New Delhi: Riding on the momentum of a historic win in Uttar Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is already gearing up for the next general election, more than two years away.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a meeting of the BJP parliamentary party on Thursday, asked all party members of Parliament (MPs) and other functionaries to be prepared to work harder and stay on their toes.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his speech ‘Na Baithunga, Na Baithne Dunga (I will not rest, nor will I let others rest). We have been asked to go back in our constituencies and inform the people about the various development works of the government,” a senior BJP leader who attended the meeting said on condition of anonymity.
At the same meeting, BJP president Amit Shah said the biggest challenge before the party now is the 2019 general election. He said the BJP should aim to return to the Lok Sabha with a bigger mandate than it won in 2014, when it became the first party in 30 years to clinch a majority on its own.
In the February-March elections to five state assemblies, the BJP won a landslide in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and also took Goa and Manipur in close contests with the Congress while losing Punjab, where it was in a coalition with the Shiromani Akali Dal.
The BJP’s performance has left opposition parties—including the Congress, which only managed to win Punjab—in a complete disarray.
Interestingly, the BJP leadership is also making plans to improve the party’s performance in Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh where it did not manage to make a mark in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The importance of these states can be understood from the fact that the five states, along with the Union territory of Puducherry, have a total of 123 Lok Sabha seats, 22% of the total seats.
The BJP leadership is also simultaneously making plans for the assembly polls due in nine states before the general election. The states include BJP-ruled Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and Congress-governed Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh. BJP leaders are confident the party will perform well in the states that are under BJP control and hopeful of wresting Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka.
“Gujarat is a prestige issue for the BJP and the party will make all the efforts to retain power. We have a stable leadership in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. We hope that anti-incumbency would work against the Congress party in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh to help us win the two states,” the BJP leader cited above said. Both Modi and Shah hail from Gujarat.
The BJP is also preparing for the next elections in Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura in the North-East. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is already in power in Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland in the region where it hopes to expand its political footprint. Both Modi and Shah asked BJP leaders to prepare a week-long programme to celebrate 14 April, the birth anniversary of Dalit hero B.R. Ambedkar, known as the architect of the Constitution. The NDA has made a conscious effort to reach out to the Dalits, and the celebration of Ambedkar’s birthday is a continuation of that.
Political analysts said most parties would already have an eye on the 2019 general election.
“There are no semi-finals or finals in politics. BJP did well in the five states but the party has to start preparing for the 2019 general election now because most political parties would be making plans already..,” said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst and political science professor at Christ Church College.