BJP’s Strategy in Key States: No Chief Ministerial Faces

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has embarked on its campaign early in four crucial states: Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana. One notable aspect of their strategy is the absence of a projected Chief Ministerial face in any of these states. Instead, the party is emphasizing a “collective leadership” under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party’s symbol, the lotus.

At first glance, this decision appears bold, as it refrains from showcasing some of the party’s most prominent leaders. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has served as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh for four terms, making him a significant figure, especially among the Other Backward Class (OBC) population, which constitutes over 50% of the state. In Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje Scindia led the BJP to power twice, defeating Ashok Gehlot. Raman Singh held the position of Chhattisgarh’s Chief Minister for three consecutive terms until 2018.

So, why has the BJP chosen to take this leap of faith in the upcoming elections? One apparent reason is the factor of anti-incumbency or voter fatigue with established faces. Chouhan’s 17-year tenure as MP’s CM, for instance, saw the Congress briefly taking power before he returned through a “palace coup.” Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has also re-entered state politics, adding to the leadership mix.

Changing Dynamics in Rajasthan

In Rajasthan, the 2018 election mandate was essentially against Raje, leading to the Congress forming the government in November 2018. However, in the subsequent Lok Sabha elections, the BJP secured all 25 seats in the state. The BJP has nurtured new leadership in Rajasthan, with figures like Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Rajsamand MP Diya Kumari gaining prominence, both of whom have been at odds with Vasundhara Raje.

Chhattisgarh’s Uncertainty

In Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh won three consecutive elections, but the party faced a surprising defeat at the hands of the Congress in the last elections, with a vote gap of over 10%. Despite being a dominant figure in Chhattisgarh politics, Singh has not been projected as the CM face. PM Modi mentioned Singh in a rally in Bilaspur, a nod to his continued influence in the party.

The BJP’s Strategic Play

The BJP’s decision not to firmly back a CM face can be attributed to the need to diversify leadership and mitigate anti-incumbency sentiment. However, it’s also a gamble. Will this move pay off in the upcoming elections? The results will reveal the answer.

Congress’s Focus on Poll Freebies and Women’s Reservation Pitch

After losing Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka amid the Congress’s distribution of poll freebies, the BJP is determined to regain Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh from the Congress while retaining Madhya Pradesh. Conversely, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress are confident of winning all three states and Telangana. The Congress’s strategy involves maintaining its winning formula of offering freebies to counter the BJP’s nationalist agenda, along with highlighting the Women Reservation Bill to woo female voters.

Freebies vs. Women’s Reservation Pitch

The Congress believes that poll freebies will outweigh all other factors for women voters. They stand to receive monetary benefits and more affordable LPG cylinders, rather than waiting for the Women’s Reservation Bill, which may not become a reality anytime soon. The rollout of freebies appears to have boosted the Congress’s prospects in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, despite anti-incumbency sentiments against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

A similar scenario unfolds in Telangana, where the Congress’s promises of poll freebies are causing concern for the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS).

Madhya Pradesh’s Unique Scenario

Madhya Pradesh presents an intriguing situation. BJP CM Shivraj Chouhan has initiated poll freebies, offering Rs 1,250 per month to 1.3 crore women in the state and the country’s most affordable LPG cylinder at just Rs 450. This move followed the Congress’s announcement of similar promises if they came to power. Notably, the BJP has not adopted such a counter-strategy in other states.

It’s crucial to highlight that this initiative is the CM’s decision, not the central BJP’s. The election results will determine whether it proves effective. PM Modi has not mentioned either of these “freebies” in his rallies.

Ultimately, whether the BJP’s decision to abstain from announcing a CM face and providing freebies, except in Madhya Pradesh, will be deemed a ‘masterstroke’ or a ‘disaster’ will be revealed in the forthcoming elections later this year.

Election Dynamics Summary
State BJP Strategy Congress Strategy
Madhya Pradesh No projected CM face, Poll Freebies Counter BJP with Freebies
Rajasthan No projected CM face, New Leadership Freebies, Women’s Reservation Bill
Chhattisgarh No projected CM face Freebies
Telangana No projected CM face Poll Freebies

Note: The table summarizes the strategies of the BJP and Congress in the key states.

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