BJP May Feel the Pain of Bihar in 2024, Opposition May Get a Much-Needed Face
The reality is that BJP is not invincible in the north and is limited to a few pockets in the south.
When the rhetoric of Narendra Modi, the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation, and the Bharatiya Janata Party has been reverberating across the country, it looked as though no one could afford a tiff with the BJP – at least in the 'cow belt'. But Bihar managed to slip right out of its hands in broad daylight, while the party was busy celebrating its victory in Maharashtra.
The pain of the political hit by Nitish Kumar is also expected to be felt by the BJP in other states, and even in the 2024 general elections.
Today, the common perception is that the BJP is omnipotent and omnipresent. But if we look closely at the map of India, the BJP is not a formidable force to reckon with below Madhya Pradesh, except in Karnataka. Even along the 'Hindi belt,' the BJP is not as strong as it claims to be, except in Uttar Pradesh.
In Maharashtra, it had to break up the Shiv Sena to form the government. If Uddhav Thackeray decides to put up a fight and proves Shinde a traitor, he would be able to garner public support and sympathy votes.
The Assembly election is due in Madhya Pradesh next year, but in the recent Panchayat elections, the Congress won more seats than the BJP. Even in urban areas, the Congress gave a tough fight to the BJP, which had to be content with merely nine mayorships instead of the earlier 16 .
In Rajasthan, where elections are due next year, the BJP is divided between the camps of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and state BJP president Satish Poonia. Their organisational structure in the state remains in a tattered state, and the party would be up against the 'wily' Ashok Gehlot – known as a 'magician' in politics. In such a scenario, no one can assure a guaranteed win.
Despite all the humdrum, the BJP was nowhere to be seen in Punjab while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) scored a spectacular win in the recently concluded Assembly elections. It could take a long time before the BJP attempts to stage a comeback in the state.
In Gujarat, where elections are due later this year, the BJP has somehow managed to placate Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor. The last election was also a close call for the party, which has never lost a state election since 2002. So, the ride of the BJP in Gujrat is not expected to be a smooth one either.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-Congress alliance had decimated the BJP in during the 2019 Jharkhand Assembly elections. Though elections are away in 2024, preparations are already underway to decimate the opposition through ED-CBI. It is hard to assess that how assured the BJP is about the popular public support in the state.
In Haryana, the BJP had almost lost the government but managed to form the government with the JJM, against whom the party ran a shrill campaign.
The BJP tried every trick in the book in West Bengal, such as poaching leaders from other parties, racking up communal issues, and using central investigative agencies against political opponents. But in the end, Mamata Banerjee prevailed.
In Chhattisgarh, where Assembly elections are due next year, Congress' Bhupesh Baghel appears in a strong position. The BJP organisation in the state is not in good condition and changed its state president, appointing Arun Sao as the all-important organisation secretary, deputing Ajay Jamwal. However, Sao is not considered mighty enough to take on Baghel.
In Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal is holding down the fort and even challenging the BJP in its own boroughs through guerilla tactics.
The BJP has lost some of its sheen in Uttar Pradesh, with non-BJP voters rallying around the Samajwadi Party after the BSP's ‘blue’ with a tinge of saffron faded. Akhilesh Yadav was quick to take shots over the situation in Bihar saying, "Bihar has given the slogan of BJP-Bhagao (chase away the BJP)."
All in all, there are clouds brewing against the BJP in the north. Though it is true that voting patterns during the general election differ from the state election, JP Nadda's claim that the BJP would remain the last standing force while all the regional players got decimated may not hold true.
It has been observed that the voter who votes against the BJP shifts sides during the general election. But looking at the condition of states in the Hindi belt, it is certain that neither is the BJP invincible nor is its dream of a country without an opposition coming true any time soon.
The only catch is that the onus is on opposition parties to come up with a face that appeals to the pan-India voter and could gain their trust. If that happens, the BJP is going to find the 2024 general election an uphill task.
Could Nitish Kumar Become the Face of the Opposition?
Before joining the National Democratic Alliance, Nitish Kumar had a national ambition, but the rise of Modi threw cold water on his hopes. This is exactly why the development in Bihar is considered important.
Now, Nitish is back in an alliance that includes the Congress, without which the regional players will always fall short while challenging the mighty Modi.
Mamata Banerjee is trying her best to project herself as an alternate to Modi but her fierce nature and non-Hindi background make her a tough choice for a consensus.
Political parties may even agree on her name but gaining acceptance among the voter in the north would be difficult. In such a situation, Nitish Kumar can always emerge as a consensus candidate and that is why the development of Bihar is important from the national perspective.
History tells us that both during the emergency and even before it, Bihar was the vortex of political change in Indian politics.
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