Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s real political worth is now on test. The wave of Hindu communal polarization has been ebbing almost after a decade in India, which was unmistakenly felt, first during the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha election, and then in Karnataka. In absence of any Hindu communal wave to ride on, Modi’s charisma and Hindutva campaign of BJP-RSS miserably failed, and the opposition was able to throw BJP out of power in both the states. Moreover, in majority of Lok Sabha seats, one-on-one fight scenario has steadily been emerging with fast evolving opposition unity.
Hindu communal polarization has been uniting force for warring BJP leaders within the party since 2014. Ebbing of the communal wave have just weakened the uniting thread and the infightings have come to the fore vertically from top to bottom and from central leadership to the rank and file in states. We witnessed such infightings during Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka elections, which cost the party too dearly, and which indicated that Central BJP leadership has lost their grip over the warring factions and keeping them united has just gone beyond their power.
Similar situations of infighting have been prevailing in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh for quite some time. These states are slated for poll by the end of 2023, which are considered to be semi-final for the general election 2024. The only succour for the BJP is that the Congress the chief opposition political party is also infested with severe level of infightings. Obviously, at a time when the Hindu communal sentiment is ebbing and the people are placed face-to-face with predicaments of life, like high level of unemployment especially among the youth and worsening cost-of-living crisis, political manipulation of votes in favour of BJP has become tougher. Congress has decidedly an upper hand in these states.
Modi and BJP-RSS leaders have left no stone unturned but they have not been successful in stopping the ebbing Hindu communal wave in their favour. To understand it even better, Uttar Pradesh can be taken as a case study. They worked hard, but Hindu communal tide in their favour never returned since 2014, when BJP could win as many as 71 seats from the state and two seats were won by their alliance partner Apna Dal. BJP’s prospect across the country had become shaky by 2019. However, just before the general election, on February 14, 2019, a large military convoy was attacked at Pulwama, in Jammu and Kashmir. A few days later, Modi government resorted to Surgical Strike on Pakistan on February 26, and during the election campaign BJP and even PM Modi resorted to jingoism and minority demonization. It raised the communal passion across the country, and BJP was able to increase its seats to 303 and NDA 353 in 2019 as against 282 and 336 respectively in 2014.
Such a Hindu communal passion benefited the BJP more in newly impassioned geographical reasons, but not in states like Uttar Pradesh where people had enough bitter experience of the communal politics. In Uttar Pradesh BJP was reduced to only 62 seats in 2019, and its alliance partners just retained its two seats. The jolt was not limited in just number of seats, but BJP lost as many as 14 seats they had won in 2014. It was the result of bitter experience of the people regarding communal politics, who were just carried away in the wave during the earlier election. It is worth mentioning that the opposition was able to win 16 seats in UP, and now in the inner assessment, BJP has found that their 4 sitting seats are further endangered, making 18 seats in “Red Zone” for the party, and in only 51 seats they hope to win, though with little difficulties. In case of opposition unity or even tacit understanding among the opposition political parties, which is only a distant hope as of now, contests would become even more difficult. Longer bitter experience of communal politics may well go against the BJP in other states too.
BJP and PM Modi would find the political battle in 2024 more difficult than they have been anticipating so far presuming that there would not any united opposition to them, and in absence of opposition unity they would have almost walk-over due to division in anti-BJP votes among all political parties in opposition. Now, as things are moving, we can see clearly that opposition unity is steadily and surely emerging, much to the chagrin in the BJP camp in general and in Modi-Shah duo in particular.
Opposition has been planning one-on-on fights with BJP in as many as 450 Lok Sabha seats out of 543 during the General Election 2024, if BJP contests that many seats. In 2019, BJP had contested 437 seats, only 12 seats more than it contested in 2014. Even though the united opposition fail to do so, there is no doubt left by now that in majority of seats, there would be joint opposition candidates.
Opposition meeting will now be held on June 23. June 12 meeting was postponed to ensure participation of all like-minded political leaders, because Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, DMK Chief and Tamil Nadu CM M K Stalin were preoccupied elsewhere. In the June 23 meeting, not only these leaders but also West Bengal CM and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief and former CM Uddhav Thackeray, NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar, and top Left party leaders including Sitaram Yechury of CPM, D Raja of CPI and Dipankar Bhattacharya of CPI-ML (Liberation) would participate.
Among the major opposition political parties, YSRCP (Andhra Pradesh), BJD (Odisha), and BRS (Telangana) are still keeping away from the Opposition meet, but then it would not brighten the political prospects of BJP in the respective states, since the party has little or almost no support base.
Every political party seems to be ready for give and take in terms of seat sharing. Even if total pre-poll unity across India does not become a reality, strategic statewide unity or arrangement cannot be ruled out, which would ultimately bring Modi within the enclosure of the Chakravyuh that the opposition is trying to build. BJP seems set to lose considerable number of seats making it possible for the combined opposition to deprive the BJP of power at the centre for the third time. (IPA Service)