Combat mode: On the BJP and the general election 2024 campaign

The BJP hides its failings by adopting an aggressive strategy

The National Council Meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi on February 17 and 18 has set the tone for the party’s Lok Sabha election campaign. Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the party a target of winning 370 seats in the Lok Sabha, compared to the 303 seats that it had won in the 2019 general election. The symbolism of the number is about Article 370, which his government invalidated in fulfilment of a fundamental principle of the party. The hollowing of Article 370 that provided a notion of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, and the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya were two of the three issues that have propelled the BJP’s rise. Having fulfilled them during his second term, Mr. Modi has staked claim to a third, which he said was crucial for the country. In fact, he has raised the stakes by setting a higher target of 370 seats and an additional 370 votes in every polling booth which, if met, can raise the party’s voteshare above 50%. Mr. Modi has also told the party leaders that only the symbol, and not the candidates, mattered. A lot many of the sitting Members of Parliament of the BJP are expected to make way for new candidates.

The peripherality of individual candidates of the BJP is also linked to the centrality of Mr. Modi in the election, which was clear at the conclave. The party will also focus on converting the raft of welfare measures that it has either launched or repurposed into votes. Alongside revving up its organisational engine, the BJP is also seeking to expand its footprint by the continuous induction of leaders from other political parties on the one hand, and tying up alliances with regional parties on the other. Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s sharp attack on the Opposition on the question of corruption and dynastic succession, indicated that the party will remain in offensive mode in the run-up to the general election. Its opportunistic alliances with leaders and parties that it has accused of corruption are shrouded by claims of good governance and transparency. The BJP manages to pull off this feat by wrapping its claims in strong communal identity terms. A resolution passed by the Council hailed the Ayodhya temple as a manifestation of Ram Rajya, an ideal type of just and fair governance. The party is trying to mobilise Hindu solidarity around the temple, and simultaneously present it as an emblem of a non-sectarian national agenda of development and progress. It is a hard act, but the BJP seems to manage this by keeping itself constantly in combat mode.