The BJP’s campaign in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram Assembly elections 2023 has been focussed on one face — Narendra Damodardas Modi. Despite having a sitting Chief Minister in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP did not go to polls with Shivraj Singh Chouhan as its face, nor did it project Vasundhara Raje Scindia in Rajasthan.
To repeated questions by the media on the decision, the BJP’s top leadership, including Amit Shah, have been consistent in their answer — the kamal (lotus), its election symbol, is its face. Early in October, Piyush Goyal had said: “Lotus is our face in every election. Lotus is revered by all of us. We go among the people with the lotus.”
And who better to represent the lotus than BJP’s trump card Modi?
There is, however, a counter-question to be put to the BJP here. Why did it go into the Haryana elections in 2019 with Manohar Lal Khattar as its face or the 2018 Chhattisgarh election with Raman Singh as the projected CM?
The answer is simple. The BJP wanted to roll out its national campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections early and what better way to do it than go to four assembly elections — predictably four months before Lok Sabha election — with the BJP’s Prime Ministerial face himself. The more his cut-outs are seen and roadshows dominate airwaves, the more it gets registered in the psyche of voters, even from other states, who would vote in Lok Sabha elections just a few months later. It’s the same reason why we have been hearing the phrase “Modi’s guarantee” too often in BJP rallies.
As Rajasthan votes on Saturday, believe it or not, the BJP has successfully completed its initial phase of Lok Sabha campaigning in the guise of Assembly poll campaign. During campaigning, PM Modi did not stick to just state-specific issues, but seamlessly blended them with national topics.
In the last leg of the Rajasthan campaign, the Prime Minister raised the “lal diary” (red diary) and threaded it with the larger issue of inflation and unemployment. “The lal diary has chronicled all the corrupt deeds of the Congress-led government in Rajasthan along with their intentions to loot the people,” he said.
The same day, he also said: “Congress is only interested in looting the people and hence the record inflation and unemployment in Rajasthan”. And therein lies the BJP’s carefully orchestrated Lok Sabha pitch in the consciousness of Indian voters.
The PM gave “Modi’s guarantee and assurance” for “development of all, empowerment of farmers and safety and security of the women” — issues that resonate cutting across state borders. It means as much to the people of Kota as it means to the residents of Kolkata.
Similar pitches unfolded in Madhya Pradesh. In early November, at an election rally in Satna, the PM directly connected Assembly elections to Lok Sabha polls. “Your one vote is going to help the BJP form a government in MP again, strengthen Modi in Delhi,” he said.
In the same rally, he gave voters a sneak peek into an ambitious government project around Ramayana Circuit, which he said includes Chitrakoot, an MP city. The PM will inaugurate the grand Ram Mandir on January 22 in UP’s Ayodhya. Sentiments around Lord Ram resonate across the Hindi heartland. By promising a Ramayan Circuit that includes Chitrakoot, he masterfully addressed the people of MP as well as the entire Hindi heartland in one go.
From Modi cut-outs to his face on BJP manifestos, the saffron party’s campaigning in four states evolved around his persona. The BJP manifesto in Chhattisgarh was called “Modi’s guarantees for Chhattisgarh”. The numerous Modi roadshows drew large crowds, keeping social media abuzz. In advertising parleys, if NaMo is a product and Lok Sabha election is the launch date, the BJP has already advertised him enough.
With the buzz in BJP circles that the party is likely to announce its first list of candidates for Lok Sabha polls even before the Election Commission announces the dates, the party is already in 2024 mode.