The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s stated aim is to win elections from Parliament to the Panchayat. While a lot of attention is paid to the party’s strategy and success in national elections, its organisational machinery that helps convert support to votes, and the careful branding of Narendra Modi as the leader who is committed to India’s national interests, there is often inadequate attention to how the party builds its strength from the local to the national.
Two recent episodes show the extraordinary importance the BJP gives to the local — confirming the adage that all politics is, eventually, local. In Jammu and Kashmir, where district elections are scheduled, the BJP has invested tremendous energy and resources in ensuring that it registers a respectable presence. This is important for the party — and the government — to show that its constitutional changes in the Union Territory have popular sanction as well as build its own independent strength in the region. At the other end of the country, in Telangana, for local civic polls in Hyderabad, the BJP has deputed its powerful general secretary Bhupender Yadav— who is in charge of crucial states such as Gujarat and Bihar — to oversee the party’s effort, besides sending ministers to campaign. With four parliamentarians from the state and two state legislators in the assembly, the party sees an opportunity to position itself as the principal opposition to chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao; Telangana is also a key target for the 2024 polls since it is among the regions the BJP believes it can expand its numerical strength. All of this is happening in the backdrop of party president JP Nadda about to embark on a 100-day tour of all states to strengthen the party.
There are three clear lessons from this visible energy that the BJP is investing in even local polls. One, every region — irrespective of the party’s historical weakness or its demography — is on the party’s radar; and it is willing to work hard and invest energy in expanding its base. Two, the party recognises — and this may also spring from the focus the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has on grassroots work — that the route of capturing power at the state level is often through winning battles on the ground, on issues that are closest to citizens. And finally, it is a lesson for other parties — both national and regional — that politics is a 24/7 job, and every election matters.