It is certain that regional leaders will depend on PM Modi’s aura and the popularity of Central welfare schemes.
There is no need for the Bharatiya Janata Party to announce the candidacy of some central ministers or senior leaders before the upcoming state legislative Assembly elections. For decades, the BJP has been making efforts to keep the second line as strong as the frontline, much like the battlefield of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP. In Madhya Pradesh, leaders like Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Kailash Joshi, and Sundar Lal Patwa have advanced within the party. Similarly, in Rajasthan, leaders like Vasundhara Raje, Om Mathur, and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat have progressed with Bhairon Singh Shekhawat being present there. In Uttar Pradesh, leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Murli Manohar Joshi, along with Kalyan Singh, Rajnath Singh, and later Yogi Adityanath, have been promoted to Parliament or the Legislative Assembly. The strategy of winning elections based on the popularity of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national leadership, as well as the work and reputation of regional leaders, has been quite successful. At one time, in the Congress, leaders like D.P. Mishra, Shyamacharan Shukla, Kamalapati Tripathi, Narayan Datt Tiwari, Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, Mohan Lal Sukhadia, Haridev Joshi, Ram Niwas Mirdha, Shivcharan Mathur, and Ashok Gehlot progressed over time, and their roles in Parliament or the Legislative Assemblies evolved periodically.
The strategy of the BJP is to secure seats where prominent candidates are relatively weaker in this election. Additionally, the party will win state elections with the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It will work to encourage Chief Ministerial aspirants, serving as a form of motivation. The absence of a chief ministerial face will inspire regional leaders to work even harder. This can be seen as a healthy competition and a test of strength. The strategy aims to put a check on nepotism and dynasty politics within the party, especially since such allegations have been levelled against the Congress. The party will now issue only one ticket per family.
In Madhya Pradesh, four Members of Parliament (MPs), three Union Ministers, and the National General Secretary, Kailash Vijayvargiya, will contest the upcoming state Assembly elections. Meanwhile, there has been no announcement of a ticket so far for the incumbent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The party has entrusted him with the responsibility of leading the election campaign, but for the future, there is an emphasis on fielding alternative options and entrusting the responsibility of victory to local leaders in their respective constituencies. Kailash Vijayvargiya has showcased his organizational skills in several states in recent years and now aims to tackle the challenges faced by the BJP in his Malwa region. Similarly, Jyotiraditya Scindia could be made the prominent face of the promotional campaign. Fielding MPs and Union Ministers sends a collective leadership message, and this message has been underscored. The party hopes that by deploying its best team in the field, it will gain an advantage over the Congress. Moreover, each state will entrust experienced leaders with the task of turning around constituencies that were lost five years ago. Not only that, but this will also prepare a strong foundation for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP can employ a similar strategy to uproot the Congress in other states such as Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana. In Rajasthan, potential Chief Ministerial faces include Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, and Arjun Ram Meghwal. The possibility of 70-year-old Vasundhara Raje, who served as Chief Minister twice and is a member of the Rajparivar family, returning as Chief Minister seems unlikely. While she is seen as the biggest and most influential leader in the BJP in the state, she has been somewhat sidelined in recent years. She became effective with the support of the BJP and the RSS. However, the misconception of considering herself indispensable, as exemplified by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, can be dispelled. Vasundhara has received recognition within the party, but her record is not without controversies and scandals.
In Chhattisgarh, the BJP has chosen a different path. The party has nominated Vijay, the nephew of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, as its candidate for the top position. The party would prefer that the family divide works in its favour because it has devised a plan for a “Baghel vs Baghel” showdown. Vijay Baghel is a Member of Parliament. He may contest elections from the Patan constituency in Durg district, where a contest between Bhupesh Baghel and Vijay Baghel has been ongoing since 2003. Bhupesh Baghel has won this seat in the last two elections. Other potential BJP candidates include Union Minister Renuka Singh and Rajya Sabha MP Saroj Pandey. So far, the BJP has not included the name of former Chief Minister Raman Singh in its list, but the party will likely attempt to overshadow his name and achievements during his tenure in the state.
The BJP’s focus on Telangana is part of its “Mission South” plan. The party does not want to leave any stone unturned in its quest to form a government in southern India. Often, the party’s hardcore nationalist agenda has been sidelined from the perspective of South India. Elections in Telangana are scheduled for November. Here, Union Minister G. Kishan Reddy is a prominent candidate. Reddy hails from the Thimmapur constituency in Telangana and is also the party’s state chief. KCR Raj, who is raising his voice against corruption and arbitrariness, is also being supported by the Congress. The BJP aims to benefit from the fight between these two leaders. There was a time when the party had hopes of a miracle with Venkaiah Naidu, but he remained primarily involved at the national level.
In this context, it should be acknowledged that Prime Minister Modi is committed to leading the electoral battlefield in every state, keeping both new and old leaders by his side for the benefit of the party’s future interests. In the Congress, victory is credited to the Gandhi family, while the blame for defeat is placed on regional leaders. Modi does not hold individuals like J.P. Nadda, Anurag Thakur, Yedurappa, and Bommai solely responsible for defeats in states like Himachal Pradesh or Karnataka. However, it is certain that regional leaders will depend on Modi’s aura, the welfare schemes of the central government, and his popularity.
The writer is editorial director of ITV Network—India News and Dainik Aaj Samaj.