BJP's Mission 2022
India Today|December 13, 2021
The BJP high command hones its electoral strategy for key polls in uttar pradesh and other states to overcome antiincumbency and the health and economic challenges resulting from the pandemic
Anilesh S. Mahajan

ON THE FRONTLINES

PARTY STRATEGIES AND THE CORE TEAMS FOR THE SEVEN ASSEMBLY POLLS TO BE HELD IN 2022

Trust Amit Shah to know just how important the states going to the assembly elections, particularly Uttar Pradesh, in February 2022, will be for the national fortunes of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Last month, while addressing a gathering of over 700 party workers in Varanasi, the Union home minister and former party president told them: “The foundation of the 2024 Lok Sabha election, which will be held under the leadership of Narendra Modiji, will be laid in the 2022 assembly election in UP.”

For the BJP, the seven assembly elections scheduled in 2022—UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur, Goa (which go to the polls in February), and Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh (in late 2022)—will indeed be a significant battle in the run-up to the 2024 general election, determining whether the party will rule for a third consecutive term. These states contribute 132, or 24 per cent, of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, with UP alone contributing 80 seats. Barring Punjab, the BJP is in power in the six other states where elections are due next year. The next round of assembly elections, therefore, will be a verdict not just on the ruling party’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic that has had a devastating economic, social and health impact both at the central and state level but also have a major bearing on its prospects in the general election two years later.

Before 2024, though, the BJP has more immediate concerns to address. Elections to 74 of the 245 Rajya Sabha seats will be held between March and June 2022. Eleven of these will come from UP, five from Punjab and one from Uttarakhand. Of these 17 seats, the BJP has six MPs retiring from the upper house next year. The party currently has 93 of the 245 seats in the upper house and the number of seats the BJP wins in the upcoming assembly polls in February will determine whether it will have a full majority of 123 seats before the general election.

Come July, the country will also elect a new President, where 4,120 members of legislative assemblies and 776 members of Parliament will form the Electoral College. Of these, 590 legislators—a majority from the BJP— are seeking re-election in the forthcoming assembly polls. These five states will collectively have a value of 103,756, or approximately 10 per cent, votes for the presidential elections. Of this 10 per cent, 80 per cent, or 83,824 votes, will come from UP alone. The combination of these factors has made BJP’s Mission 2022 critical, and the party’s leaving no stone unturned to come up trumps.

THE CHALLENGES AHEAD

Of the 28 states in the country, the BJP remains dominant in most, a privilege only the Congress enjoyed once. Currently, the saffron party rules 12 states directly and is part of the ruling coalition in six others. This does put it in pole position for the next round of assembly elections save the battering its invincible image took when it threw all it had into the West Bengal assembly election in April only to be routed overwhelmingly by Mamata Banerjee. Likewise, the BJP’s southern ambitions were thwarted when the CPI(M) returned to power in Kerala and M.K. Stalin’s DMK trounced BJP ally AIADMK to storm to power in Tamil Nadu. The small consolations were the decisive win in Assam and a government in Puducherry with ally N.R. Congress. The BJP has also emerged as the major Opposition party in West Bengal, with a vote percentage of 38.1 per cent to the TMC’s 47.9 per cent, obliterating the Left and Congress.

Yet, ever since its decisive majority (303 for BJP, 353 for NDA) in the 2019 general election, the party has struggled to repeat its performance in subsequent assembly elections. In Bihar, despite an excellent strike rate of 67 per cent (winning 72 of the 110 seats it contested), its ally Janata Dal (United) fared badly and the coalition huffed and puffed across the finish line, with the Lalu Yadav-less Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) putting up a spirited fight. In Delhi, despite a high-decibel and polarising campaign, it could not unseat Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party.

In addition, the BJP is acutely aware that its handling of the devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has seriously dented its image, at the Centre as well as in the states it rules. Nor is the Indian economy, despite encouraging reports of respectable GDP growth, including in the recent quarter, out of the doldrums yet, with both the lack of jobs and inflation emerging as major concerns. Moreover, in each of these six states, the BJP must combat anti-incumbency, factionalism, the exodus of allies and the inability of the local leadership to keep the house in order. In the past year, therefore, the BJP has pushed all the buttons at its command and worked on a game plan that it hopes will put it streets ahead of the Opposition.

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