Despite its current political standing and ever-present optimism, the BJP cannot take next year’s general elections results for granted just yet
While the Bharatiya Janata Party used the first day of its National Executive to pat itself on its back and sing praises of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiatives for the welfare of the country’s distressed farming community, its leadership spent the second and final day being aggressively optimistic and audaciously ambitious about its prospects in the 2019 general elections.
In the event, the party passed a political resolution to return to power next year with a bigger mandate than that of 2014.
“Today we have the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah. That is the reason the BJP is ruling 19 states. We have over 350 MPs and 1,500 MLAs. Besides these, we are present in every local body and municipal corporations. We are confident of returning to power in 2019 with more brute majority,” Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar quoted Rajnath Singh as saying.
Hitting out at opposition parties for their efforts to form a grand alliance, the BJP leader stated that the joint Opposition’s single point agenda was to stop Modi and in that effort they were doing negative politics.
“The opposition parties are dreaming to gain the power. They have no leader, no policy, no strategy and no vision. They are frustrated and that is why they are doing negative politics. But we have a leader who has a vision, passion and imagination,” Javadekar said.
“Their single point agenda is to stop Modi.”
Claiming that despite being in power for more than four years, Modi’s popularity graph has not gone down. He said this was due to the Prime Minister’s pro-people policies.
“The Prime Minister is determined to make the country a ‘New India’ by 2022 and we are moving in that direction. We will fulfil this commitment by eradicating poverty, corruption casteism,” the Minister said.
He said the political resolution talked about how internal security measures were improved during last four-and-half-years, that has led to a fall in terror attacks and extremist activities.
The next day, the pledge was upgraded by many notches.
Prime Minister gave a clarion call of Ajeya Bharat (A country which remains victorious and cannot to be subjuguated by anyone) and Atal Bhajapa (A BJP which remains firm to its principles), according to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Modi made his remarks to charge up party workers before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in his concluding speech. The PM said that the BJP does not see power as an instrument to occupy high position but as an instrument to go among the masses and work for them with dedication.
“We work with dedication for our principles. The principles remain firm but the strategy keeps changing from time to time,” the Prime Minister was quoted by Prasad as saying.
He said that the Prime Minister also highlighted that how his government has worked for the development of all the segments of the society without discriminating on the basis of the caste, region or religion.
“The focus of this government is on ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’. About five crore got benefits under the Ujjawala scheme and the gas connections were given to the people without discriminating anyone,” Modi said.
“About 18,000 villages were electrified in the last four-and-half-years. Around 5,000 of them were from northeast region. They do not vote us but despite that we worked for them,” he added.
Setting the tone for 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Modi also termed the proposed Mahagathbandhan a compulsion of leaderless grouping. Stating that the BJP does not see “any challenge” and those who failed in government also failed in opposition, Modi pointed out that the disparate parties coming together was a vindication of his government’s success.
“Today, there is discussion about Mahagathbandhan. People who do not see eye to eye, who cannot walk together, who have no political or ideological understanding, who can’t even tolerate each other are thinking of forging a Mahagathbandhan and embracing each other. It is the biggest vindication of our success,” Prasad quoted Modi as saying.
“Mahagathbandhan — its leader is not known, the policy is unclear and intention is corrupt. These are so powerful words of the Prime Minister…,” Prasad said.
Referring to the Congress, Modi said that “nobody is prepared to accept its leadership. Even small parties are not willing to accept its leadership. Some treat it as a burden.”
The Prime Minister said that there should be an effective opposition in a democracy for accountability.
Modi made veiled digs at Congress President Rahul Gandhi by saying opposition parties were not prepared to accept Congress leadership, and there was also a situation of Gandhi’s leadership not being acceptable within the grand old party.
He accused the party of speaking “lies” and asked BJP workers to fight them while taking the work done by the government in last four years to the people.
On his part, while addressing the party workers, BJP President Amit Shah said the hard work of the Prime Minister and his dedication for the country has made him unbeatable till date.
“Modiji has not taken rest after the 2014 election. He has covered almost 300 Lok Sabha constituencies after becoming Prime Minister and he will cover the rest of the parliamentary constituencies before the 2019 elections,” he said.
“Our Prime Minister works tirelessly for the country. I am sure we will win in 2019 and will remain in power for next 50 years,” Prasad quoted Shah as saying.
“The Congress came to power in 1947 and remained undefeated till 1967,” he said, adding that he was not saying in arrogance but on the basis of government’s performance.
“The people of the country are getting more oriented on performance and works of the government,” he said.
“Modiji has not lost a single election since 2001 because of the kind of the work he has done in the state,” he said.
