In 2018, BJP lost the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chattisgarh. Many political commentators argued that these results indicate the declining popularity of the party and this would be reflected in 2019 general elections. However, the party came to power in 2019 with an even greater majority. After that, the party also lost assembly elections in Jharkhand and Haryana- where it made government by forming an alliance with JJP.
So, what is the common factor among all the states where BJP has not been able to come to power despite performing better than previous governments? In most of these states, BJP tried to capitalize on the performance of the Modi government rather than campaigning on the achievements of the state government.
The party tried to seek re-election on the National issues like abolition of Article 370, the Supreme Court verdict on Ram Mandir, and CAA, NRC instead of banking on the performance of the state governments in the last five years. But the voters already trust the Prime Minister and his policies regarding national agenda, and they don’t want the CMs to brag those achievements as their own.
In the state of Bihar, the party is making the same mistakes and campaigns are being carried out on the same issues.“Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given independence to India’s farmers and people in revenue matters. In 6.32 lakh villages, anybody who has land or a house, a digital card of that land will be made, and it will become evidence of his ownership. Now, you will not have to make rounds of the patwari. The entire work will be done through drones and satellites after verification. A swamitva card will be made. Had you ever thought that in two-three years, your pocket will have a digital card?” said BJP President JP Nadda in a rally in the state.
Most of the union ministers and the leaders from other states who have been deployed in Bihar are campaigning on National issues. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced free Coronavirus vaccines to every person of the state, which backfired badly. Despite being poor, the people of Bihar are proud of their heritage and rich history, and their conscience does not allow for freebies.
Nithyanand Rai, the leader who is head of the party’s campaign head and a prospective CM candidate, said that illegal Bangladeshis will infiltrate the state if RJD comes to power. Sanjay Jaiswal, the BJP President of Bihar, is probably the only leader who is focusing on state issues. Given the fact BJP did not dump Nitish Kumar who has been in power in the last 15 years, the party is facing huge anti-incumbency and people are asking for the hisaab of the last three terms.
So, if the party is not able to beat anti-incumbency of 15 years like Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, and cautious to campaign on the achievements of Prime Minister Modi, it might lead to loss of NDA alliance in the state. The issues like NRC, CAA, anti-terrorism, the abolition of article 370, hawkish stance towards Pakistan and China are not going to help state governments in coming back to power because those achievements are of Prime Minister Modi and not of state Chief Ministers.
Take the example of Rajasthan where BJP lost the 2018 assembly election with a huge margin but won all Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general election. If Prime Minister Modi had to seek re-election today, he might win an even greater majority but no one is sure about the results of Karnataka if the state goes for an assembly election today.
The voters have immensely matured in the last few years. The information revolution, driven by the availability of cheap data, has helped the voters in making informed choices. They are very much aware that the issues on which the party is campaigning are not concerned with the state chief ministers, and they have not voted on these issues in state elections.