RSS-BJP rattled by Opposition consolidation, sense 2024 poll isn't a done deal
Shaken by the turn of events in Bihar, many BJP leaders are said to have lost confidence in Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo’s ability to lead party to victory again in 2024 general election
The change of regime in Bihar following Nitish Kumar’s decision to snap ties with the BJP and join the Mahagathbandhan seems to have rattled the ruling party at the Centre.
This is evident from reports that even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was addressing the Independence Day rally at the Red Fort on Monday, Home Minister Amit Shah was closeted with senior BJP leaders discussing plans to try overthrow the newly-formed Mahagathbandhan government in Bihar as soon as possible.
Earlier, the BJP’s leadership had launched an all-round attack on Nitish Kumar. A campaign was also unleashed to try and depict him in poor light, by labelling him as an opportunist, for instance. However, this was more of a façade, since the Modi-Shah duo realise that Nitish’s action was simply a manifestation of a changing political landscape which spells trouble for them.
Sensing a looming threat to its hegemony and political supremacy, an alarmed RSS-BJP leadership scrambled to make organisational changes with an eye on the Lok Sabha polls due in 2024.
Just a day after the regime change in Bihar, old war horse Sunil Bansal, a prominent RSS face, was wheeled out as BJP’s national general secretary in charge of three opposition-ruled states — West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana.
Bansal, who earlier assisted Amit Shah in the 2014 general elections and served as the party’s general secretary (organisation) in Uttar Pradesh, is credited with overcoming the Samajwadi Party challenge to ensure its victory in UP earlier this year. He has handled three elections in the key state: 2017 and 2022 assembly polls and 2019 general elections, with the party emerging victorious on each occasion.
His clout can be judged from the fact that he has replaced three important leaders serving as general secretaries: Kailash Vijayvargiya in West Bengal, Tarun Chugh in Telangana and D Purandareswari in Odisha.
One of the key tasks that Bansal is reportedly entrusted with is to prepare a blueprint for a bid to force out the Mahagathbandhan govt in Bihar besides, of course, strengthening the saffron party’s position and prospects in the three states, where it made substantial gains in the last general elections. All the three states are of vital importance for Modi and Shah, and more than them, for the RSS.
If sources are to be believed, the BJP will try to engineer a major split in the JD(U) as well as the RJD. Conversant with Amit Shah’s propensity to deploy so-called Operation Lotus in opposition-ruled states, Nitish and Tejashwi are, of course, already keeping a vigil on their MLAs.
At the same time, the BJP is also said to be evolving a strategy to make up for possible electoral losses in Bihar and West Bengal, which together account for 82 Lok Sabha seats. In 2019, the BJP had won 39 seats in Bihar in alliance with JD(U) and LJP, and 18 in West Bengal.
The other reason for Modi and Shah to have attacked Nitish Kumar aggressively is a growing sense of scepticism among some BJP leaders across the country about the party’s prospects under their leadership. In some states, the fall of the NDA government in Bihar has propelled factionalism and demoralised the rank and file. A shaken BJP is now trying its utmost to keep Nitish Kumar confined to Bihar and not allow him space to manoeuvre at the national level.
Meanwhile, in the bellwether state of Bihar, the BJP faces a tough challenge with almost the entire range of political forces — backwards, extremely backwards and Dalits — joining hands with Nitish. Senior BJP leaders confess that they haven’t been able to make credible inroads among these politically powerful segments of society and frantically need a powerful leader with mass appeal to remain in the reckoning.
Views are personal
Published: 17 Aug 2022, 7:07 PM