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BJP’s electoral anxiety: Tactics, insecurities, and the pursuit of power

The evident lack of confidence within the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is striking. Instead of displaying assurance in their position, the BJP appears to resort to tactics such as the arrest of prominent figures like Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Bharat Rashtra Samithi’s Kalvakuntla Kavitha, and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal by agencies like the Enforcement Directorate or Central Bureau of Investigation in the lead-up to Parliamentary elections.

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By: Dipak Kurmi

The evident lack of confidence within the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is striking. Instead of displaying assurance in their position, the BJP appears to resort to tactics such as the arrest of prominent figures like Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Bharat Rashtra Samithi’s Kalvakuntla Kavitha, and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal by agencies like the Enforcement Directorate or Central Bureau of Investigation in the lead-up to Parliamentary elections.

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The relentless targeting of opposition leaders carries a clear implication: Prime Minister Modi may lack confidence in securing a third consecutive term. Despite public assertions from Modi and his allies about sweeping victories with 370 seats for the BJP and 400 for the NDA, doubts seem to plague their ranks. If their confidence were truly unwavering, why would the Modi administration persist in striving for opposition-free elections to secure BJP triumphs?

Modi’s sharp intellect and unwavering realism define his leadership. He understands that electoral success isn’t guaranteed for the BJP, and he doesn’t rely solely on his charisma. While undoubtedly India’s most prominent leader, he recognizes that personal appeal alone won’t ensure victory for his party.

Modi understands that the electorate evaluates the government based on its performance. With unemployment reaching unprecedented levels and essential commodity prices skyrocketing, life has become increasingly difficult for many. The widening wealth gap exacerbates the situation, as the rich prosper while the poor struggle. Modi and his team are undoubtedly concerned about these factors as they assess the BJP’s chances in the upcoming elections, contributing to their unease.

Such is the severity of the situation that the BJP is resorting to unconventional tactics for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, including fielding former chief ministers like Shivraj Singh Chouhan from Madhya Pradesh and Basavaraj Bommai from Karnataka. Additionally, senior leaders are tirelessly analyzing caste dynamics in each constituency, reflecting the party’s deep concern and determination to secure favorable outcomes for their candidates.

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The BJP’s evident insecurity is highlighted by the Income Tax department’s decision to reopen assessment proceedings against the Congress Party for accounts dating back to 1994-95. This move seems akin to exhuming long-buried corpses for post-mortem examinations decades later. Interestingly, while Modi and other BJP leaders often accuse the Congress of corruption, the BJP itself has been seen embracing leaders with criminal records, raising questions about the party’s stance on ethical governance.

The recent inclusion of Janardhan Reddy, a figure with a staggering record of 20 police cases, including nine from the CBI for alleged forest and mining violations, raises eyebrows. Such defections only fuel the opposition’s portrayal of the ruling party as a washing machine for tainted leaders seeking redemption. Last week, the CBI’s closure report on a major corruption case involving former Congress leader Praful Patel, who joined the BJP eight months prior, added to the scrutiny. Naveen Jindal, another Congress MP embroiled in the ‘Coalgate’ scandal, has also joined the BJP ranks, alongside his mother, Savitri Jindal. The trend prompts questions about the BJP’s motives in embracing politicians from other parties entangled in significant corruption controversies.

In the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, the Congress party secured a historic victory, surpassing 400 seats in the Parliamentary elections. Since then, no other party or coalition has managed to achieve such a feat. For three decades following 1984, no single party could muster enough seats to form a government independently. However, in 2014, the BJP broke this trend by winning 282 seats, capitalizing on the failures of the Congress and promising a new era of prosperity, termed “achchhe din” (good days).

Subsequently, in 2019, the BJP further expanded its mandate to a remarkable 303 seats, leveraging the Pulwama attack to its advantage. Prior to the Pulwama tragedy, the BJP’s electoral prospects seemed less certain. However, the event proved to be a turning point, reshaping the political landscape. Following the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the BJP anticipated a surge in support, hence proclaiming ambitious seat targets, signaling a triumph of Hindutva ideology over secular-liberal narratives.

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For a pragmatic party like the BJP, achieving a two-thirds majority is a formidable task. The party recognizes the limited opportunities for further gains, particularly in North India where it has already made significant inroads. In states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Punjab, the BJP’s organizational reach is constrained, making it challenging to expand its electoral footprint. Despite securing 25 out of 28 seats in Karnataka in 2019, the current political landscape, with Siddaramiah-Shivakumar’s leadership, may lead to a decrease in BJP’s seat count. Similarly, despite BJP’s presence in Maharashtra through alliances, the NDA is unlikely to replicate its 2019 success of 41 seats out of 48. Even with Nitish Kumar’s return to the NDA fold in Bihar, the electoral outlook appears less promising compared to the previous elections when the NDA secured 39 out of 40 seats.

The BJP’s current state of unease, marked by a crisis of confidence and acute insecurity, reflects the looming uncertainty as the decisive moment approaches. With the hour of reckoning drawing near, the party finds itself grappling with doubts and fears of losing its grip on power. In a desperate bid to cling to authority, the BJP is employing every available tactic, driven by a sense of panic and apprehension. (The writer can be reached at dipakkurmiglpltd@gmail.com)

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