Bang in the middle of the high voltage Karnataka election campaign, India’s Prime Minister Modi landed in Kerala for a two-day visit which included a roadshow on foot, a Vande Bharat train for the state, and the foundation stone for the country’s first digital science park.
With the Lok Sabha election now less than a year away, Modi is focused on the BJP’s next big mission — to win and to win big. And to do that, the party is focusing on those states where it needs to gain seats in order to offset the ones they may lose.
Anticipating a loss of seats in UP, Maharashtra, Bihar, Karnataka, and other Hindi heartland states, the BJP has turned its attention to those states where it can expand its footprint — the South, Odisha and West Bengal.
The loss in Karnataka is a huge blow to the party which aspires a pan India footprint. This was the only southern state it ruled.
After the BJP’s success in the Northeast elections in February this year, the Prime Minister made it a point to say the victories disproved the opposition’s claim that the BJP was anti minority.
“Minorities were fearful about BJP for years but the people of Goa and now from the Northeast have exposed such propaganda. The Christians in Nagaland and Meghalaya keep supporting us”, he said, adding that while the Congress and Left came together in Tripura, both parties have fought each other in Kerala.
“The people in Kerala have seen this, they have seen their alliance … The truth is that the two have joined and are looting the state. So I am confident that in Kerala also, BJP will form a coalition government,” he said.
Kerala is a big part of the BJP’s winning blueprint for 2024, with the party aggressively wooing the Christian and Muslim communities here for several months now. On Easter, the Prime Minister visited the Sacred Heart Cathedral Church in New Delhi, the first time he has visited a church in the country as PM.
In Kerala, the BJP held a outreach programme called the “Sneha Yatra”, in which party leaders visited Christian and Muslim homes during Easter and Eid. The BJP got 12.4 per cent of Kerala’s vote share in the last assembly election but failed to win a single seat. They are hoping to change that now.
Telangana is another key Southern state that the BJP is eyeing. The party has slowly and steadily emerged as a challenger to the BRS.
In 2018, the BJP won just 7% of the votes and one seat in the 119-member Telangana assembly. But the party has been upbeat after the 2021 Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections, where it emerged as the second-largest party.
Bengal and Odisha also figure in the BJP’s expansion plans with Amit Shah declaring a target of 35 of Bengal’s 42 seats. That may be a tall ask since the BJP is in much disarray in the state but can put pressure on Mamata and the TMC.
160 “difficult” constituencies
The BJP’s blueprint for the Lok Sabha polls are at least 100 rallies by the Prime Minister by the end of this year alone along with a massive outreach towards women voters. The big focus is on 160 “difficult” constituencies across the country.
The party lost most of these seats last time but some which it won are also on the list as they continue to be challenging. There will also be announcements of big ticket projects in those states where the party wants to make inroads. The campaign is expected to step up from September.
As part of the minority outreach, the party has made a list of 60 constituencies where minorities comprise more than 30 per cent of the population.
The BJP election machinery is the most formidable in India at the moment but not invincible, as several state polls have shown including Karnataka. States where the opposition is united are proving to be a challenge — like Bihar and Maharashtra.
And the Congress win in Karnataka has given the opposition a shot in the arm. Whether that will remain in the national polls is the million dollar question.