BJP turbocharges for 2024 with inorganic growth in states where it's not strong
The recent changes in the organisational structure of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) indicate that the party is looking for an inorganic growth in states where it lacks strength and also to fill the leadership gap. They show the BJP is also ready to expand the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) by joining hands with rebel leaders of rival political parties, in a bid to further increase its electoral and political footprint in those states.
The latest in a string of appointments of people from other parties is Sunil Jakhar, a former Congress member who has been made the president of Punjab BJP. In a similar move, the BJP leadership has appointed Daggubati Purandeswari as the party chief in Andhra Pradesh.
While both Jakhar and Purandeswari are not part of the BJP or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), senior leaders of the party believe the induction of people from other parties sends a strong message that the BJP is ready to give space and position to people from other political parties.
“There are two ways of expanding a political party. The first is the natural course of progression in which a party grows with time and effort. But sometimes, to speed up the process, leaders induct people from other parties, so the growth of a political party is faster. This is being done in both Andhra Pradesh and Punjab,” said a senior BJP leader in the know.
Party members explained that while it already has alliance members in Punjab, it is open to alliances in Andhra Pradesh. Its electoral performance in these two states has been dismal, and the party is keen to expand its social and electoral base in both states.
“These appointments are taking place just before the Lok Sabha elections, so these two leaders have the mammoth task of forming alliances and finalising a seat sharing formula,” the BJP leader added.
The move to induct from outside its own ranks is not new. Looking at the union council of ministers, leaders like Narayan Rane and Jyotiraditya Scindia have joined the BJP from rival parties. Former bureaucrats like RK Singh, S Jaishankar and Hardeep Singh Puri have joined the Council of Ministers.
The advent of Jakhar and Purandeswari at the helm of affairs in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh respectively may create difficulties in the alliance talks for the Lok Sabha polls.
The discussion between the BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) for a possible alliance for the 2024 general elections has hit a roadblock because of the Law Commission’s decision to take feedback on the possible implementation of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). SAD is not in favour of a UCC.
The case is no different for the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which is keen on an alliance with the BJP in the state but does not like the UCC. The presence of Purandeswari has made alliance talks difficult between the two former allies.
“It is an interesting situation because Akali Dal is not very fond of Sunil Jakhar, and the differences between Purandeswari and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu are also known. It is possible the BJP leadership wants to rework the seat sharing formula and hence asked the two leaders to hold discussions with the former alliance partners,” added the BJP leader.
The expansion of the NDA for political growth was also visible in Maharashtra, where the BJP joined hands with the Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) faction, which broke away from its patron, Sharad Pawar.
The party is upbeat about the alliance, and it believes that Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar would be able to tilt the caste combination in favour of the BJP.
“The BJP has been in search of a strong Maratha leader in Maharashtra, but so far we have not succeeded. The combination of Shinde and Ajit Pawar may solve this puzzle. While Shinde can take away the voter base of the Shiv Sena, Ajit Pawar can help the BJP-NDA win in areas of western Maharashtra where Sharad Pawar is strong,” said the BJP leader.
The impact of the Maratha voter base can be understood from the fact that, according to some estimates, the community comprises nearly 30 percent of the population of Maharashtra.
“The political and organisational network of the BJP, along with the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two Maratha leaders, gives us the edge in the Lok Sabha elections. We are confident the BJP-NDA combination will win a majority of the Lok Sabha seats,” added the BJP leader.
In the 2019 general elections, the BJP contested 25 and its former ally Shiv Sena contested 23 Lok Sabha seats out of the total 48 constituencies. With the induction of two political parties in the NDA, seat sharing is likely to become tricky for the BJP because now the 48 seats will be divided between three parties.
“It is a possibility the BJP may not contest 25 seats. The expansion of the NDA has led to a situation where the BJP may have to forgo some of its own seats to adjust its alliance partners,” said the party leader.
Why new leaders?
Political analysts believe the BJP is employing a strategy of “lateral transplant” to fill the gaps.
“The biggest difference between the BJP and Congress is that the latter had the luxury of time to build the organisation organically,” Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst and psephologist, told The Federal. “On the other hand, the BJP did not have the time span of the Congress to grow organically among communities and regions. As a result, it is now using lateral transplant to fill the gaps.”