Every year is eventful as far as Indian politics is concerned. But 2023 will be even more so as we countdown to the 2024 general elections.
State elections will take place in Telangana, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Tripura.
Importantly, Jammu and Kashmir is also expected to have its first assembly poll post the dilution of Article 370. So what is at stake and where do the principle political parties stand?
Bharatiya Janata Party
There is no doubt that the BJP is in pole position for 2024, lead by Prime Minister Modi who remains the party’s most popular leader, even more than 8 years into the top job.
The BJP’s big win in Gujarat has buoyed the party considerably. But it also remains weaker in states, where regional players and the Congress still give it a challenge.
Nitish Kumar’s switch in Bihar has implications for the Lok Sabha as well with 40 seats at stake.
Despite being in the dumps, the Congress wrested Himachal from the BJP.
In the coming year, Karnataka will be an interesting fight where the Congress is seeking to oust the BJP. But both parties are facing infighting.
For the BJP, it’s a triple whammy of anti incumbency, corruption allegations and a rift between former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and the current Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.
In Telangana, the BJP is giving the TRS a challenge but will it be enough? The BJP appears to be in a stronger position vs the Congress in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh for now.
The Congress had an eventful year ahead. There’s a new party president in Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat jodo Yatra will enter 2023 as it winds down in Jammu and Kashmir by the end of the month.
There is no doubt that Rahul Gandhi has created a positive buzz with the Yatra, and his image has got a boost. But will this help the party win elections?
The Yatra didn’t even touch Gujarat and Rahul inexplicably skipped the campaign with the exception of one day. The congress was decimated in Gujarat clocking its worst ever performance.
The silver lining for the party was the win in Himachal Pradesh. But they still have to deal with massive infighting in Rajasthan between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot.
With elections to the state just months away, this could seriously cost them. National opposition politics around the Yatra is also another issue.
While many like minded parties have walked with Rahul but others like Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party stayed away, reluctant to let the Congress take the lead.
Other political forces
So the big focus in 2023 will be on the regional players and whether they can rally around the Congress or even find a way to work with each other to build a coalition against the BJP. At the moment, that’s looking tough.
There are differences many players have with the Congress, while others have their own ambitions.
Aam Aadmi Party is clearly trying to gain a national footprint at the cost of the Congress but still has a long way to go to be considered a serious national player.
Mamata Banerjee has suddenly gone soft on Modi in recent months, leading to speculation that the many cases against her leaders by central agencies like the Directorate of Enforcement (ED), are forcing her hand.
The Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has even renamed his party - from Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) - as he tries to expand nationally and made his national ambitions clear.
Whatever happens, 2023 will set the template for the 2024 general elections.