For the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the centre, the year 2022 was a litmus test in many ways.
One, it was about affirming the voters’ faith in the Modi governance model after two years of the pandemic and the economic slowdown that came along as a consequence.
On the political front, the farmers protest was expected to dent the party’s fortunes in western Uttar Pradesh, and thus their overall prospects in the most important state ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
For the Gandhis-led opposition, the year 2022 was when they would have wanted to turn the tide against Modi.
Inflation was on the rise (though the Russia-Ukraine conflict was too late to impact the March elections).
However, the only bright spot for the faltering Grand Old Party of India, was the swing state of Himachal Pradesh. In six of the seven states that went to polls, the Congress was hammered by the voters.
Even the Bharat Jodo Yatra was not much of a success, given how the party has been reduced to rubbles in Gujarat and MCD elections in the national capital.
Two other important political events made news this year.
One, the fall of the BJP-led government in Bihar, and two, the return of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) along with a faction of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.
In total, if 9 elections were assumed for 2022, the BJP won 6 (Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur, Maharashtra), lost 2 (Himachal Pradesh and Bihar).
In Punjab, they were never in contention anyway. Even the MCD election results and the resulting vote share would leave the BJP relaxed, given the fifteen years of incumbency.
The Congress was an insignificant player in both Bihar and Maharashtra, but the power shifts will certainly crush their hopes for any gains from these two states for 2024.
In Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Goa, they were expected to win. In Punjab, they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, and Gujarat were on expected lines while Himachal Pradesh comes as a consolation.
The end score post-2022 is BJP winning 6 out of 9, while Congress winning merely 1 out of 9.
However, there is more bad news for the Congress.
The Congress is no longer only losing states, but also being replaced in some, by newer, smaller, and more local players.
In Bihar, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh, they are not expected to win the state, not for another ten years, at least, nor are they expected to dent BJP in the Lok Sabha unless the local players enter a coalition with them.
The bigger pain emerges from Punjab and Gujarat. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ate through Congress’ vote share in Gujarat, aiding BJP’s 150+ victory march. In Punjab, where the Congress was once a key player, the party’s entire state unit is in shambles.
For the BJP, for 2024, there are several worrying spots, especially in Bihar and West Bengal, making up for more than 80 Lok Sabha seats.
In 2019, 35 seats were won in these two states. For 2024, BJP would want to retain at least 20 of those 80 seats.
However, even a rough calculation, while assuming the worst case scenario with 2019 results as the base year, gives the BJP more than 220-odd seats. Of course, this is eighteen months before the elections, without factoring in coalitions, candidates, tri-party contests, and so forth.
The losses in some states, due to changing political equations or incumbency, could be balanced by the BJP with gains in the south, especially Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
With Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Chhattisgarh, along with the north-eastern states of Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya going to polls in 2023, more clarity shall emerge.
While Karnataka and Rajasthan may witness a change in governments, it could all go down the wire in some close contests.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra, beyond selling Rahul Gandhi’s 'nth' homecoming, could have been a show of strength between the party and its prospective allies for 2024.
However, given the recent state polls, would the allies want to collaborate with the Congress, and if no Mahagathbandhan is on the cards for 2024, where does it leave the local players in the larger scheme of things?
The BJP, on the other hand, would want to continue their victory march in 2023, and as of today, look favourite to win Rajasthan, retain Madhya Pradesh, and challenge the Congress in both Karnataka and Chhattisgarh.
However, even with everything working in their favour since 2019, politically, there is no cakewalk on the cards.
So, has the BJP won 2024 in 2022?
If the results of 2022 are any indicator, they are well on their way.
Over to 2023 now.
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