Monday, February 6, 2023

BJP dominated in 2022; disjointed Oppn proved no match

Its rivals hoped 2022 would ask some difficult questions of the BJP in a year of many important electoral battles. But as the year comes to an end, it has instead presented the Opposition with more than a few posers while the ruling party raced ahead in the sweepstakes for the Lok Sabha polls in 2024.
The BJP under its charismatic helmsman in Prime Minister Narendra Modi is looking to become the first party in over five decades to win three back-to-back Lok Sabha polls.
The Congress had won a majority in five consecutive elections between 1952-71, first three under Jawaharlal Nehru and two under Indira Gandhi.
As the year 2022 signs off, the BJP’ hopes of achieving the feat were boosted.
It further consolidated its sway in strongholds with big victory in Uttar Pradesh, the lynchpin to its 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha triumphs, and a record-breaking win in Gujarat while the Opposition camp was marred by division, a lack of coherent national narrative and the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party.
The Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra under Rahul Gandhi might have added some heft to his ideological counterpunch to take on the BJP and drew constant scrutiny from the ruling party but if this has had any electoral impact, there is no clear sign of it so far.
The only notable reverse the BJP suffered in the year was its loss of power in Himachal Pradesh where its gap with the Congress was less than one per cent of the total votes cast. However, the fact that its defeat to the Congress in a state that has traditionally voted out the incumbent party was seen a mild surprise only attests to the political dominance it maintained in the year.
In the five state assembly polls held through February-March, it retained power in the four states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur while the Aam Aadmi Party swept Punjab, where the BJP has never been a big player, as the internecine factional battles within the ruling Congress helped the regional party’s surge.
As has been the case since Modi ushered in a rigorous work regime for the party’s organisation since 2014, the BJP’s formidable ‘sangathan’ went methodically about its outreach and expansion plans through the year, a strategy which has paid it rich dividends.
Modi himself was holding a roadshow in Gujarat a day after the party notched up spectacular wins in Uttar Pradesh and three other states in March and when Gujarat was polling in the last phase on December 5, top BJP leaders from across the country were brainstorming in Delhi over the next round of state polls.
The BJP also scored a point by having the country its first tribal President in Droupadi Murmu while its vice-presidential candidate Jagdeep Dhankhar, who comes from the politically significant caste of Jats, had a facile win over his opposition rival.
Issues like inflation and unemployment might have agitated a section of voters but one poll after another showed that most people, including a chunk of otherwise unhappy electors, continued to repose their trust in the BJP and rejected the alternative offered by a disjointed and uninspiring Opposition, as seen in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.
If 2022 brought a bagful of happy outcomes for the BJP, it was, however, also not without its share of food for thought for the party.
The win of an enfeebled Congress down on resources and star power in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh underscored the old woes of the BJP when local factors overshadow its familiar national narrative built around Hindutva, nationalism, ‘vikas’ and the pull of Modi.
The AAP’s success in ending its 15-year reign in Delhi municipal corporation and in fetching close to 13 per cent votes in Gujarat on its plank of populist schemes while refusing to join ideological issues with the BJP indicate some reconfigurarion of battlelines in the coming polls.
That the AAP has largely occupied the space left out by a shrinking Congress suggests more churning in the Opposition in the next year where the BJP is likely to face organisationally a more robust Congress in states like Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh while the Arvind Kejriwal-led party will continue to look for an opening in new territories.
The BJP succeeded in ousting the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra by splitting Shiv Sena, it lost a major ally and power in Bihar where Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) walked out on it.
Formidable in its own strength, the party is also without any major ally now.
But its win in two assembly bypolls in Gopalganj and Kurhani in the eastern state against the combined might of the ruling coalition highlighted its strong social base and promised a fascinating political battle for one-upmanship in future there.
As the saying goes, a week is a long time in politics and the next Lok Sabha polls are still a good 15 months away. But as the New Year arrives, what is clear is that the BJP’s stars continue to shine the brightest while its rivals’ search for a way to dim their glow go on.
Kumar Rakesh, PTI

Must Read