BJP Hopes To Win Nine Out Of Ten State Elections In 2023 With Less Opposition

The head of the BJP, JP Nadda, has set a lofty goal for his party: to sweep all nine state elections this year. Even before the 2024 Lok Sabha election campaign begins, such a landslide will demoralise the opposition. The BJP has also set its sights on 160 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha where it expects to face difficult competition. Such forethought is uncommon in Indian politics. This has made the BJP a formidable electoral force.

It’s easy to see why Nadda would want to concentrate on the assembly elections. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have a stranglehold on national politics, the BJP has yet to achieve the same level of dominance in state assemblies. Clearly, the BJP hasn’t ruled out the potential of local political developments maturing into a coordinated national opposition effort. It is, therefore, in the party’s best interest to portray itself as unbeatable, both nationally and locally. Nadda faces challenges since not all of its state units are like their counterparts in Gujarat and UP, where factionalism has been fully wiped out.

This is one reason why the BJP didn’t do as well in Himachal as it did in Gujarat. The transition from BS Yediyurappa to Basavaraj Bommai in Karnataka has not quieted partisan rivalries. Emerging factional fault lines are a real possibility in Rajasthan and MP. The leadership of the Congress party also appears ready to put up a strong struggle in at least three states (Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh), which is a source of concern for the BJP. Telangana’s TRS (now BRS) is a formidable incumbent, while the CPM-Congress combination in Tripura could present challenges for the BJP there.

One more problem for BJP is the rise of ultra-competitive welfarism. To follow up its OPS strategy in Himachal, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, the Congress party has pledged to give Rs 2,000 per month to women who are the breadwinners in Karnataka, costing the state government an astounding Rs 36,000 crore each year. To what extent such sops gain traction is largely dependent on the level of anti-incumbency.

The BJP is placing a lot of faith in these four things: Modi’s charisma, increased opportunities for underrepresented groups, improved access to social services, and India’s rising influence abroad. These are appealing to voters even at the state level. All of these four things contribute to a larger story that political opponents can’t seem to shake. Constantly seeking electoral success, the BJP’s greatest asset is. That’s the basis for Nadda’s 9-0 bet.