To win the 2019 elections, Shah asked nine crore dedicated party workers to visit about 22 crore families to highlight the work of the government in the last four-and-half years.
“By contacting them we can reach out to every household before 2019,” Shah said.
Shah also reviewed party’s preparations for forthcoming assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – where BJP is in power – besides Mizoram and Telangana.
While the event ended on a gung-ho note, many political analysts expressed their reservations over the notion that it would be all smooth-sailing for the saffron party next year. To back their opinion, they pointed to a few developments that had transpired barely a week before the BJP’s big event in the national capital.
Start with Karnataka. Less than four months after the assembly election, the Congress won the most seats in Karnataka’s 105 urban local bodies early this month, pushing the BJP to the second spot, which gave currency to the notion that a Congress-JD(S) combine will sweep the Lok Sabha polls.
“The Congress winning 982 of the 2,662 civic body seats across the state shows people’s confidence in the party and our coalition government with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S),” state Congress President Dinesh Gundu Rao told reporters in Bengaluru .
“The Congress cannot be written off in Karnataka any more. We (Congress and JD-S) will have a pre-poll alliance for the Lok Sabha elections which we are confident of winning,” Rao added.
In the polls for urban bodies across 22 of the state’s 30 districts held on August 31, the Congress won 982 of the total 2,662 seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came second with 929 seats while the JD-S remained far behind with 375 seats. Independents bagged 329 seats, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) 13 and other regional parties and fringe outfits won 34 seats.
While the Congress won majority seats in 10 districts, it was looking at an alliance with JD-S in a few regions to keep the BJP out of power, as it did in the Assembly election in May which threw up a hung verdict, Rao said.
Even as the BJP won majority seats in seven districts including the coastal districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada, the JD-S and Congress tie-up was all set to control most of the urban bodies in the state.
In the Assembly election, of the 224 constituencies, the BJP won 104 seats, the Congress 80 and JD-S along with BSP (38).
JD-S leader and Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy termed the results a victory for the coalition government. “The outcome shows that JD-S and Congress have won the trust of not just the rural electorate but urban voters as well,” Kumaraswamy told reporters.
Smarting from the disappointing results, the BJP blamed the JD-S and Congress for its poor showing.
“The BJP should have won more seats but we could not perform the way we wanted to because of the Congress-JD-S coalition,” BJP state unit President B.S. Yeddyurappa told reporters in Bengaluru.
What’s worse? While Karnataka is under the rule of its rival parties, the BJP is facing a distinct possibility of losing in three other states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – where it is the incumbent power.
According to a recent big survey by ABP News and CVOTER, the Congress party is tipped to win 130 out of 200 seats in Rajasthan, 117 of the 230 seats in Madhya Pradesh and 54 of the 90 seats in Chhattisgarh, while the BJP is expected to win 57, 106 and 33 seats, respectively, in the three states.
Many political experts are of the view that positive electoral results will not only be a shot in the arm for Congress at the national level, but also boost the party’s possibilities to forge a grand alliance with other similar-intentioned parties to overthrow the BJP-led NDA from the Centre.
Others have noted that the way Opposition parties joined hands against the Modi government nationwide to protest rising fuel prices a few days ago was nothing but an indication of the rising possibility of a so-called grand alliance giving the NDA a run for its money in the upcoming general elections next year.
They aver that not all political parties will join the grand alliance with the singular purpose of pushing Prime Minister Modi and the BJP out of power – many may bond over common issues and causes.
For instance, the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha did not support the bandh but made it amply clear that it was strongly against the hike in fuel prices.
“We have been holding protests across the state to make the people aware of the steep price rise of the petroleum products,” said BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra on September 9. The Odisha government also declared that schools would remain shut to ensure the safety of the students.
In neighbouring West Bengal, too, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) said it supported the issues raised by parties that have called for a nationwide shutdown, but it was against strikes since those led to loss of working hours.
However, it was decided that the party would hold protest rallies across West Bengal against rising fuel prices. “We support the issues raised by them. But at the same time, we do not want to waste another working day, especially when our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is trying to build a new Bengal,” TMC Secretary General Partha Chatterjee said.
Then, there are others who reckon that the BJP is placed strongly enough and need not worry much about the next general elections, especially considering the Opposition still lacks a leader to match Prime Minister Modi at the national level. However, the very survey that predicted the BJP’s loss in the assembly elections of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, has indicated that the saffron party was a clear favourite for the 2019 general elections. And 56 percent of the 28,000 people participating in that survey wanted to see Modi as the Prime Minister again.
All said and done, there appeared to be one overarching conclusion to this discourse: With so many dynamics at play, the BJP will be ill-advised to take anything for granted while the Congress will be well-advised to get its act together as next year’s big election draws ever nearer.