BJP chief J.P. Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah will be on a three-day visit to Assam from Saturday.
The occasion is inauguration of newly built Assam BJP headquaters at Beltola, Guwahati.
Nadda was likely to visit Meghalaya on Sunday, but that has been reportedly deferred to later this month after Diwali.
Three northeastern states, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura are scheduled to go for polls by February-March 2023.
But both the BJP stalwarts making a joint visit to Assam gives more positive and clear signals about the saffron outfit’s plans and preliminary preparations for all important 2024 general elections.
The battle of 2024 would be occasion for making a hat-trick by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Encouraged by its performance – 282 in 2019 and 303 in 2014 – now the party wants to consolidate their hold further in east and northeast India.
In Assam, in 2019, the BJP could win nine seats out of 14. The AIUDF had won one and Congress could win three. In 2021, BJP retained the state government in Assam.
The Congress disappointment did not end with electoral defeat in the state where they had a fair chance of winning. What is politically significant is that the Congress is now a demoralised outfit in Assam – where it had a very strong base, and several Congressmen and women have already jumped ship while embracing BJP’s right-wing politics.
Ambitious Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is a good organiser and he has reportedly promised his new-found mentor Shah ‘mega improvement’ in BJP and its alliance partners’ performance in Assam and other northeastern states. In 2019, BJP won both seats in Arunachal Pradesh and also Tripura.
The Leftists are a much demoralised and marginilised entity in one time red-fortress Tripura and apparently, the saffron party’s chief competitor in 2023 would be a local tribal-based party.
Post West Bengal polls win in 2021, Trinamool Congress made a lot of noise vis-a-vis forays into Tripura but all such efforts have turned damp squib chiefly because there is no substantial Muslim vote bank in Tripura.
Congress had one seat in Meghalaya while another seat had come to BJP’s ally NPP of Conrad Sangma.
In Nagaland and Mizoram, the solitary seat in each state had gone to regional partners in 2019. But with regard Nagaland’s lone Lok Sabha seat, the saffron party would be asking for it.
In Manipur also the BJP, which returned to power in early 2022, may easily win both Lok Sabha seats in 2024.
The BJP is planning big in states such as West Bengal and Odisha.
In Mamata Banerjee-ruled Bengal, much to the chagrin of its detractors, the BJP had won 18 seats.
It would be more than happy to retain the hold and win at least 20-24 seats.
In 2021 assembly polls, the Left parties including CPI-M and the Congress drew blank, thus showing the possible state of affairs in the state which has altogether 42 seats. While the northeast has 25 Lok Sabha seats, Odisha has 21 and with Bengal’s 42 it comes to 88 seats.
These 88 seats would be very important from 2024 polls point of view. In 2019, the saffron surge had resulted in victories over 40 seats.
The law of the average suggests, the saffron party’s tally for Lower House of Parliament may come down in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat in 2024. Thus, the poll strategists are working overtime to make a significant deeper penetration in north east and especially in Odisha.
The BJD of Naveen Patnaik is a partner at the centre though not part of the NDA officially.
The Chief Minister is now 75 and he will be around 77 when poll bugle is blown. In the absence of any second rung leader in the BJD; the Lotus party is trying to fill in the gap.
A former Biju Janata Dal MP, Baijayant Panda is now saffron party’s in-charge in Assam. Another Odisha leader and vocal national spokesman Sambit Patra is now coordinator for the party for all north eastern states.
In Odisha, BJP could win eight while Naveen’s party had won 12. The marginalised Congress could win only one and no body is really talking about prospects of Congress revival.
On a slightly larger canvas, the BJP has to do well in southern states as well.
For the ruling BJP, the 2024 battle would have to be negotiated in nine states mainly — most in eastern and southern states.
The states are Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
From these states again, the saffron party could win only 67 seats. While Karnataka contributed maximum (25) into the saffron party kitty out of 28, followed by 18 from Mamata-ruled West Bengal and eight from Odisha.
Importantly again the challenge also comes from key regional chieftains including Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal — that has 42 parliamentary seats and also YSR Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh.
There are also formidable regional challengers like K Chandrashekhar Rao in Telangana (TRS) and M K Stalin of DMK in Tamil Nadu.
The BJP has pushed for aggressive works in Telangana and new in-charge is Tarun Chugh, who was involved in organisational matters as deputy B.L. Santhosh in the party headquarters. Another able hand Arvind Menon has been appointed as co-in-charge.
Menon has handled states such as West Bengal and UP earlier.
For Odisha, Sunil Bansal will be a key player as the in-charge.
For the state of West Bengal, while Mangal Pandey will be the in-charge; he would be assisted by Amit Malviya and Asha Lakra as Saha Prabharis.
Till recently, the BJP had control over 18 states after Maharashtra came into its kitty.
The coming months and polls in key states will be vital in more ways than one. They are Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in December 2022, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura in Feb-March 2023, Karnataka April-May 2023, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram by November-December 2023.
From the nine states in eastern and southern India, the BJP has 67 and its alliance partners have only eight making it 75 for NDA.
That means 154 seats are with other parties and this is where the saffron strategies will have to chalk out innovative plans.
(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of book,
‘The Talking Guns: North East India’. The views expressed are personal.)