Last Updated: January 02, 2023, 14:47 IST
Stepping into 2013, the over eight-year-long Manmohan Singh government had started to unravel under a series of corruption charges. There was a sense of political drift, and people were prepping for an alternative in 2014.
A decade later, faced with a similar timeline after being over eight years in power, Narendra Modi government’s fortunes seem quite the opposite. Nearly 15 months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP under Modi has scored historic wins in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat last year. Banking on Modi’s popularity, the BJP has pinned big hopes of wins in the nine state elections coming up in 2023. At the face of it, the Modi brand appears to be unchallenged.
Rahul Gandhi was the principal challenger to PM Modi in 2019, an election that he pitched on the issue of the Rafale ‘scam’ but failed. The bigger factor seemed the image attached to him by a considerable number of people — of a ‘Pappu’ or a non-serious politician. After posing no electoral challenge, Rahul quit as the Congress president.
It is in this context that the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, that is straddling 2022 and early-2023, is repositioning Rahul’s image to endear him to the electorate as a “fighter” who is walking the length of the country to connect to people. Congress leaders like Kamal Nath and Bhupesh Baghel have pitched Rahul as the ‘PM candidate’ against Modi.
The Congress is trying to first improve its ‘product’ to make it acceptable but there is another challenger on the horizon in Arvind Kejriwal whose party thinks he is a better alternative as a ‘PM candidate’. Fresh from its success in Punjab and a debut in Goa and Gujarat, 2023, is, however, a make-or-break year for AAP’s national dreams.
This is because most of the nine state elections in 2023 are essentially direct contests between the BJP and Congress.
The States Fight
While state election results this year could be no parameter to gauge what may happen in 2024, the BJP and Congress would see it as a warm-up to the big battle.
Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are two states where Congress would fancy its chances given the party formed governments here in 2018 before its MLAs defected to the BJP and brought down the Congress governments. These are also states where the Congress has a strong organisation and cadre, as well as leaders like DK Shivakumar and Kamal Nath.
BJP would be confident about Rajasthan, where a bitter fight between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot persists, and could result in a situation like Punjab. BJP also aims to put up a strong fight in Telangana and keep up the good show in the north-eastern states going to polls this year. It will also aim to reverse its huge loss in Chhattisgarh in 2018.
The ‘Modi factor’, however, could still outweigh everything in the 2024 general elections as people vote differently in state elections and general elections. Like, in December 2018, Congress won the three big states in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh but lost 62 out of the 65 Lok Sabha seats in these states just five months later.
Nationalism and Hindutva remain BJP’s trump cards this year as well, in the run-up to 2024 general elections. The strong response to China amidst the ongoing tensions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the gradual movement towards the enactment of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and the completion of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya for darshan this December will be BJP’s centre-piece pitches.
BJP could promise UCC implementation in states going to polls this year, as is already being considered by committees set up in four BJP-ruled states. This could be BJP’s preparation for the roll-out of UCC nationwide before the 2024 general elections. For the big battle in 2024, BJP is sure to prepare a fertile ground in 2023.
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