After Karnataka loss, BJP revisits its plans in poll-bound states
The party will intensify its outreach among the beneficiaries of the central schemes to counter the Opposition’s populist guarantees
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s preparations for the upcoming set of assembly elections in five states – of which it is in power in one and part of the coalition government in another – will hinge on reaching out to the electorate with details of what the state government has delivered, instead of making central schemes the front and centre of poll campaigns, said functionaries aware of the details.
Assembly elections are slated to be held later this year in Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is in power; in Mizoram, where its ally, the Mizo National Front (MNF), is in power; in Congress-ruled Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and Telangana, where the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) is in power.
A senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity, said the party’s “over-reliance” on central schemes and inadequate marketing of deliveries by the state government failed to underscore the relevance of the “double engine” in Karnataka, which went to polls in May. This is a departure from the party’s electioneering process where central schemes were the mainstay of the campaign even for state polls.
The term “double engine” is a reference to the party being in power at the Centre and in a state and is used to denote the enhanced capability of the party to meet the poll promises.
The BJP’s assertion of a “double engine” government being a testament of good governance and a vehicle to meet the aspirations of the electorate did not deliver the desired outcome in Karnataka, and the party faced what is now being described as one of the most notable defeats in recent times.
“The Karnataka outcome has been very disappointing in recent times. When we lost Himachal Pradesh (where the BJP was in power) in December, it was by a thin margin, but Karnataka exposed chinks in our electioneering that helped the Congress march ahead with not just more seats, but a bigger vote share,” the senior leader cited above said. While the BJP won 66 seats and bagged 36% of the vote share, the Congress emerged victorious with 135 seats and 42.9% votes in the 224-member assembly.
In response to a question on whether the BJP will revisit the poll-pitch of a “double engine” government, given the dominance of hyper-local issues in assembly polls, the senior leader said the party will only recalibrate how it sells the idea of the benefits of the same party being in power at the Centre and in the state to sharpen the outreach.
A second senior leader, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said a need to address the perception that state governments piggyback on central schemes to win the elections was felt during meetings with state BJP leaders.
“It has been conveyed to the state leaders to let the central leaders and Union ministers speak about the central schemes, and that legislators, corporators and state-level leaders should focus on the work that the state government has undertaken at the assembly constituency level,” the second leader said.
Citing instances from an outreach programme held recently in one of the poll-bound states, the second functionary said: “It was an interaction with a small group of people from a constituency and instead of giving details about the spending from the MLA’s fund to build and enhance infrastructure at the local level, the legislator kept talking about the big ticket central schemes that may have benefitted the electors at the local level, but may not necessarily be a priority for them.”
The party will, however, intensify its outreach among the beneficiaries of the central schemes to counter the Opposition’s populist guarantees of free power, doles for women and promises such as reverting to the old pension scheme.
“While the BJP has been trying hard to help people distinguish between empowerment and freebies, there is no denying the fact that promises made by the Opposition have the capacity to sway voters. So, it becomes even more important to illustrate how the central and state schemes such as Har Ghar Nal or PM Awas Yojana have empowered people rather than offer sops, which will eventually strain the exchequer and people in turn,” the second leader said.