Opinion: BJP's First List Ticks Most Boxes, Sets The Momentum For Finale


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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has shifted into the fifth gear for the 2024 general elections, unveiling 195 candidates in its inaugural list. With poll dates yet to be announced, the party has sent a clear message that it's prepared for the battle and confident of securing a third term.

While the list balances demographic considerations, the BJP has refrained from granting tickets to several MPs, signalling a change in an effort to neutralise local-level anti-incumbency.

In 2019, the BJP's first list of 184 candidates was unveiled on March 21. Back then, the list appeared 11 days after the announcement of polls on March 10. This time, the list has arrived before the poll dates have been disclosed, aligning with the strategy deployed in state elections last year.

A Slew Of New Players In UP

Of the 195 seats announced, a majority - 51 - seats, are in Uttar Pradesh (26%). This is where the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) senses the maximum potential for gains, having secured 64 of the 80 seats in 2019. It has set an internal target of 80/80 due to the positive fervour generated post the inauguration of the Ram Mandir.

Out of the 195 seats announced, the BJP had won 152 in 2019 and lost 43. Among the 152 who won, the party has replaced 44 MPs (29%). Of the 43 candidates who lost in 2019, it has replaced 37. In total, there are 114 old faces (58%) and 81 new faces (42%).

While the BJP won 303 seats in 2019, the current number of sitting MPs is 290 due to the demise of some MPs, losses in by-polls, and resignations.

In Uttar Pradesh, 44 out of the 51 names announced are sitting MPs. That share is 13 out of 24 in Madhya Pradesh, 10 out of 15 in Gujarat, and three out of four in Telangana.

Fighting Anti-Incumbency

In 2019, the BJP had dropped 37% of its sitting MPs. There has been a marginal drop this time though. This has been the BJP's common theme in the Modi-Shah era, right from their days at the helm in Gujarat. The duo likes to churn MPs to neutralise anti-incumbency sentiments and provide opportunities to new leaders. This helps broaden the party's base and reduce dependency on local leadership in an era when elections are becoming increasingly presidential in style.

As many as 52% of the candidates announced belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBC), or Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities. This strengthens the BJP's claim of giving the highest representation to the backward, Dalit, and Adivasi communities. One ticket has also been given to a Muslim candidate in Kerala. 

The representation of women is at 14 per cent, much lower than the promised 33% reservation. However, this is likely to increase in subsequent lists.

No Decision Yet On Maharashtra, Bihar, Odisha

Tickets have not been announced for Maharashtra and Bihar, where alliance seat-sharing talks are yet to be finalised. In both places, there is an abundance of contenders.

Seats have also not been announced for Odisha, where there is speculation about the Biju Janata Dal (BJD)  joining the NDA if a Bharat Ratna is awarded to Biju Patnaik, whose birth anniversary is on March 5.

In Maharashtra, seats have to be divided among three parties - the BJP, the Shiv Sena (SHS), and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) - and in Bihar, six parties have to be accommodated - the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), the BJP, the Janata Dal (United) (JD-U), the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), and the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP). Representatives from the LJP and the RLSP were conspicuously absent from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent rally in Aurangabad.

Two-Term MPs Replaced In Delhi

In Delhi, out of the five seats, four sitting MPs have been replaced. Three out of the four were two-term MPs. Manoj Tiwari, who retains his seat, is also a two-term MP. In 2019, out of the 99 sitting MPs who were dropped, 44 of them had served two or more terms. Jayant Sinha, another two-term MP from Jharkhand, has been replaced. In the first list, at least 17 MPs who had served two or more terms have been denied tickets.

Names dropped in Delhi, like Meenakshi Lekhi, Dr. Harshvardhan, Parvesh Singh Verma (son of the former chief minister Sahib Singh Verma), and Ramesh Bhiduri, may be utilised in the Delhi assembly elections due next year. A similar strategy was followed in state elections last year.

Early Announcements Give BJP An Edge

A few analysts opine that early ticket announcements do not signify much as the Congress is also likely to follow suit soon with its own announcements. Early ticket announcements demonstrate preparedness, signal the cadre to support the official candidate, give enough time to candidates for campaigning, and manage discontent.

The dice has been cast by the BJP for the grand finale in 2024 through its first list. The PM has begun campaigning, the campaign theme and song have been launched, and the vision laid out. With poll dates to be announced soon, the Opposition needs to catch up significantly.

(Amitabh Tiwari is a political strategist and commentator. In his earlier avatar, he was a corporate and investment banker.)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.