How BJP won the local legislative elections?

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrate after winning three out of four states in key regional polls outside the party headquarters in Ahmedabad, India, December 3, 2023.REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo

The ruling party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has tightened its grip over India’s populous northern belt in the last local legislative elections concluded on Sunday, expanding its dominance of a key region ahead of general elections in which Modi is seeking a third term.

The results of voting for the governments of four states, with a cumulative population of more than 240 million people, were another blow to the main opposition party, Indian National Congress (INC). The party, which ruled for a majority of India’s history as a republic, has struggled to find its way back after Modi rose to national power in 2014. INC was hoping to use the state elections to build momentum for national elections next spring, but instead lost all the states in which it raced against BJP.

BJP managed to re-elect its government in Madhya Pradesh for a record fifth term, and topple INC in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The only victory for INC came against a smaller regional party in Telangana. In the smaller fifth state, Mizoram, a small regional party won the elections.

The Arguments

The BJP’s recent success is attributed to four key factors. First is the use of welfare schemes. The party, initially perceived as pro-business and urban-focused, has broadened its appeal by implementing various welfare programmes, including cash transfers, free rations, and affordable gas cylinders. These initiatives have resonated with voters grappling with unemployment, agricultural challenges, and growing inequality.

Modi’s personal charisma, often referred to as “Modi magic,” is the second factor. Modi’s popularity contributed to improved ties with Western nations and a projection of India as a leader of the Global South.

The third factor is BJP’s electoral funding and the use of money for social media and a well-funded campaign, including numerous rallies with Modi, which made the campaign very visible.

The last factor is the lack of opposition unity, attributed to internal factionalism and an inability to form alliances. The party’s leadership, including Rahul Gandhi and the Gandhi dynasty, appeared disconnected from the ground reality for the entire campaign.

The Facts

BJP has achieved a decisive triumph in regional elections, gaining control of crucial states and providing a significant boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The setback for the Congress party in these three states, which collectively contribute 62 members to the national parliament, signals a challenging road to return to power at the national level. Analysts suggest that the historic party, once at the forefront of India’s fight for independence, must reassess its approach as Modi successfully shifts the focus to Hindu nationalism in Indian politics.

In the summer, the INC formed a national alliance called INDIA that included smaller and regional parties. However, the Congress decided to fight alone in states where it saw a good chance of victory against BJP. They badly lost. Now, the refusal of Congress to join together in these elections with the same parties it hopes to ally with in the national fight against Modi diminished its standing in the eyes of those partners.

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