After the passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament in the special session last week, the think-tanks of the BJP aided, by veteran poll strategists, have been busy working out the best time suited to the party for holding the Lok Sabha elections, due in April/May of next year. Preliminary studies have revealed BJP’s interests will be better served by preponing the elections. Now, the choice is between November-end and February.
The 2019 Lok Sabha elections were held from April 11 to May 19 in seven phases. The results were announced on May 23. Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has more than six months left for holding the Lok Sabha elections if the normal schedule is followed. The Election Commission is ready with its preparations. For the coming Lok Sabha elections, the EC’s plan is to bring down the number of phases of polling from the earlier seven to maximum five or even three. The EC can issue directive once it gets the nod from the Government.
For the BJP leadership, the worrying point is the growing consolidation of INDIA and the confidence being shown by the Congress Party after the Mumbai conclave. The Congress leader Rahul Gandhi looked buoyant in his latest interaction with the media when he said that the Congress would win in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and would have a closes have in Rajasthan, while in Telangana also, the party will do well. While about Telangana Rahul was a bit optimistic, he was right about the other three states. The Congress is set to capture MP and retain Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
As regards the coming state assembly elections, the polls are due in four states by December 2023. Only in MP, the normal schedule is in January 2024. So in normal course, the EC will like to hold elections to all five states by December 2023. If the elections are held as per schedule and the BJP loses all the three states belonging to the Hindi heartland, INDIA, especially the Congress, will get a big momentum, which will have a significant impact on the Lok Sabha elections. Can BJP afford to allow that? A section of the BJP thinktanks argues that let the Lok Sabha elections be held along with the five state assembly elections.
Their point is that Prime Minister Modi has ably positioned himself and the government in a supreme pedestal after the series of successes starting with the Chandrayaan 3, G-20 summit and now the Women’s Reservation Bill. Prime Minister is focusing on the women’s issues and the special programmes for the OBC women with an eye on 50 percent of the electorate. The RSS has instructed its sakhas to take this message of PM for women to the remotest parts of the country. Interestingly, the RSS campaign focuses only on PM and not on the BJP.
BJP think-tanks are also taking into account the impact of the present India-Canada diplomatic crisis over the killing of the Khalistani terrorist Nijjar. Prime Minister has been firm in denying Canada PM’s allegations. The external affairs minister S Jaishankar has been making statements in the United Nations General Assembly about the double standards of the big powers, meaning, among others, the USA. The Congress has supported the India government position fully knowing whatever happens, finally, it will lead to political advantage to the PM before the elections. But the issue is so delicate that the Congress and other INDIA constituents will keep on supporting the government’s stance.
For Narendra Modi, it is a win-win situation. If Canada and its Western allies escalate the situation, PM can take a strong position opposing that, which will get big support from the Indian people and the parties. Modi will try to position himself as the leader of Global South, fighting the western big powers, which cannot tolerate the emergence of a major power like India. US president Joe Biden is in two minds as his well-crafted policy of bringing India into a front against China in Asia-Pacific is in crisis, if India continues with its present belligerence.
If on the other hand, the Five-Eyes powers (including USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and of course, Canada) dilute the tone and come to some sort of understanding to keep India on the expected track, PM will vindicate himself, while the BJP drum-beaters and the corporate media will project Narendra Modi as godly avatar who has beaten the demons of the West in a holy war. Either way, it is advantage Modi, with INDIA constituents only watching from a distance.
This section therefore wants that all these advantages now available with the Prime Minister can be capitalized on if the Lok Sabha elections are held along with the state assembly polls. These analysts are sure that Narendra Modi’s image and acceptability will influence the state assembly verdicts if the elections are held simultaneously.
As against this, there is a strong counter-view that the Lok Sabha elections can only be held after the inauguration of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya in the last week of January 2024, possibly on 22nd January. The Sangh Parivar leaders have the feeling that along with other recent achievements of the Prime Minister, this inauguration will have a catalytic effect on the Hindu community and it will be a strongest appeal to the electorate on behalf of the BJP. So, this section wants the Lok Sabha to go to poll only after the Sangh Parivar cadres make full use of the Hindutva issue in the campaign. If the Lok Sabha elections are held in February, the BJP will get full advantage of all the major commitments on Hindutva promised by the Prime Minister in the 2019 election manifesto. Naturally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take the final call.
For the INDIA constituents, they should be battle-ready for the Lok Sabha elections, whether it is held in November this year, or coming February, or as per schedule in April/May 2024. The Congress leadership should not wait for the results of the state assembly elections for starting the seat-sharing negotiations in the states. They should start the process right now, as it will take a lot of time in a large number of states. INDIA constituents should not find themselves unprepared if suddenly the Lok Sabha elections are announced. In 2004, the then Prime Minister of the NDA-I government, Atal Behari Vajpayee, preponed the Lok Sabha polls by five months taking into account his government’s ‘India Shining’ hype. Belying all expectations, NDA was trounced and UPA formed the new government. For INDIA, this 2004 example carries important lessons. Just a big hype nationally is not enough. (IPA Service)