Modi’s Kurukshetra of 4 states

Date:

(Dr Pentapati Pullarao)

The great Mahabharat war between Pandavs and Kauravas was decided in them Kurukshetra battle. There were many battles earlier between them. But finally, Kurukshetra decided the victor. Similarly, in the last phases of 2024 elections, Modi faces a Kurukshetra.  Narendra Modi is aiming for a historic third term as prime minister. The difference between Narendra Modi and Nehru is that Nehru did not have to face regional parties the way Modi faces. When Nehru won his third term in 1962, every state government in India was under the Congress. Similarly, when Indira Gandhi won the 1971 election, there were hardly any state governments controlled by Opposition. Modi’s task is much more difficult Presently, Narendra Modi faces numerous strong regional parties which control state governments and Congress, with 3 state governments… Right now, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Bengal, Jharkhand, Delhi and Punjab are under regional parties. In addition, the Congress is there in Himachal Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. Therefore, Narendra Modi has a strong opponent in all states, unlike Nehru. Modi had set a target of 370 MPs for BJP and 400 for BJP alliance. But like all elections, these figures look very doubtful. Getting a majority would be enough.

Expected result in most states: Everyone kenos that in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, BJP will get very few seats. Then in states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, BJP will do very well. Then there is un-certainty in states like Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Bengal, Odisha and Telangana.  But the results can go anyway.

The critical Kurukshetra states: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, and Maharashtra have become the most important states for Narendra Modi.  In 2019, these 4 states had given the BJP overwhelming victories. But the situation has changed in the last 5 years in these states.

a. Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Bihar have 196 MPs. In 2019, BJP won 170 MPs out of 196. It is this huge figure which made BJP form the government

b. Uttar Pradesh had a BJP government in 2019. But there have been many changes in last 5 years. The main opposition Akhilesh Yadav Samajwadi party has now an alliance with Congress party.  This will consolidate the entire Muslim vote of 20 % behind them. In 2019, the Muslim vote was fragmented between Akhilesh Yadav, Mayavati and Congress. They are also trying to increase their share of Dalit votes.   

c. In Bihar, though BJP alliance formed the state government in 2020 with Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister. But Nitish Kumar suddenly left BJP in 2022 and formed government with Laloo Prasad Yadav. Then again, suddenly Nitish Kumar dumped Laloo Yadav in December 2023 and re-joined BJP to form a government. Such changes and sudden movements has the Bihar electorate disturbed. In 2019, BJP alliance won 39 out of 40 MPs in Bihar. That looks very difficult for the BJP now.

d. In Karnataka, in 2019, BJP won 26 out of 28 MPs. There was a BJP government in Karnataka in 2019. Now there is a strong Congress government in Karnataka, and it has only focused on cash-handouts and demanding people vote for it, in exchange for free things.  It is very difficult for the BJP to get 26 MPs this time in Karnataka. 

e. Why 2024 is different form 2019 in these 4 states?

1. In each of these 4 states, there is a different scene in 2024 from 2019. Between 2019 and 2024, there have been non- BJP governments in Maharashtra, Bihar and Karnataka. In Uttar Pradesh, there is a stronger anti- BJP alliance.

2. In Karnataka, BJP is entirely depending on Modi’s image. The existing BJP leaders are tired faces.

B. Yeddyurappa was expected to swing Lingayat vote in state assembly elections in 2023 and failed. On the other hand, Congress in Karnataka is only aiming to win more MPs and not focusing on governance. Congress has focused only on “cash-transfers and guarantee Freebees”, to win MPs.

3. In Maharashtra, BJP managed to get back the government. Otherwise, there would have been no contest at all, and the anti- BJP parties would have captured most of the 48 MPs. But even today, it si doubtful hat BJP can win 41 MPs out of 48 ,as it did in 2019, since Maharashtra is a very disturbed politically.  

4. For nearly 2 years between 2022 and 2023, there was an anti- BJP state government in Bihar.  In Bihar, BJP is dependent on Modi’s and Nitish Kumar’s image. But like Maharashtra, Bihar politics is very disturbed. In 2019, BJP swept 39 out of 40 MPs. That is not possible today. The political disruptions between 2022 and 2023 have not settled down. The anti- BJP opposition held power for 2 years between 2019 and 2023.

5. In Uttar Pradesh, it is a major challenge for BJP to retain the 64 MPs out of 80 MPs. The chief mishear Yogi Adityanath is popular as is Narendra Modi. But, even if a small percentage of votes shift to the Akhilesh Yadav- Congress alliance, then the BJP will lose many MPs. The situation is different from 2019 and BJP faces challenges in these 4 States. Narendra Modi is popular in these States. But the question is whether the political disturbances between 2019 and 2023 in these states will reduce BJP’s victories. If Modi can turn the clock back to 2019, he should have focused on agriculture and have a better handling of the economy.  Though Modi succeeded in all other sectors, in Agriculture and economy, Modi is begin questioned. That is the biggest issue in the 2024 elections.

(Author is a Political and Economic analyst based in New Delhi)

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