Narendra Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulates BJP National President JP Nadda, whose term was extended till June 2024, during the second day of Bharatiya Janata Party National Executive Meeting in New Delhi on January 17, 2023. The party, preparing for national elections, is targeting voters between the ages of 18 and 25. Image Credit: ANI

India’s national elections are 400 days away. Political parties have been busy drawing up strategies for a grim and gritty fight at the hustings. Gulf News columnist Nidhi Razdan takes you on the road to India elections 2024. This is the first in a series of articles.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sounded the Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll bugle for 2024. At the BJP national executive on Tuesday, Modi urged the party to reach out to voters, reminding them the general election was just 400 days away.

“We have to create history,” he said, as the BJP looks for a straight third term. The main target is voters between the ages of 18 and 25.

The BJP National Executive marks the formal launch of the party’s 2024 Lok Sabha campaign. But make no mistake, the party has been planning and in the poll mode for much longer.

In May last year, the BJP launched the Lok Sabha Pravas Yojana, under which various leaders were tasked with handling the 160 constituencies for the 2024 general elections, where the party had finished runner-up or third in the 2019 polls or won by a slim margin.

In 2019, the BJP won 303 of the 436 seats they contested.

The challenge before BJP

The plan to target these “challenging” seats is quite detailed. Those in charge have to keep workers motivated, look after local-level messaging and social media campaigns, and disseminate information about government welfare schemes. The seats include those in the South where the party is weak, like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana. And also other states like West Bengal and Odisha. But the list also has constituencies in BJP strongholds like Uttar Pradesh.

Much of the next few years in the BJP’s political strategy will focus on strengthening the party in the five southern states — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. These states, along with Puducherry, account for 130 Lok Sabha seats, out of which BJP has won only 29 currently. The party is aware of the need to expand its footprint here to make up for losses elsewhere.

It’s clear that the 2024 polls will centre around Modi with one underlying theme — that he is an incorruptible leader who works for the country. Those were the words of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman when she met the media to talk about the BJP national executive’s political resolution.

BJP supporters
BJP supporters welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a roadshow from Patel Chowk to Parliament Street ahead of the BJP National Executive Meeting in New Delhi on January 16, 2023. The party has gone on the offensive against opposition leaders for personal attacks on the prime minister. Image Credit: ANI

The party has also gone on the offensive against opposition leaders for personal attacks against the prime minister, accusing the Opposition of running a “negative campaign” to “damage the prime minister personally” with “issues… which were negated by the legal response” of the Supreme Court. This includes the Rafale issue, demonetisation, and reservations for the economically weaker sections.

So 2024 will be about Modi’s leadership, at home and abroad. That also explains why the BJP is highlighting a routine leadership of the G20 as a major diplomatic achievement. The BJP wants to project Modi as the force behind India’s “global prestige” today.

This year, assembly elections will be held in nine states, including Jammu and Kashmir, which is expected to have the first polls since 2014. There has been no elected government in Jammu and Kashmir since 2018 after the BJP withdrew support for Mehbooba Mufti’s government.

State polls are a tough nut to crack

While the BJP has exhorted party workers to aim at all elections this year, things at the state level aren’t easy for the party. The BJP is a divided house in Karnataka; it’s posing a challenge to the TRS in Telangana but may not be able to ease it out just yet. Himachal Pradesh and Bihar also show that the party may be strong at the centre but not unbeatable at the state level.

This year promises to be exciting, and the road to 2024 may be paved with many political twists and turns.