2024 may pose challenges in 11 States, PM’s Lok Sabha speech hints

Shivaji Sarkar
Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasising the loss of the INDIA alliance, his Lok Sabha speech chose to lambast the Congress, its stalwarts Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and “the product” Rahul Gandhi.
Is the emphasis on a “failed” party, an obsession of the BJP, which the Prime Minister again claimed would get 370 seats and the NDA over 400, or a concern about the 2024 poll outcome as the two parties are embroiled in direct fights in eleven States ?
Replying to debate on the President’s speech, Modi tore into the Congress ahead of the 2024 elections and mentioned none of the Congress allies. He claimed that the Congress was caught in a ‘cancel culture’ a reference to the party’s decision to oppose several Government schemes and “launching the same product again and again”. His speech started with the attack on the Congress and closed also with the ‘Naamdar’ Congress and ‘Kamdaar’ “ourselves”. In the two-hour address, he projected an array of Government programmes.
Nehru, Indira and Rahul came back in different ways all through even as he stressed on repeating the spectacular success in the coming polls. It was Nehru who had created the Kashmir problem, Indira was oblivious of inflation and Rahul, failed product, being launched repeatedly to ensure that the “Congress remained in Opposition, as they were in power, for decades”. He said that it now might even “get reduced to the visitors’ gallery”.
The Prime Minister reeled out several of his programmes to impress the people how diligently his Government is working to make every paisa of Rs 20 lakh crore direct benefits reach the people, corruption is eliminated and spectacular gains are made to create jobs in agriculture to start ups in “our endeavour for Nation first for developing it with each of the ‘bricks’ being thrown at us”.
The Opposition and Congress in particular had taken corruption to an epitome, the Prime Minister alleged. He wondered why those jailed for corruption are hailed. He asked why investigating agencies doing the simple job of probing and prosecuting, an obvious reference to RJD leader Laloo Yadav and now arrested Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, are being viciously targeted. “Agencies are doing their work diligently and judges evaluate it. We would eliminate corruption and have the last pie recovered from the looters”.
Modi focusing on Congress just before the elections is surprising particularly after the BJP’s spectacular victories in the three of the four States of Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh. Ensconced against Congress in eleven States, the party may be feeling uncomfortable. These States have 91 seats. Except Chhattisgarh and MP, Congress was wiped off despite having a good vote share. In all these, the BJP had a sweep.
This is the advantage as also a problem. The BJP-NDA are at a plateau so far Parliamentary seats are concerned. The BJP had won almost all seats in nine of the eleven States in 2019.
But in 2004, the Congress had got 28 of these seats. It changed the political scenario. The NDA led by Atal Behari Vajpayee lost the poll. This time too if Congress machinery works and manages to get around 20 seats it can make a difference, though it is not that easy. But various survey suggest that Rahul Gandhi’s yatra has made a connect. That, however, did not create such electoral gains in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan Assembly elections.  Though in all these States together Congress got about 10.5 lakh votes more than the BJP.
The Congress could get major shares of the 28 seats in Karnataka, (BJP had 26 of the seats). It can have upper hand in the 13 Telangana seats.
Problems afflict the BJP Government in different regions of Madhya Pradesh including its Chief Minister being less functional. It is apprehended that it may lose quite a few seats.
The contest is not easy in Rajasthan where BJP could lose half of the 25 seats. Both the parties have severe organisational rifts.
If the alliance comes up in UP, Congress-SP-RLD could get a few States, and in Haryana depending on the Congress State unit functioning, it could wrest majority of the 10 seats. Maharashtra may not yield 2019 numbers to the BJP.
Bihar may not be easy for BJP. Had it been so they would not have realigned with Nitish Kumar’s JD-U, which itself is not confident of retaining 18 seats it had won last time.
It all depends on how Congress activates its machinery. The BJP is on a razor’s edge. It could lose a few seats in Assam as well. Internal assessment of the organisation is stated to have projected far fewer seats than the official projections
of 400 Lok Sabha
The 2024 elections might end up springing many surprises despite the euphoria created by consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.