By Sushil Kutty
How the Bharatiya Janata Party has transformed the upcoming assembly polls into Modi Vs. Congress by sidelining state-level leaders is the flavour of this election season running up to and right into general elections 2024. The fact of the matter is there’s no doubt that it is Congress Vs. BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. In Telangana, it has gravitated to Congress Vs. Bharat Rashtra Samithi and in Mizoram it’s Congress Vs. Mizo National Front. So the question boils down to why is the BJP central command pushing to make it a Modi Vs. Congress contest, and why state-level leaders are being sidelined?
In Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been shorn of all self-esteem, such that he has been reduced to pleading with women voters to not forget him for if they did not vote BJP this time, they’ll miss him for the rest of their lives. Some of the women were left misty-eyed. Question remains, is the BJP poised to lose all the assembly elections where it faces the Congress? Is that why the BJP has made it a Modi Vs. Congress contest in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan?
Shivraj Chouhan Vs. Congress is a foregone defeat for Chouhan. In 2018, Chouhan did not need Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP state unit romped home on its own steam. This time Chouhan’s pitch is not being heard. The BJP central command cut him to size by pitching a number of prominent MPs including Union ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia, Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Singh Patel and Faggan Singh Kulaste. There is also BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
All of them came in with instructions to campaign for the party. None of them is a clear leader of the pack. There are intelligent folks who believe the BJP is losing not only the elections but also its mind and these folks are “ecstatic” about it though not a little worried that the BJP central command has turned the contests into a “Modi Vs. Congress”, which shouldn’t surprise anybody because that is how it is.
And so it is, in all three states of central India, the contest has willy-nilly turned into a Modi Vs. Congress battle. If in Madhya Pradesh, Chouhan and Scindia have lost their sparkle, in Chhattisgarh, ex-Chief Minister Raman Singh has been pushed to the sidelines. And this man at one time had no rivals to speak of, not even Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Today, once heavyweight Raman Singh is a shadow in the shadows of irrelevance.
Ditto in Rajasthan, where former BJP Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia has been relegated to the sidelines such that she cannot display frustration, disappointment or anger. The BJP central command, which itself works from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s shadow, has ensured it remains Modi Vs. Congress in Rajasthan with the enforcement directorate occasionally throwing its weight behind Modi.
But why Modi Vs. Congress? Isn’t facing Congress at the INDIA-level not enough? Surely, BJP can wait till the 2024 general elections to test the Congress with Modi, why bring Modi into every state going to polls when there were ranking members of the BJP in all the states where the BJP is main rival to the Congress? Why gamble with the Prime Minister’s name if the BJP is in danger of losing the states?
In Madhya Pradesh, for example, the BJP cannot decide whether to lose or to win? Congress supporters are citing “opinion polls” to claim potential victories. But the verdicts of the opinion polls haven’t stopped the BJP from fielding “PradhanMantriModiji” from Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Is it because there is no other recourse but to float a Modi balloon and hope and pray it wouldn’t burst?
So, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote a “Chitti” to Madhya Pradesh voters pleading for “direct support”. The letter quoted the party’s campaign slogan ‘ModiKe Mann Me Basey M.P., M.P. Ke Mann Me Modi’. Of course, with Modi’s picture in the frame – Modi’s face to launch a billion votes. Is that the party’s strategy for the five states as well for the 2024 general elections? The “Chitti” is as much for the Lok Sabha polls, as it is for the assembly elections.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s face used to be prominent on all election material in three earlier assembly polls including the one in 2018. This time Chouhan is lost among the faces. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s face is on every poster, pole and lamp-pole – the only one visible from the Shiv-Shakti Point on the Moon. Particularly the hoarding with the legend ‘M.P. Ke Mann Me Modi’ alongside a large Modi picture dwarfing the pictures of 10 others including BJP president JP Nadda.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the flavor of the election season for the BJP for the rest of this year. In not just Madhya Pradesh but also in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, it is Modi Vs. Congress with the complete whitewash of the state units of the BJP. And while Prime Minister Narendra Modi struts the stage, state-level BJP leaders can only appeal to the voters to not forget them. Like Shivraj Chouhan striking an emotional chord with the emotional “Sisters, you will not find a brother like this. When I leave, you will miss me.” But the way the party is behaving, it is like the “sisters” will be missing Prime Minister Narendra Modi if they don’t vote for the BJP in the five states going to polls and in the 2024 general elections.
The BJP is highlighting the importance of “collective leadership” in the assembly elections but the reason Modi dominates in all publicity material and it is Modi Vs. Congress is as much to prepare the electorate for the assembly elections as it is to prepare them for general elections 2024. The BJP wants another brute majority in the Lok Sabha for the pursuit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s happiness. (IPA Service)