BJP plans strategic reforms ahead of 2026 assembly elections as part of its southern overhaul - Hindustan Times

BJP plans strategic reforms ahead of 2026 assembly elections as part of its southern overhaul

Jun 05, 2024 09:00 AM IST

The BJP's reorganisation aims to address longstanding issues, reflect regional diversity, and strengthen the party's presence

Never wanting to upend its image as an election machine despite a narrow victory in the general election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has set in motion a makeover of its units in the southern states startlingly early, leaders from the party confirmed to HT. In some states, the organisational shake-up is meant to prime the party for the 2026 assembly elections, while in other states, the new nominated order would address long-standing issues of resentment, or reflect the state's diversity in ethnic, caste, and religious lines.

To garner maximum seats and increase the vote share during the 2026 election, the BJP is undertaking organisational adjustments in Kerala and Tamil Nadu(Photo by Sanchit Khanna/ Hindustan Times)) PREMIUM
To garner maximum seats and increase the vote share during the 2026 election, the BJP is undertaking organisational adjustments in Kerala and Tamil Nadu(Photo by Sanchit Khanna/ Hindustan Times))

“These changes will send a powerful message to our cadre that we care to address their longstanding concerns while simultaneously signalling them to double up and keep the momentum going,” a senior BJP leader from Tamil Nadu told HT on condition of anonymity. The changes to the organisational posts in southern India will be commensurate with the internal election within the BJP when even the party president’s post shall be up for a contest, with the current president JP Nadda’s term ending on June 30.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu: Focus on 2026 assembly elections

To garner maximum seats and increase the vote share during the 2026 election, the BJP is undertaking organisational adjustments in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. K Annamalai, the Tamil Nadu BJP president has his task cut out. Nearly 90 percent of the district presidents could be replaced to ensure the newcomers can redraw district-wise strategies to combat the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All-India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leadership.

Booth committees and Shakti Kendrams (clusters of booths) compositions shall also be revamped, aiming for a greater presence among people. The TN BJP unit also intends to announce in-charges for all 234 assembly constituencies. A source in the party who has been tasked with overseeing some of these responsibilities said, “We also anticipate a large chunk of joinees from AIADMK. We are drawing a plan to accommodate them at various levels and units across districts.” A massive state-wide campaign is also on the cards to popularise PM Modi’s schemes allotted to Tamil Nadu in the previous regime. Party leaders opined that the DMK appropriated credit for the success of many welfare and development projects rolled out by the BJP.

Despite the En Mann En Makkal yatra by the BJP president, the party drew a blank in the state where it contested 23 of the 39 seats with alliance partners contesting the rest.

In Kerala, a multi-pronged strategy on the cards

To wean the Christians off the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and distance the Hindus from the Communist Party-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) is a top priority for the BJP, one of its general secretaries told HT. “It took a decade to convince the Christians to truck with us. Without them, a win will not be possible in southern Kerala,” the party member quoted above, said. Towards this, the BJP plans to draft several Christian leaders to offer the voters an option of electing one of their own to top posts in the state. For 2026, the party has a distinct plan for its Dakshin Kerala Prantham (southern region) and Uttara Kerala — a division created at the start of this year for better autonomy. Each will then have its setup within districts, so closer monitoring can be possible, said the party member.

In 2026, BJP aims to be the single largest Hindu party in the state. Currently, the LDF enjoys support from a majority of the upper caste Nair votes, which accounts for about 12 percent of the voters in Kerala) and the backwards-class Eezhava community accounts for 26 percent of the voters. Efforts will be concentrated in the northern districts of Kannur, Calicut, Wayanad, Malappuram, and Kasargod where there is a higher percentage of Muslims than Hindus in certain districts. “We would like to see a new set of leaders emerge from the Sangh to address the leadership vacuum in Kerala just as in many parts of southern India. For this, an increase in the number of shakhas is inevitable.” Kerala has the second-highest number of shakhas after UP in India, according to the RSS policy body, the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha.

The party's efforts came to fruition this year with actor-politician Suresh Gopi being the lone winner.

Telangana and Andhra Pradesh: Expansion and orientation strategies

In Telangana, what is foremost on the party’s checklist is to orient the 15-odd leaders who have joined the BJP from other parties to the RSS-BJP ideology. Telangana has 17 parliamentary seats and only former president Bandi Sanjay and current president G Kishan Reddy are from the BJP; all others have switched to the party from the Congress or the Bharat Rashtra Samithi. “It was a planned experiment to give outsiders a chance to help us with electoral gains. All of them will be given opportunities through many platforms to adjust to our ways of functioning in the BJP,” said NVSS Prabhakar, one of the state general secretaries of the BJP in Telangana.

New membership drives, expansion into southern Telangana, which is the Congress’ stronghold, and the return of organisational titles to senior BJP coming from either the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) or the RSS backgrounds are on the cards.

In Andhra Pradesh, the nature of work is more serious, its leaders share with HT. “While we have improved our presence organisationally in AP, we are still branded as the one percent party due to our poor vote share, said a senior BJP leader. To cast off the ‘Friends of YSR Congress Party’ tag is their first task, the leader added. With Jagan Mohan Reddy's YSRCP party supporting the central government in the past on crucial matters, including electing President Droupadi Murmu to her post, the BJP is seen as an ally of the YSRCP.

For the next couple of years, three goals have been drawn out. First is to make space for themselves in the state by nominating more representatives to each mandal (each mandal has 20 members to date); second, to actively participate in taking up people’s issues and following up with the government on development and welfare promises; and, finally, to get the state ready for the BJP in 2029 by allowing homegrown leaders from the RSS to come to the fore.

M Vamsi Krishna, a state BJP leader said, “We have been ineffective in communicating to the people about the central schemes in the past. We intend to be more vigilant about branding our schemes and taking the message to the people,” he said.

In the Telugu states, BJP's alliance won 21 parliamentary seats in AP and eight Lok Sabha seats in Telangana.

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