BJP’s biggest gamble yet: picking unknown faces in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh
By Deepak | Published: December 12, 2023 07:08 PM2023-12-12T19:08:47+5:302023-12-12T19:10:34+5:30
Bharatiya Janata Party’s leadership has played its biggest gamble yet by picking completely unknown faces - Bhajanlal Sharma in ...
Bharatiya Janata Party’s leadership has played its biggest gamble yet by picking completely unknown faces - Bhajanlal Sharma in Rajasthan, Mohan Yadav in Madhya Pradesh and Vishnu Deo Sai in Chhattisgarh as Chief Ministers in the respective states. As they say- taste of the pudding is in eating it. So the party will know if the gamble has worked only after the 2024 general elections, which are due in six months or so.
First, let’s see why this is a gamble. In selecting these names for the top posts in their states, the party has sidelined, at least for now, the big names in state politics. Shivraj Singh Chauhan fought hard against anti incumbency sentiment in Madhya Pradesh. While the party credits Prime Minister Narendra Modi for coming-from-behind victory in the crucial state that sends 42 Members of Parliament to Loksabha, it is an irrefutable fact that Chauhan never left the battle. Even as his adversary and Congress leader Kamal Nath was almost accepting bouquets for the assumed victory in the polls, Chauhan fought and fought hard. A loyal soldier that he is, Shivraj has made it clear that he will die but won’t ask anything for himself. His supporters, however, may not feel the same and could spring a surprise. Apart from this, the BJP also has Jyotiraditya Scindia, who left Congress as he was not able to find his own political space thanks to the longstanding feud between Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh. And yet, the BJP leadership decided to pick Mohan Yadav, a third term legislator and an OBC leader for the top spot in MP. Could this be a ploy to counter the caste census demand by the Congress, more so by Rahul Gandhi, who has been most vocal about it these days? More importantly, will it work?
Let’s look at the OBC voter size not just in Madhya Pradesh, but also Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It’s anywhere between 44 percent to 63 percent, as the real numbers are only available in Bihar where the Nitish Kumar government carried out a caste census recently. Numbers in other states are only a guesswork, based on the last caste census carried out in 1931 during the British regime. But it’s safe to say that the number is really sizeable and by choosing Mohan Yadav, the BJP leadership is seemed to have sent out a message to the OBC voter- that they don’t just pay lip service to the OBC cause. It also needs to be noted here that the PM Modi, too, has often flaunted his OBC status from time to time.
Similarly, Vishnu Deo Sai, the tribal face in Chhattisgarh, is an ode to the tribal vote share that the BJP received in the state. Congress was overconfident in the state and believed that Bhupendra Singh Baghel will easily swim the mile. But it underestimated the anti incumbency sentiment and the corruption allegations, the Mahadeo betting app scandal in particular, turned out to be the nails in the coffin for Baghel. Chhattisgarh sends 11 MPs to the Loksabha, but together with MP, it becomes 53. Why put it together with MP? Because remember, Chhattisgarh was carved out of MP not so long ago. Raman Singh seems to have been placated by giving him the Speaker’s post and he may not even cause much headache for the party, since no one gave a chance to the BJP before the actual results came in, not even the exit polls.
Bhajanlal Sharma, a first time MLA, remains the biggest surprise in the pack, as he was chosen ahead of the hopefuls like former Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Kirodimal Meena and several others. Scindia was so adamant that she was said to have camped with 30 MLAs before the legislative party meeting, but eventually had to bow before the party’s wishes. What seemed to have worked for Sharma was not just that he didn’t seem to belong to any group, but also that he is a Brahmin, said to be the largest population group in Rajasthan. Choosing Sharma also looks like a message for the community that may be small in numbers in other states but big in Rajasthan and even the neighboring Uttar Pradesh.
So did the party only go by the caste arithmetic? Maybe yes, but there is a bigger factor at play here- the all-powerful Modi who, the party believes, has suceeded in keeping the voter base intact. After the Supreme Court verdict on Article 370, the Modi government can claim their party has resolved the Kasmir issue to the satisfaction of the majority community. And then there is the grand Ram Mandir coming up in Ayodhya in January- the party’s main issue since the 90s. For most of its fan base, BJP can finally claim it has fulfilled its promise- Mandir Vahi Banayenge. These two successes could bring their voter beyond caste and local leadeship issues.
Or so the BJP believes. We will know soon.Open in app