For Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah, no election is too small, or insignificant
The politics and elections of a year before the general elections are bound to be interesting for reasons beyond their own respective state-level consequence and significance. They hold big clues which can help us decipher how the collective wisdom of the people is shaping, and preparing to shape, the future of India in 2024, and beyond.
In 2023, the elections to eight different state Assemblies ahead are geographically dispersed and represents a fairly diverse voter profile — the states going to polls being located in the Northeast, South and the Hindi heartland — as well as different seasons from winter to summer — and will challenge the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s election fighting machine.
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah, no election is too small, or insignificant — they view each poll as an interaction and dialogue between the citizens of India and their party and see it as an opportunity to spread and become stronger. Little wonder they will fight these elections tooth and nail, each one with the maximum passion, focus and energy. The entire party organisation, under the direction of the Modi-Shah duo, has been transformed into a body that is always ready to reach out to the booth level, and to the last voter.
The Congress, after a transformative and ambitious initiative under the leadership of former AICC president and MP Rahul Gandhi, the Bharat Jodo Yatra, and a big win against the BJP in Himachal Pradesh last year, will gear up to challenge the BJP in every poll.
Interestingly, this is a year where most of the state polls will be very national in character, being largely a face-off between the two national parties, with regional parties having a smaller footprint, and stake, in them.
In February, the picturesque mountains of the Northeast will turn into battlefields, with polls already having been announced in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland. Nowhere was the dominance of the BJP under Modi-Shah exemplified as in the Northeast, where the Congress and the Left lost their traditional areas of strength to the BJP. It will be emotionally crucial for the BJP to hold on, along with its regional partners, and for the Congress to make a comeback.
In the state of Karnataka going to polls in summer, it is important for the Congress to make a comeback, and the BJP to shake off an image that it has started to lose more easily than before.
In Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, the two national parties will fight, but there is a jittery edge to the BJP here because even in states where it loses to the Congress, there is this image that, come Lok Sabha elections, the Modi factor would trump all else.
Telangana is a classic south Indian political contest — a regional party trying to go national, two national parties trying to make a regional impact and a very strongly contested fight that would involve every single factor from money to communal and caste appeals through leaders changing parties. But the winner here will be very close to greater national power in 2024.