Is the election for Lok Sabha in 2024 to decide who will rule India for next five years a done deal in favour of BJP, or will there be a contest, is a million dollar question that every one is asking. More are asking this after the recent elections in Karnataka for State Assembly where Congress scored a victory and BJP lost its only foothold in South.
The result of Karnataka elections has given a fresh boost to the talk for unity among opposition parties to take on the BJP in the national polls by putting up one candidate to fight against the ruling party. Congress has found something to cheer about after a long time and at least some opposition parties have started talking of a joint front. In Maharashtra opposition front has got a new life.
Among opposition leaders West Bengal Chief Minister has come around to an understanding with Congress Party and said that they should be supported where they hold a strong position. In other States they should leave it to regional parties to take leading position. But so far there has been no softening of position by Aam Aadmi party or by leaders of Andhra, Telangana or Orissa.
Let us accept that some form of understanding is reached by opposition parties. Will it make substantial difference to the outcome of elections in 2024? Let us look at some facts like national poll is more like a presidential contest and not fought on local issues as is the case with State Assembly elections. Second fact in favour of BJP is that popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has no match and no one from opposition ranks comes even close to it.
Another fact to be kept in mind is that the voters in India have been voting differently in the State elections and Lok Sabha poll. This was witnessed in 2014 and 2019. For before elections Congress won Assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. But in Lok Sabha poll BJP did very well. Even in Karnataka BJP was not able to get a majority in 2018 but in Lok Sabha poll it won majority.
More so it should be kept in mind that BJP has the ability to reinvent itself after every elections defeat. It has even in Karnataka retained its 36 per cent share of vote. What it has to make up is a difference of seven per cent which was essentially the vote of Janata Dal Secular which helped Congress to win a majority. It also has to look into the issue of candidate selection. The experiment to pick up candidates belonging to younger generation instead of fielding old and tried party workers has not worked.
Another factor in favour of BJP is its stranglehold of U.P which sends eighty members to Lok Sabha, which will give it a good start. It will also be the only party which will be winning seats in all States. Under the circumstances it is difficult to imagine its tally falling below the majority mark. It may not get close to 350, which some of its leaders are talking about, but majority is not in doubt.
This is not to suggest that there will be no contest. Indications are that in many States there will be close fights. Let us not forget that in a dozen States opposition parties are in power and in some States they have been able to come together to fight BJP. There may also be some incumbency, having ruled for two terms, but majority for BJP looks likely in 2024.