The political pulse felt by the majority of analysts in the five poll bound states – Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Telangana – suggests that “Modi Factor” has failed to emerge as decisive aspect so far. Rather, the roles of BJP’s state leaders have become crucial for final outcome of the election results.
For a long time since the Lok Sabha election 2014, “Modi Factor” have been seen as a decisive factor in the BJP’s victories in the national and several state elections. RSS-BJP clan still believe in the “Modi Factor” a term used to describe the influence of the PM Narendra Modi’s popularity and charisma on electoral outcomes in favour of the BJP, in spite of the party’s humiliating loss in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka recently.
Modi factor did not even work earlier in the states like Delhi, Bihar, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh, while the opposition political partied emerged even stronger, due to a range of issues which included infighting in the BJP’s state units, lost illusions of the people regarding PM Narendra Modi’s unfulfilled promises, and the popularity of the opposition leaders. These factors are seen in all the five poll bound states.
State leaders are obviously in pivotal role in influencing the election outcomes, not the Modi factor. Though PM Modi is mascot of the BJP and the chief election campaigner in every state, the Central leadership has adopted a multi-pronged strategy which included the move for collective leadership replacing the earlier strategy of putting CM candidates, fielding heavy weight BJP leaders in the contest which included even Union Ministers and sitting MPs, balancing the warring factions in allotment of tickets, and decision to bring large number of party workers and RSS activists from other states.
As for Mizoram the MNF, an ally of BJP, is in dominant position. In Telangana, BRS is in dominant position. Congress is the chief contender in both the states, and the BJP is far behind with not much presence in the electoral scene on the ground. However, PM Modi have already campaigned in Telangana, and may be campaigning for his party in the coming days. He is yet to start his campaign in Mizoram.
BJP, at this point of time, seems to be interested chiefly in the three Hindi speaking states – Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – where BJP has much stakes in terms of Lok Sabha seats. BJP had won 9 out of 11 Lok Sabha seats in Chhattisgarh in 2019; 28 out of 29 in Madhya Pradesh; and all the 25 seats in Rajasthan. BJP cannot therefore afford any loss in the current Vidhan Sabha election in these states, which would dampen the prospect of PM Modi and BJP returning to power at the Centre after 2024 Lok Sabha election.
Congress leader and the Deputy Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh T S Singh Deo, who had recently praised Modi in a public function is the state, has pointed out that the BJP’s plan to make the prime minister Narendra Modi a “star campaigner” in the Assembly elections will not be a “deciding factor” in results, because he is not a pivotal factor in the state’s politics. As for Congress, he said that the party had implemented its promised policies. “We are more than ready. Not over-confident, but certainly confident. We have delivered on the ground,” he said. He was certainly not balling wide, and even all the election surveys are putting the Congress ahead of the BJP. BJP claims a closer contest with the ruling Congress in the state.
Though, PM Modi has been aggressively campaigning in Rajasthan against the ruling Congress led by CM Ashok Gehlot. BJP is relying on the tendency of the electorate of the state in the last three decades not to return the ruling party in power for the next term. Additionally, BJP believes that it can capitalise on anti-incumbency against the Gehlot government and internal rifts between CM Gehlot and Sachin Pilot factions. However, there is severe infighting even within the BJP, more serious than in the Congress. Moreover, if there is anti-incumbency against Congress led state government, people are also unhappy with the PM Modi led union government’s anti-people policies. “Modi factor”, therefore, will have little influence on the final election outcome. Rather, the performance of the local BJP and Congress leaders during the election campaigns, and a complex interplay of various other factors would be decisive.
It is Madhya Pradesh, where Modi factor seems to be working a little, where the ruling BJP is trying to retain its power. BJP had lost 2018 election in the state to Congress. Congress had formed the government but after and engineered defection of Jyotiraditya Scindia, BJP toppled it to form its government in March 2020. Shivraj Sing Chouhan is the CM, but BJP has not projected him as CM face this time, chiefly due to severe infighting within the party. BJP is contesting this election in the name of PM Modi as a mascot, but the state BJP leaders remain the pivotal factor for the future of the party in the state. Merely, criticising former Congress state governments would not bring the desired fruit to the BJP, since the electorate have other alternates to think on. As for allegation of corruption against the Congress leaders, the people of the state also know of the corruptions under the BJP rule, such as Vyapam scam.
Within the BJP state unit and among the people, there are resentments against CM Shivraj Chouhan for his autocratic style of functioning and nepotism. On the other hand, Congress and its CM face Kamalnath is growing popular, due to pro-people stand.
The division of anti-BJP votes among the opposition parties is still a factor that may go in favour of the BJP in some of are the states, since several INDIA constituents are in the fray, along with the parties such as BSP that has pockets of influence. Congress has pitched for Caste Census, and it has emerged as an important factor, that may not only upset the BJP’s divisive politics of communal polarisation but also belittle the so called “Modi Factor” that still may work only in certain regions and for only some sections of voters. Electorates, by and large, are weighing their options on other factors based on their predicaments, such as livelihood problems, unemployment, and healthcare. (IPA Service)