The BJP has won a massive victory in Gujarat in the latest assembly elections for which it certainly has reasons to rejoice. But the way the BJP leaders including PM Narendra Modi as also sections of the media are projecting the results as the decimation of the Opposition parties and possible sweep of the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls lacks any basis.
In fact, the lessons from the latest two assembly elections and the MCD polls are that the BJP, despite the all-out campaign by its top leaders including the Prime Minister and mobilisation of massive resources, has lost comprehensibly in Delhi at the hands of the AAP and in Himachal Pradesh by the Congress.
The Himachal Pradesh results are, in particular, significant. The Congress has got back a Hindi speaking state. This was the first victory of the Congress in the last four years in the assembly elections. The victory was achieved despite massive propaganda and central backing to the BJP campaign by announcing a number of mega projects before the elections. It was really creditable for the Himachal Congress leaders that they withstood the Modi juggernaut and extracted a win.
This win is a positive sign for the Congress in its fight against the BJP in the forthcoming state assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and takes the battle forward to the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
Now what are the signals given by the last assembly elections in 2022 to the Opposition parties as also to the BJP? There is a positive development that both the Trinamool Congress and the AAP joined the strategy meeting in Parliament this week called by the Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge. For a long time, these two parties were avoiding meetings convened by the Congress as the largest Opposition party. This means that these two parties have some rethinking that for fighting the BJP and the Modi Government at the national level, an understanding with the Congress is necessary.
The most important lesson for the Opposition parties following the latest assembly poll results is that there should not be any third front; there will be only one anti-BJP front and that will include Congress. But this does not mean any electoral front. The anti-BJP electoral front will vary from state to state depending on the respective strength of the anti-BJP parties and the ground reality.
The political reality in the states is so varied that any talk of total joint front of the Opposition against the BJP in 2024 polls will only spoil the efforts of minimum achievable unity before or after the polls.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra has entered its fourth month. It will culminate after another two months, in the first week of February next year. It is part of a long term ideological battle against the RSS without bothering much about the electoral gains in short term.
At the moment, there is no need for projecting any Opposition leader as the Prime Minister candidate before the polls and the common minimum programme also can be drawn up after the 2024 poll results are out. The issues concerning the PM candidate and CMP will be relevant only if the Opposition wins or there is a hung Parliament.
It is no coincidence that the BJP high command under Home Minister Amit Shah discussed the plan of action for 2024 Lok Sabha polls on December 8 itself after the declaration of the assembly election result. They identified 144 seats for special focus which they lost in 2019 elections. They worked out a strategy on how to retrieve many of these seats.
The BJP is on the back foot because it has lost most of its powerful allies in the Hindi-speaking states. The exit of the JD(U) and the SAD has, in particular, given a big jolt to it electorally.
The BJP’s strategy is to keep the losses from its existing 303 seats at the minimum and make up this loss from the gains from the seats it lost the last time around. But this strategy can be ably challenged by the Opposition parties if they move with a flexible electoral strategy from state to state ensuring maximum mobilisation of anti-BJP votes in favour of the strongest Opposition candidates in that state.
For the Opposition, it will be wise to ensure that the strongest anti-BJP Opposition party in each state gets to decide the nature of the alliance in that state to take on the BJP.
As of now, there are no problems in Bihar and Tamil Nadu.
The Congress is the major Opposition party in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Himachal and Gujarat and it will have the main responsibility to fight BJP in these states. If the Congress feels it necessary to have an alliance with smaller anti-BJP parties, its decision will be final.
In Karnataka, the Congress is the major opposition party, but the JD(S) has good influence in some districts. It will be in the best interests of Opposition unity if the Congress and JD(S) work together to take on BJP both in state assembly polls in 2023 and the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
Similarly in Jharkhand and Maharashtra, the Congress is an active part of alliances and the party can fight the BJP only through these alliances.
In Assam also, the Congress is the main Opposition party and it will be in the best interests of the Opposition if there is a total alliance against the BJP comprising the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the other anti-BJP regional parties as also the left. For the Opposition, the defeat of the BJP in 2024 Lok Sabha polls is of crucial importance in Assam since this will lead to the collapse of the BJP’s control of all other North Eastern states.
In West Bengal and Kerala, the political scenario is very clear. In Bengal, the Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee is sufficiently strong enough to take on BJP on its own. There is no question of any anti-BJP alliance in Bengal. That is not possible and desirable also.
In Kerala, the Left Democratic Front will fight the Congress-led UDF and whoever wins, belongs to the anti-BJP combination.
However, there are new elements in the political situation in Punjab with the massive victory of the AAP in the last assembly elections.
Presently, TRS led by K Chandrasekhar Rao is firmly with the anti-BJP Opposition. He is even reconciled now to the idea of having the Congress as an ally in the anti-BJP opposition. But in Telangana, TRS will fight the Lok Sabha polls on its own against both the BJP and the Congress.
Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh, the YSRCP led by Jagan Mohan Reddy will fight both the Congress and the BJP. There is a possibility of the BJP aligning with the TDP led by Chandrababu Naidu in the Lok Sabha polls.
In Odisha, the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik will fight both the BJP and the Congress in the polls to maintain BJD’s regional dominance.
The non-BJP political parties may fight among themselves in the states in assembly elections, as also in Parliamentary elections, but in post 2024 elections, it has to be ensured that common understanding is arrived at about a non-BJP government, in case the BJP loses.
The political path for the next sixteen months before the Lok Sabha elections will have to be travelled with strong common sense and vision by the Opposition parties if they are really serious about unseating Narendra Modi as PM. Courtesy National Herald