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OpinionsBJP has narrative advantage against combined opposition

BJP has narrative advantage against combined opposition


INDI Alliance is still to offer attractive agenda for 2024 polls

By Harihar Swarup

The alliance meeting in Delhi is broadly an effort at political resuscitation. For three months, the opposition formation had virtually suspended such strategic level dialogue, as the Congress prioritised the assembly elections. Talk of crucial loss of momentum. INDIA's leading partner Congress stands devastated after losing in three states to the BJP, reinforcing perception of BJP's dominance of the crucial Hindi belt. The scale of the mountain the opposition is forced to climb appears quite forbidding. So let's start with a few points of consolidation for the opposition.

One, Congress losses are good for INDIA: These might paradoxically accelerate the process of forging crucial agreements over seat-sharing, as a humbled Congress and assertive allies now appear on more than equal footing. Sure, there was an initial round of recriminations, which included a deferred alliance meeting as SP, TMC, and JDU leaders refused to attend, expressing frustration with the Congress's unilateralism. But most parties have now struck more conciliatory poses, particularly after the Parliament suspensions.

Two, southern gains: In some states, the INDIA bloc appears to be building momentum. In Maharashtra, the incumbent BJP government finds itself embroiled in the Maratha quota stir and farmers' unrest. Also, the weakened Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray camps have avoided any friction with the Congress which appears to be the dominant coalition partner.

In Telangana, the Congress victory provides an opportunity for the party to make significant gains in the state (from three seats last time), and perhaps even opens the door towards a position of some leverage in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

Three, the Karnataka complication: The addition of JDS has made NDA competitive here. The downsides of an over-reliance on the caste census agenda have also split to the surface. Congress government is sitting on the local caste survey fearing a consolidation of dominant Lingayats and Vokkaligas in favour of BJP. Plus Siddaramaiah (OBC) and D K Shivkumar (Vokkaliga leader) have struck discordant notes on the need for a caste census.

Four, the Bihar cheer: Meanwhile, Bihar is the only state where principal alliance constituents (JDU and RJD) have actually started popular campaigns on the caste census agenda. In both Bihar and Maharashtra, state-level BJP has been forced into a defensive stance on the issue of expanding OBC reservation.

Five, the missing narrative: Yet, these points are best seen as footnotes of the emerging campaign. The trouble for the Opposition is that voters are still not aware of the main narrative of the INDIA bloc. If you ask BJP voters about the big message of the NDA campaign, most would reply with India's rising image on the stage or the Ram temple or welfare schemes of the central government. But opposition voters might struggle to come up with any shared message of the opposition platform. Except in Bihar, the caste census agenda has remained at the level of slogans and hasn't seen any grassroots mobilisation.

Six, the missing campaign on price rise, : The opposition has also consistently failed to mobilise people over widespread concerns over price rise. In Madhya Pradesh, CSDS Lokniti post-poll survey showed more than half of all voters claimed to be dissatisfied with BJP over price rise and unemployment. Yet, the survey also showed the very same voters favoured BJP over congress in voting choice.

Seven, the missing economic plan: Congress is still not treated by many to provide better economic management than BJP. It has also struggled to come up with a catchy economic plan to turn around India's economic fortunes. In the absence of such a platform, talk of representation and social justice further derives the elite and middle class voters into BJP arms.

Eight, the popularity of govt: In all the biannual India Today MOTN surveys since 2019 NDA share has never been projected to go below 298 seats. This represents both a dominant and stable social base: composed largely of urban middle class, urban class castes and large swathes of OBCs, Over two thirds of all voters (CSD-Lokniti surveys) in the three Hindi belts states evinced satisfaction with the national government.

Nine, the popularity of Modi: Finally, BJP still enjoys the decisive leadership advantage. Indeed, there is no alternative leader close to Modi in popularity. The national elections are more presidential than state elections. Even when the NDA lost Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan last time. It had won 34 of the 36 seats in Lok Sabha. In Rajasthan, a third of BJP voters claimed to have voted for Modi even in the state elections. In national elections, the PM is slated to drive an even bigger chunk into the BJP coalition.

(IPA Service)




The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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