, Congress must find the right people for the right jobs and energize its supporters. Rahul Gandhi led the 4,000-kilometer Bharat Jodo Yatra to revive the party. This helped the party to win significantly in Karnataka and Telangana.
However, the yatra’s momentum was mainly limited to South India. The Opposition needs to find more money to compete with the BJP. The BJP uses its funds to keep its leader in the public eye. They will get Rs 719 crore in 2022-23. The Congress Party’s donations have gone down. They received Rs 79 crore, compared to Rs 95.4 crore last year. In the previous five years, the BJP got Rs 10,122.03 crore in donations, while the Congress only got Rs 1,547.43 crore. Corporate contributions to Congress have decreased over seven years while the BJP’s donations have increased.
Recent reports suggest that the Congress is considering crowdfunding to finance its election campaigns. In the last 20 years, the expenditure on Lok Sabha elections has increased six times, from Rs 9,000 crore to around Rs 55,000 crore. A third of this expense is spent on campaigning and publicity. In contrast, the second most significant expense is direct payment to voters. The BJP needs a winning strategy for the South.
The Congress, conversely, needs to concentrate on the North. Meanwhile, regional parties must focus on retaining their loyal voter base. When trying to win over voters, merely offering freebies is not always enough. It is essential to do more to earn their trust and support. A billion voters will decide their fate in 2024.