For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

Why 2024 Elections Are Not a Done Deal Yet

Unlike 2014 and 2019, there is no strong sentiment for the BJP this time around. Those who are categorical in predicting the poll outcome in BJP's favour may end up making another mistake as committed by many political pundits in 2004.
BJP supporters at an election rally. Photo: X (Twitter)/@narendramodi.

Judging the undercurrent mood of the electorate in the absence of strong sentiment for the ruling party – as in 2019 – is not an easy job, especially in the states where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power or has a palpable presence. So, those who are categorical in predicting the poll outcome in its favour may end up making another mistake as committed by many political pundits in 2004.

The switching of sides by the likes of Ashok Chavan, Milind Deora, Suresh Pachauri, Naveen Jindal, Gaurav Vallabh, Sanjay Nirupam, etc., cannot be the yardstick to measure the present state of mind of the voters.

The election-eve party-hopping is not a new phenomenon and not much should be read into it. There are several personal factors – ED, CBI and Income Tax cases this time – which compel these leaders to cross over. Very often in the past, it has been observed that they have ended up in the wrong party.

At the same time, it is not that the sitting MPs of the BJP had not joined Congress or other INDIA constituents in the recent weeks. In fact, the saffron party has denied tickets to over 100 of its sitting MPs, which is one-third of its total strength of 303. Several of them have been made the candidates by the opposition parties, for example, Rahul Kasawan from Churu.

Also read: Election 2024 is for the Opposition to Win

When friends become a liability

Not to speak about individuals, sometimes roping in even popular regional parties does not work. In fact, it backfires. Once again, the example of Tamil Nadu in 2004 can be cited.

The BJP still regrets that horrible mistake it committed, and in the process lost power. It was in 1999 that the BJP inducted Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) into the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). But by the end of 2003, the RSS think-tank decided to dump DMK and befriend the AIADMK which had incidentally come to power in the state in 2001.

The result was for everyone to see. The BJP-AIADMK alliance could not win a single seat while the DMK-Congress combine swept the state.

Mark it, that was the high time for Jayalalithaa, who led her party to victory in the state Assembly poll only in 2001. Estimating the strength or weakness of any individual or party—unless there is a wave– is a difficult job.

The BJP has attracted some individuals in recent weeks, but at the same time, it has lost trusted allies in the run-up to the parliamentary election. They are AIADMK in Tamil Nadu in September last year and Jannayak Janata Party in Haryana last month, not to speak of Shiromani Akali Dal sometimes back.

NDA meeting in Delhi on July 18, 2023. Photo: Twitter@BJP4India

If the analysts failed to correctly measure the strong undercurrent in 2004 when the BJP had alliance partners like undivided Shiv Sena, Trinamool Congress, Biju Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United), National Conference, Asom Gana Parishad, Telugu Desam Party–besides AIADMK and SAD—it is really difficult to jump to the conclusion that the saffron party is going to easily win the election in 2024. All these regional parties were either in power in states or were very influential ones. Today, most of them have left the National Democratic Alliance or like Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) have grown very weak.

Unlike then the National Democratic Alliance of 2024 is virtually a BJP show, though on paper it has joined hands with the breakaway factions of Shiv Sena and NCP in Maharashtra, Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka, Telugu Desam Party and Jana Sena in Andhra Pradesh and a couple of other smaller parties in Tamil Nadu.

In 2004, the BJP made another misjudgment in reading the mood of the voters. Buoyed by the victory in Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan in December 2003 the saffron party in its national executive meeting in Hyderabad on January 11, 2004, decided to advance the Lok Sabha election from September-October to April-May. This move boomeranged on it.

Voting pattern

It needs to be understood that since 2014 the BJP has been getting something between 80% and 90% Hindu upper castes’ votes in several states of the Hindi heartland. In contrast, the figure for the backward castes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes usually hovers around 50 an70%. So far Yadavs, the biggest social group of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are concerned, they overwhelmingly vote for Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal respectively. On several occasions, not even 10% of them voted for the saffron party in the past.

As the weaker and downtrodden section has a much larger population (over 80%) any decline in their voting preference for the BJP may have a negative impact on the prospect of the party. In that case not to speak of 400-‘paar’ even the figure of 300 (or less) may prove difficult to achieve.

While the BJP appears to be confident of regaining the support of Jats of western UP, especially after winning over Jayant Chaudhary of Rashtriya Lok Dal, in Haryana and Rajasthan the same caste may not be strongly inclined towards it. While Patels of Gujarat may still throw their lot behind the BJP, Maratha votes, especially in Maharashtra, are up for grabs. The two factions of Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party are locked in a grim battle for this section of voters.

As the BJP enjoys the support of a more vocal and socially vibrant class who gets much larger media space one often fails to gauge the mood of a large number of silent voters, who mostly come from poor and less influential sections of society. In this environment of political witch-hunting average voters fear to openly share their feelings and express their viewpoints.

This class of voters open up only when taken into confidence by the faceless print media journalists. As television reporters are recognisable and people know them by their names, they avoid saying anything against the government or the ruling party on camera.

Thus, the situation is very different in comparison to the 2019 election when voters’ priority became visible in many states after the Pulwama-cum-Balakot development. There is silence at the height of the election campaign

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter