As BJP leaders from across India prepare to gather next month to receive the final blueprint for the party’s Lok Sabha election strategy, the party is confident that the nation’s mood is in its favour.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has solidified his power position by convincing the electorate that he is the only champion of development and Hindutva — especially after the consecration of Ram Temple in Ayodhya — and is the reason for India’s heightened position in the global order. Modi has channelled that sentiment into strengthening his bond with the electorate.
But the BJP’s top leaders remember the lessons from the party’s defeat in 2004 — it lost despite few expecting it to — to not take the overall atmosphere for granted as the basis for its poll calculations. They have analysed the political situation in each state and weighed the party’s prospects beyond the outer layer. Many in the party often cite the party’s reliance on the goodwill factor and not going deep into the state combinations as the reasons for the failure of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government to return to power in 2004 despite the “positive atmosphere in favour of the BJP and NDA (National Democratic Alliance)”. A BJP leader said, “The current leadership does not want to repeat that mistake and does not want to take any chance.”
While the political developments in Patna last week hinted at the BJP’s approach to key states, party leaders said politics in other swing states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka could witness “stunning instances”. They said that electoral outcomes in Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and West Bengal were crucial and that the leadership was focussing on these states to ensure that the NDA gets as close to the tally of 400 seats as possible. In 2019, all these states contributed 123 states to the alliance’s tally.
When the JD(U) walked out of the alliance in August 2022, the NDA lost 17 MPs. With ground surveys indicating a huge loss for the BJP — hinting that the party could end up winning only 24, as well as the JD(U) — its assessment is its tally would not have gone beyond five to six while with the Opposition — it made sense for the two parties to get back together. For the BJP, it was of paramount importance to transform Bihar, a key Hindi heartland state, from a swing state to a stable one and it struck at the opportune moment.
BJP leaders argued that more than the surveys, which were conducted before the Ram Temple consecration on January 22, it was the party’s political future in the state that helped PM Modi decide in favour of the BJP and JD(U) getting back together. BJP sources said it was Modi who took the initiative and spoke to Nitish Kumar, inviting him back to the NDA. The BJP leadership assessed that the JD(U) with its around 15% vote base in Bihar could disintegrate post-Nitish Kumar and if the BJP did not keep the party close, the RJD could take over at least a large portion of its support base once Kumar’s leadership ends. This would have made the RJD stronger, posing a serious threat to the BJP in the 2025 Assembly elections. “This is a long-term plan while breaking of the INDIA bloc could be the immediate outcome. When the chief leader who went around to unite the Opposition leaves that platform, the entire platform looks ridiculous,” said a senior BJP leader in Bihar.
BJP leaders said the end of the INDIA bloc would percolate into a political situation in other states too, including Uttar Pradesh, where the party is now eyeing at least 10-15 seats to its current tally of 62 (the NDA’s current position there is 66 in the Lok Sabha, while the BSP has 10 MLAs, the SP three, and the Congress one).
The BJP is also into hectic parleys in Karnataka, where the party won 25 of 28 seats in the Lok Sabha in 2019 to consolidate its position that has faced disintegration with the spectacular win of the Congress in last year’s Assembly polls. The party, currently led by B Y Vijayendra, has been in talks to get back those who left the party in the run-up to the state elections. While almost a dozen leaders walked out of the BJP, the party already got the most prominent of them, Jagdish Shettar, back into its fold last week. According to BJP sources, more are set to return to the party even as the party tries to induct some Congress leaders too.
Although the BJP has earned the upper hand in the optics in Maharashtra by bringing in Eknath Shinde and breaking the Shiv Sena, and Ajit Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), there is “hunger” for more. “The continuing disintegration of the Congress could throw more opportunities for the BJP in several states and Maharashtra is one of them. There could be many surprises from the state ahead of the Lok Sabha polls,” said a BJP leader involved in the state unit’s affairs, adding that several prominent faces could join the party in the coming days.
The serious setback the INDIA bloc is facing could just make things easier for the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, party leaders said.