The BJP understands quite well that Narendra Modi is their trump card, and they have more chances of winning the elections if they can turn it into a contest between Modi and the rest.
The next elections for the Indian Lok Sabha or lower house of parliament are expected to be held in April-May 2024 before the incumbent government’s term expires on June 16, 2024. There are 543 seats in the Lok Sabha representing constituencies in various states and Union Territories across the country. To form its government, a political party – or a coalition of political parties – must win 272 seats of the Lok Sabha.
As per a recent survey carried out by the prestigious India Today Group, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is set to secure 306 seats out of 543 in the forthcoming elections. This is way beyond the 272-seat threshold required for government formation. The newly formed opposition alliance is predicted to win only 193 seats, while other parties will secure 44 seats.
The situation is quite bleak for opposition parties, which came together in July this year to form a grand alliance to challenge the ruling BJP. This coalition, known as the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), includes the Indian National Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, and Trinamool Congress, among other regional political parties. However, they are up against Narendra Modi, who has very skillfully created a persona of invincibility around himself. The BJP understands quite well that Modi is their trump card, and they have more chances of winning the elections if they can turn it into a contest between Modi and the rest. Modi’s nearest rival, Rahul Gandhi, does not enjoy such popularity within the electorate. If the competition were held between the two of them, Rahul would stand no chance at all.
Apart from his personal appeal, Modi has several other factors that may help him succeed in the next elections. First of all, the combined opposition has yet to figure out a person who could be presented as an alternative to Modi. The absence of such a charismatic politician in the opposition ranks was the main factor that helped BJP win elections in 2019.
The next factor is funding. BJP has no shortage of money. Moreover, it controls several key states and, thus, can mount a spectacular election campaign without worrying about monetary constraints. The combined opposition does not enjoy this financial liberty. Funding issues are likely to limit their reach and impair their election campaigning.
Apart from his personal appeal, Modi has several other factors that may help him succeed in the next elections.
The third and most important factor is the division within the opposition ranks. Though the constituent parties of INDIA alliance have shown great enthusiasm towards a shared goal of unseating Narendra Modi, it is more likely to fall apart like the ‘’Mahagathbandan,’’ also known as Grand Alliance, in 2019. The reason is that each party within the coalition is seeking to secure the premiership for itself. The NDA has no such internal differences. Modi is their uncontested contender for premiership.
However, all is not yet lost for the opposition. The INDIA alliance managed to win 4 seats out of 7 in the by-polls in early September this year. The rest were grabbed by the NDA. These by-polls held in six different states were seen as the first real confrontation between the two camps since the formation of an opposition alliance on July 18. INDIA did not only manage to attain numeral supremacy over NDA, it also managed to crack NDA’s stranglehold over Uttar Pradesh (UP) by winning the seat in Ghosi. UP is currently ruled by the infamous Yogi Adityanath, known for his sizzling sermons and violent methods of intimidation. The loss of Ghosi inside its fortress has shocked the NDA.
The incumbent government is also apprehensive about appreciating commodity prices and rising unemployment. The lack of economic opportunities for the masses is another concern raised by several people questioned during the survey. Only a tiny fraction of the population thinks its living standards have improved since the BJP took power in 2014. The rest believe that it has either deteriorated or remained the same. In short, Modi’s promise of ‘’Ache Din’’ has not materialized for the majority.
The Adani affair has further reinforced the public perception that big businesses – especially those close to Modi – have significantly benefited from the government’s economic policies at the expense of small and medium enterprises. Framers, salaried persons, and wage earners have largely been neglected. Most seem to agree with Rahul Gandhi’s allegations that Modi personally favoured Adani while the latter built up his great fortune.
While Rahul Gandhi is no real threat to Modi for the time being, it is pertinent to mention that his ratings have improved considerably after his Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March) last year. He is now perceived as the most suitable person to lead the opposition against Modi.
The BJP is keeping a close eye on INDIA and Rahul Gandhi. The party knows it has already lost Muslim and Christian votes that will eventually land in INDIA’s lap. Rahul Gandhi’s rising popularity is a threat to Modi. There are at least six months before the elections, which is enough time to turn the tables on the NDA.
On its part, INDIA, or the united opposition, must understand that the battle has only just begun.
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