As of Sunday afternoon (December 3), trends for the state Legislative Assembly elections in 210/">Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana showed the BJP taking the lead in the first three states. With this, the party has asserted its presence in three large states in northern India, in what is also called the ‘Hindi heartland’.
BJP leaders told The Indian Express that the results have exceeded their expectations. Despite the exit polls predicting a tight contest in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the BJP has managed to score an impressive margin ahead of the opposition Congress party. Further, it has gained a significant lead in Chhattisgarh, where it was seen as lagging behind the Congress during the campaign.
What are some of the factors that have helped move the results in the party’s favour?
1. Modi factor: The continued popularity of the Prime Minister
With its respective state units lacking charismatic and widely accepted leaders, the BJP has gone to the polls with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the face of the party. His popularity is still intact on the ground, helping push the party candidates ahead of the rival Congress in key constituencies.
Minutes after the trends hinted towards a landslide victory for the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Union Minister for Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar was quick to attribute the win to Modi’s popularity. Even while admitting that the welfare schemes initiated by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan have played a key role in the party garnering support, particularly among women voters, the party talking heads have highlighted the welfare schemes by the central government.
Although the BJP had refused to term the assembly elections as a semi-final to the Lok Sabha elections due next year, party leaders strongly believe that the results would have a deep impact on the general elections. The outcome would raise questions over the leadership of Rahul Gandhi – the most vocal critic of Modi – over the opposition bloc, INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance).
In 2018, the last time these states held assembly elections, BJP lost in all of them. This was followed by a win in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections that saw more seats going to the BJP than in the previous general elections in 2014. It led to the belief that Modi’s acceptance as a strong leader among the electorate could be relied upon for the assembly polls, too.
An image of the Prime Minister was projected, showing him as an emerging global leader and how Modi has elevated India’s position in the global scenario. The BJP has thus been able to consolidate the support base, transcending caste and class lines in every state. For example, despite a weak state leadership in Chhattisgarh, the BJP manages to lead in 20 of the 34 tribal seats, which matters in a state where nearly 1/3rd of the population is tribal.
It shows that the acceptance of Modi and the electorate’s trust in him, cutting across the caste lines, have been the biggest strength of the BJP since 2014 and that is still intact.
2. The women voters
According to BJP leaders, what worked in BJP’s favour in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is the women voters’ support. Focusing on this demographic, the party announced special schemes in the manifesto.
In a state like MP, which has 26 million women voters, Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s success has always been linked to this support base. Incidentally, the number of women who voted in this election has gone up by 2 per cent in Madhya Pradesh.
In Chhattisgarh, BJP leaders pointed out the slew of promises that it unveiled just four days ahead of the first phase of polling on November 7, including cooking gas cylinders at Rs 500 for poor families and Rs 12,000 per year financial assistance to married women, helped it counter the Congress campaign on welfare schemes. Party leaders said there was an instant positive reaction to the promises.
3. BJP’s organisational strength
Unlike in the assembly elections in the past, where the voters differentiated between the Lok Sabha and the state elections to favour the opposition parties, the BJP has been able to translate the factors that play in its favour in the general election to assembly elections as well.
Despite the fatigue factor against the party in Madhya Pradesh, where it was in power for almost two decades, the party focussed on its organisational strength and coordination between the party and the government.
“In the last three years, there was always an attempt to increase the communication coordination between the party and the government. We never allowed the cadre to feel disappointed,” said P Muralidhar Rao, who was in charge of the party in Madhya Pradesh. In Chhattisgarh, despite the perceived weakness in the state organisation, the BJP’s attempts to focus on the booth level management have yielded positive results, according to party leaders.
4. The messaging
BJP leaders said its attempts to present a combination of Hindutva, development and welfare politics to counter the Congress’s welfare push through a larger message has worked well on the ground. They added that it helped counter the party’s alleged “appeasement” towards certain communities.
Projecting Modi as a man of development, highlighting his welfare measures as ‘Modi ki guarantee’, and the party’s campaign saying it kept the interests of the Hindu majority at the forefront, have all helped the party achieve the outcome, said a party leader.
While party leaders criticised the Congress government’s “appeasement policies” during the campaign rallies in Rajasthan, its campaign hoardings across the state are promising jobs, power, drinking water and a robust law and order system. “Rozgaar paenge, BJP ko laenge” “Goondagardi hataenge, BJP ko laenge”, said its posters in Rajasthan.