Months before the announcement of the national elections, the end of 2023 could not have been better for the BJP, with its landslide victory in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and its improved vote share in the southern state. of Telangana.
If there was anything more to energize party workers and sympathizers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at the BJP headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg in Delhi, a road named after the organisation's chief ideologue, and declared: “a hat-trick of victories are a guarantee for a hat-trick in the 2024 polls.” Behind him, a new banner read: “Sapne nahin, haqeeqat bunte hain; tabhi toh sab Modi ko chahte hain (Not just dreams, he shapes reality. That's why everyone wants Modi)”. A big message, conveyed in simple words, easily understood in almost any part of the country.
'Guarantee' is the new buzzword in politics. It wasn't an original BJP coin, but of late, when the Congress and a few other opposition parties started using it full throttle to announce pre-poll freebies, Modi tweaked 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 Congress and its allies in Parliament moved a no-confidence motion against his government, Modi had “guaranteed” that India would become the world's largest economy during his third term.
Election results for four states, announced on Sunday, suggest voters in those states believed in him and his guarantees. The BJP had projected Modi's name and face for the model of governance it would provide in each of these states over the next five years. The results also indicated that Modi's personal charisma and goodwill remained intact or even improved slightly in the nearly decade he was in power. This is based on his sincerity, strong political will, clear policy vision and honest and transparent last mile performance on the ground.
On Monday, after attending the opening day of the winter session of Parliament, he left for Maharashtra for two events: to unveil a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj at the Rajkot Fort in Sindhuburg and to attend the Navy Day celebrations . The political, social and security stakes of the journey can be easily understood.
For the BJP, the huge victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh were even sweeter because no one gave the BJP a 3-0 odds, no opinion poll, no exit poll, no media reportage. The Congress and its 'echo system' had created such a hype that some predicted the exact opposite: that the Congress would defeat the BJP by 3:1.
What do these results tell us in terms of messaging?
First, that there is no real challenge for Modi and the BJP in 2024. Modi is likely to come to power for the third consecutive term. In the four states where the results were announced on Sunday, the BJP has 65 of the total 82 Lok Sabha seats. Telangana saw a triangular fight and of the 17 seats, the BJP won four.
In 2019, the BJP and Congress faced each other directly on 186 seats. The BJP won 170, which amounts to just over a 90 percent success rate. In 2014, the BJP had won 162 of these seats, with a strike rate of around 85 percent.
Secondly, the insulting words and language against Prime Minister Modi are counterproductive and counterproductive to those who use them. The Congress has clearly learned no lessons since Sonia Gandhi “Maut Ka Saudagar” comments against Modi during the 2007 Gujarat election campaign. In these elections, Rahul Gandhi mentioned him “Panauti” (accident) and “Pocket-but” (pickpocket). The results are visible to everyone.
Third, the results pose a real challenge to the longevity of the opposition group INDIA. After winning Telangana, some Congress leaders went over the top in their enthusiasm, saying that decimating a regional party was a huge achievement. Indeed it was, but the fact is that the INDIA grouping is about recognizing the importance of regional parties and forming alliances with them. It is also a fact that regional parties emerged and came to prominence at the expense of the Congress. Congress's claims will undoubtedly upset them.
Since the results, Trinamool Congress (TMC), RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal), Janata Dal United (JDU) and some others have made uncharitable comments about the Congress's stance.
Fourth, the Congress and the INDIA group lost the central and perhaps only poll agenda, the caste census. The results proved that there were no candidates for the agenda, 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, things are going wrong in Bihar with the language he used for women and young men while releasing socio-economic data in the Bihar Legislative Assembly and Council. There is a lot of talk about Nitish Kumar's status in Bihar.
The Congress in its wisdom convened the INDIA meeting on December 6, the day the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was destroyed by Hindu activists. The Congress will host the debate and try to play in areas where the BJP is the master of the game. More so, as the Ram Temple in Ayodhya will be inaugurated by Modi on January 22.
Fifth, the results showed that freebies don't always work. The announcement must be accompanied by good governance, results on the ground and the way in which the last mile is achieved. Modi stands tall because of his credible track record both as Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Finally, 'Modi and Mahila' is the most powerful combination for the BJP, something that may be even more difficult for Congress and its alliance partners to counter if the country votes for a new government in the coming months.
(Sanjay Singh is a senior journalist based in Delhi)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.