One Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of the BJP during the last seven years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s watchful eye is to remain high on confidence even in the face of adversities such as COVID-19 pandemic and slew of poor administrative decisions.
The confidence on equal measures both on the government and political levels has helped the Modi dispensation to run roughshod on opposition and register series of election victories.
As we inch towards the next round of assembly elections in five early next year that includes politically significant Uttar Pradesh (UP), it will be interesting to view the confidence level of the BJP.
As is well known that road to Lok Sabha passes through UP, which elects 80 MPs, it is but natural that the saffron party accords greater significance to it and that is why its leaders are trying to make “right noises” bordering religion and patriotism and call to win over 300 assembly seats. The confidence level of the BJP has to be viewed through this prism.
On the face of it the party has given strong impression about its preparedness for the elections as well as the surging confidence level also as a measure to psychologically and strategically pin-down the already divided opposition.
However, the statement of Union Home Minister Amit Shah made in Lucknow on October 29 to mark kick-starting of the party’s membership drive gives an interesting context to BJP’s confidence level.
“Modi ji ko phir se ek baar ’24 mein pradhan mantri banana hai, toh ’22 mein phir ek baar Yogi ji ko mukhyamantri banana padega (For Modi to be made the prime minister in 2024, Yogi Adityanath will have to be made chief minister again in 2022),” Mr Shah averred. On the face of it nothing seems to be wrong with this carefully made statement.
However, it gives an impression that how hard the brains behind this statement had to slog to strike a critical balance between Mr Modi and incumbent chief minister the Yogi. It is also a departure from the usual pre-poll electoral practices being followed by the party. In the normal course or in any other state the entire focus would have been on the Prime Minister’s persona but in this case the surprise attachment came in the form of the Yogi.
It smacks of an embedded feeling in the BJP circles about the confidence level to win the election fair and square in the name of Mr Modi while ignoring the saffron clad chief minister. Through his statement Mr Shah has tried to maintain the criticality of the over-arching Modi factor- which the country has repeatedly witnessed in election after election- which is crucial for the BJP and at the same time ensures that the Yogi very much remained in the frame so as not to disturb the balance. It has now been proved beyond any doubt that Mr Modi is indispensible in the BJP’s current scheme of things.
It will not be out of place to say “Modi is BJP and BJP is Modi” but UP seems to be a different ballgame this time around. Usually it has been the policy of the BJP to contest state assembly elections in the name of Mr Modi, which has paid dividends all through, without naming a chief ministerial candidate.
The UP this time seems to be a different case for the party given the political importance of the state in context to the 2024 Lok Sabha election. At the same time Mr Shah’s statement has somewhere acknowledged the indispensability of Yogi Adityanath as well. He has cleared all doubts and put to rest all speculations on not projecting him as the chief ministerial candidate again. This apart it has also confirmed reports that he is no pushover as has been the case with the party’s sitting chief minister’s in other states such as Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand.
In the normal course and as has been witnessed in many of the assembly elections the UP election should have been fought in Mr Modi’s name with Mr Shah holding the command on ground. It seems ignoring the Yogi was no option with the Modi-Shah combine.
Notwithstanding the round-theclock media blitz launched by the Yogi Government projecting its “achievements” with entire focus on him rather on Mr Modi, as has been the trend, to keep the Yogi in good humour seems to be the BJP top brass’s compulsion. Serious questions have been raised on his government’s tackling of COVID-19 pandemic situation, farmers’ agitation, dealing with law and order situation among other such issues. Projecting a strong image full of confidence without disturbing the current arrangement seemed to have been perceived as the best bet by the party’s poll strategists as UP with 80 Lok Sabha seats holds the key to Mr Modi’s third term as Prime Minister.
The strategists very well know that UP assembly election results will generate momentum for the ruling or the opposition parties in the run up to 2024 general elections so very less scope for experimentation as witnessed in some other states.
The BJP, it seems, is not oblivious to the fact that opposition is a rank divided house and still there are no signs of their coming together. However, the party is not taking anything forgranted and maintaining a close vigil on the opposition camp.
Whatever be the visible confidence level of the BJP ahead of the UP assembly elections, it is going to be an interesting electoral battle ahead with both the saffron party and the opposition having an eye on the next general elections.
The BJP has already bared its strategy by not keeping any cards close to its chest, in the form of a chief ministerial candidate at least, certain elements of surprise lie with the opposition parties such as Samajwadi Party, Congress and Rashtriya Lok Dal.
The major element surprise would be if these parties would come together or at least have some understanding to ensure direct contest with the BJP.