Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday marked the ninth anniversary of his government with a tweet promising “to keep working even harder”, amid a growing worry in the BJP in the run-up to the 2024 general election over “total dependence” on Brand Modi that does not seem to be working in state polls.
“Today, as we complete 9 years in service to the nation, I am filled with humility and gratitude. Every decision made, every action taken, has been guided by the desire to improve the lives of people. We will keep working even harder to build a developed India. #9YearsOfSeva,” Modi tweeted.
The government and the BJP have been celebrating nine years of the Modi dispensation since last week, focused on hailing Brand Modi.
The BJP announced a month-long countrywide outreach programme on Tuesday to mark the nine years in power, seeking to use the opportunity to prepare the ground for the general election next year. Modi is eyeing to equal the record of the country’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, by winning a third straight term.
“Mass contact programmes and rallies will be organised in every Assembly segment of the country to highlight the achievements of the Narendra Modi government. People will also be told that Modiji should continue as Prime Minister to achieve the goal of a developed India,” a BJP leader said.
Before the Lok Sabha polls, however, elections in a bunch of key states towards the end of this year will set the tone. In most of these states the BJP faces a challenge, according to an internal assessment of the party. Along with heartland states — the mainstay of the party — like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the southern state of Telangana is due for polls.
During informal interactions at events to mark nine years of the Modi government, senior party leaders have acknowledged that they face a tough fight in all the three heartland states. Of the three, the BJP has been ruling Madhya Pradesh for four terms while the other two — Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh — are Congress-helmed.
“After four terms, winning any state is a challenge. We are, however, hopeful that our organisational strength and the popularity of Modiji will help us retain Madhya Pradesh,” a top BJP leader said.
He acknowledged a similar challenge in Chhattisgarh but was confident of winning Rajasthan, which alternates between the Congress and the BJP. After the setback in neighbouring Karnataka, the party does not hope to work wonders in Telangana, he said.
After the back-to-back defeats in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, BJP managers have realised that even a “hard-working Modi” cannot counter anti-incumbency in state elections. The bigger worry is the risk of Brand Modi losing its shine because of the regular setbacks in the state polls.
“Modiji’s popularity is still strong but if we continue to put his image at stake in state elections and face defeat, then it is bound to dim the aura of invincibility around him,” a BJP leader said, fearing that this could impact the Lok Sabha polls.
Party insiders said home minister Amit Shah had scaled down the target for 2024 to 300 after leaders had been told to get ready with the slogan “Abki baar 400 paar” (This time over 400 seats).