Beyond Farm Laws: Why BJP As A Serious Political Player Is Critical For Punjab In 2024

Beyond Farm Laws: Why BJP As A Serious Political Player Is Critical For Punjab In 2024

by Tushar Gupta - Jan 20, 2023 11:35 AM +05:30 IST
Beyond Farm Laws: Why BJP As A Serious Political Player Is Critical For Punjab In 2024PM Narendra Modi in a rally in Jalandhar
Snapshot
  • In 2022, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) swept the state assembly elections, displacing all stalwarts, only to lose their sole Lok Sabha seat a few weeks later (Sangrur).

    For the Badals, in the long term, allying with the BJP is better than relying on Canadian funding to fight a losing battle, political or social.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Punjab has been undergoing a political churn for almost three years now. It began in 2020, with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

This was followed by Congress burning down its house with Captain Amarinder Singh, once a staunch loyalist of the Gandhis, making way for Navjot Singh Sidhu and Charanjit Singh Channi.

In 2022, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) swept the state assembly elections, displacing all stalwarts, only to lose their sole Lok Sabha seat a few weeks later (Sangrur). 

From a five-way contest in 2022, less than a year later, the electoral battle in Punjab is now bilateral.

Ironically, the party that enjoys the support of 90-odd MLAs in an assembly of 117 members is soon going to be threatened by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA.

In the last two years, many former leaders of the Congress have gravitated towards the BJP.

From Manpreet Singh Badal, the former finance minister of the state to Sunil Jakhar, who was once being touted as the potential deputy CM by the Congress, many have shifted their loyalties to the BJP.

Where does it leave SAD, however?

Both common sense and electoral mathematics dictate that the Akalis will have to come back to the NDA. For many observing BJP, SAD is often seen as a political liability, given the decade of misrule between 2007 and 2017.

However, with 7.7 per cent vote share in the most recent state assembly elections, the NDA is better off looking for strategic partners in a border state. SAD+ (SAD and BSP) with a 20-odd per cent vote share should be the first stop. 

The Akalis are also in no position to play hardball. In 2022, both Sukhbir Singh Badal and Parkash Singh Badal lost their seats.

In 2019, the debacle was such that Harsimrat Kaur Badal barely managed to win her seat, trailing for the most part on the counting day, before scraping through with a margin of merely 21,000 votes, one of the lowest in the state that election.

On the contrary, the second fiddle in that alliance for ten years, the BJP, won two of the three seats they contested on.

What makes the SAD vulnerable? Badal Sr is to the SAD what perhaps the Gandhis are to the Indian National Congress in terms of a glueing force.

Amongst the many realised public secrets in Punjab, a prominent one is that the pull of the Badal couple (Sukhbir and Harsimrat) would be far weaker without the political presence of Badal Sr who celebrated his 95th birthday a month ago.

For the Badals, in the long term, allying with the BJP is better than relying on Canadian funding to fight a losing battle, political or social. Just common sense. 

Two other factors are at play as well. One, the Congress stands decimated in the state. What can only be described as political foolishness that started with Sidhu and ended with Channi will cost the party dearly in the future elections.

However, that also leaves a significant vote share up for grabs. Two, the AAP has its set of problems, from law and order to economy. Their loss in Sangrur, their only Lok Sabha seat, right after the 2022 elections also raises many questions. Moreover, the Chief Minister is being remote controlled from Delhi, as the public secret goes. 

What’s in for the BJP?

Firstly, only they can put together a coalition for 2024 that can take on the AAP.

While having a state leader can wait for another year, given the next elections are due in 2027, it is important for the party to fight elections on two issues alone.

One, economy, for the state’s fiscal health is in critical condition, and two, national security, given the kind of elements that have surfaced in the last eighteen months. The BJP needs to offer the people of Punjab a workable roadmap for the next five years on these two issues, to begin with. 

The farmer protests must be discarded as bygones by the people, for bigger concerns plague the state.

For BJP, it is time to work on an outreach programme, highlighting the actual issues of Punjab rather than beating around the bush.

The primary focus areas must be helping farmers diversify, creating employment opportunities, getting back industries to the state, and politically eradicating anti-national elements from the political scene.

The BJP must go about its task for 2024 in a strategic manner. Fighting on all 13 seats, the BJP must capitalise on the haplessness and inability of the AAP government to usher any major reform or economic growth.

This is a bilateral contest, and while AAP does have the MLAs today, it is as fragile as the BJP in the state with single digit vote share.

In 2014 and 2019, Narendra Modi did not win much from Punjab, but come 2024, BJP could score 100 per cent, assuming they get going right away.

For the BJP, the window is narrow, but it is winnable.

Tushar is a senior-sub-editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @Tushar15_
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

An Appeal...

Dear Reader,

As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.

Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.

We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.

Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.

Become A Patron
Become A Subscriber
Comments ↓
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.
Advertisement

Latest Articles

    Artboard 4Created with Sketch.