BJP will target Rahul Gandhi in these constituencies in an organised manner.
With Opposition parties failing to put up a united prime ministerial candidate for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now planning to shift its focus on about 200 constituencies where it expects a “direct fight” with the Congress.
As part of the strategy, the saffron party will target Congress president Rahul Gandhi in these 200 constituencies in an organised manner. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “bail gadi” remark against Gandhi, who is out on bail in the National Herald case, is part of the strategy.
These constituencies are in Madhya Pradesh (29), Chhattisgarh (11), Rajasthan (25), Gujarat (26), Punjab (13), Maharashtra (48), Karnataka (28), Uttarakhand (5), Haryana (10) and Himachal Pradesh (4). Out of the 199 seats in these states, the BJP had won 147 in 2014.
These are the states where Congress is either the lone or the major contestant against BJP or is leading an alliance against the BJP in an “elder brother’s” role. For example, Congress is the lone contender against BJP in Rajasthan or MP. But in case of Bihar, Congress is the junior partner to RJD and therefore, the fight will mainly be with RJD and not the Congress.
BJP leaders feel that any comparison between Modi and Gandhi always goes in favour of them. “In any case, direct fights are always challenging. We saw this in the Gujarat Assembly elections. So we cannot take our rival lightly. Moreover, we are aware that there could be anti-incumbency also, which could be negated by targeting Rahul Gandhi in a sustained manner,” said a party leader.
BJP strategists feel that there is not much difference in the overall political situation, nationally, compared to 2014. Almost all the parties, which are going to contest against the BJP this time, were contesting against it in 2014 too. Though the Opposition parties are claiming that they are united to take on the BJP, the fact remains that this hardly has any meaning on the ground. “They all fought against us in 2014, but we won. They are fighting against us again in 2019. So there is no change in the situation. They are the leaders of their regions. If Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu come together on one platform, what difference does it make in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh as Naidu’s party is not going to contest in West Bengal and Banerjee’s party is not going to contest in Andhra Pradesh?” asked the BJP leader.
Dubbing the “Opposition unity” as a farce, he said that their coming together hardly makes any difference on the ground level. He, however, admitted that the case in UP is different, where rivals Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have now joined hands. “UP is a difficult ball game as the two parties contested separately in 2014. But this time they are united,” he said.
As part of the strategy, election would be contested in these constituencies the way it is fought in a “Presidential system”, making it a “NaMo vs RaGa” fight. “It has been the experience that whenever there was a one-to-one comparison between the two, NaMo has always come out stronger,” he said.
However, the strategy would be different where the BJP is pitted against regional players. In that case, targets will be different depending upon the state. “For example, in Bihar, it is expected to be a fight between BJP and RJD. There, Lalu Yadav’s corruption and ‘goonda raj’ would be the issues. Similarly, in Bengal, Mamata will be the target for her minority appeasement policies and lack of development in the state,” the BJP leader explained.
In these states, the BJP would highlight the point that despite claiming to have joined hands, these Opposition parties have failed to come up with a common prime ministerial candidate.
“We have NaMo as our face. Who is the Opposition’s face? We will try to explain to voters there that voting for these regional parties would lead to nowhere, and exhort them to vote for the BJP instead,” he added.