BJP's success in the North East shows that it is a well-oiled formidable election machine that takes up challengers head on
Barely two months into 2023 and the election scene for the National polls due in 2024 is already hot. While Rahul Gandhi of the Congress party has finished his Bharat Jodo Yatra, in an attempt to unify the party and the country, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has hit the ground running. On January 16 and 17, the party held its national executive meeting in the capital. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who remains the chief vote-getter for the party, put out an impressive road show. The state Assembly polls are now the priority.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that India, as a country, is always in election mode.And the BJP is a party that today matches that fervour, as being a political party that has evolved into a formidable election machine. This year nine States will go to the polls followed by the 2024 National elections in which Modi is expected to seek a straight third term as Prime Minister. There are many who predict that 2024 is a done deal and that the BJP in all likelihood will come back to power.
There are many reasons behind the evolution of the BJP from a fringe political party to the world’s largest political party today. As of 2019, its total membership stood at 180 million and it leaves the Chinese Communist Party in the second slot in terms of the number of members. It is also the richest political party in India today. Its cadre which is spread across the country is one of its biggest strengths. The party, despite its impressive political victories in the last decade, doesn’t take any election lightly. A simple pointer in this direction is the recent Delhi Municipal elections which saw BJP ministers and leaders campaigning hard. Party insiders point out that in 2024, the emphasis will be on the 144 seats that the party didn’t win in 2019.
Another factor that the party has been building on in recent years is its social media outreach. Other parties realised the potential of digital media in mobilising public opinion much later. It is estimated that from 2014 to 2019, Internet users in India increased by 65%. This surpasses mainstream media and also gives social media the power to influence opinions and narratives. It is estimated that today the party supervises at least 100,000 WhatsApp groups and over 100 pages on Facebook. This electoral battle in the social media space is something the Opposition is still far behind. The BJP as a party also relies strongly on data and planning. The welfare schemes that the party launched have targeted women voters and then it is no surprise that in the 2019 National Polls, the party got the most share of female votes. There is no denying the fact that the Modi charisma plays into it and his appeal in the rural sector is huge. Building on this, the party has given greater representation to women. In 2019 it fielded the maximum number of women candidates among the political parties and later made more women ministers than previous governments.
One of its biggest strengths is simply Modi. It is his connection at rallies from the Hindi heartland to the North East of the country where he is able to find a connection with the masses. As 2023 begins its march to 2024, all bets seem to be on the BJP coming back to power. But then politics is the game of the unknown and it remains to be seen whether a united Opposition can spring a surprise and make a dent in this election machine.
(The author, a Delhi-based journalist and foreign affairs analyst. The views expressed are personal.)