By KS Tomar
Blue blood, elite upbringing, and right connections are no longer virtues required to rise in the political echelon of India as hard-work, grass-root experience and discipline have replaced the old dynastic norms in the Modi era.
BJP workers in India and followers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi world over get inspired by the success story of a ‘Chai wala’ and his aim to make India a progressive country with his slogan, “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas”.
But PM Modi is not the only one with humble beginnings rising to the helm in the BJP. With a disciplined, dedicated approach, JP Nadda also had a long journey and struggle in charting his course from being a student leader to the national president of the party. There are many more in the BJP with similar stories but Nadda is now in limelight as BJP will be going into next general elections under his wings as party president.
As BJP prepares for the battle of 2024, the year 2023 is being seen as the semi-finals as nine states will see elections this year. The election process is currently going on in North-Eastern states of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura. Crucial fight of Karnataka is scheduled for April later this year. After that Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana assembly elections are due in Nov-Dec.
Nadda in his second stint faces hordes of challenges including making inroads in southern states like Tamil Nadu, Telangana and retention of the most crucial state of Karnataka besides other states going to polls in 2023 and final showdown in 2024 parliamentary polls.
Successful ride so far
Nadda officially took charge of the BJP on January 20, 2020 prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.
BJP’s electoral sojourns under Nadda have been spectacular so far. In 2019, the party became the single largest party in Haryana and cobbled an alliance with Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) to form the government for the second consecutive time. BJP won 74 seats in Bihar, its highest strike rate in the state. After the pandemic, BJP won Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Gujarat with flying colors under JP Nadda.
Litmus Test in Karnataka
“When going gets tough, the tough gets going,” they say. The most crucial electoral battle Nadda faces before the general elections of 2024 is in Karnataka and Telangana. In Karnataka specifically, tripartite fight between BJP-JDU-Congress, corruption allegations with the jibe of ’40 percent Chief Minister’ on Basavaraj Bommai, and BS Yeddyurappa, the belligerent old war horse of the BJP in south, who is refusing to call it a quit. His influence on Lingayat community and electoral indispensability would be hard to ignore for the BJP.
Interestingly, BJP is expecting support from Christians in Karnataka and Kerala in the south with their continuous focus on issues like Burqa, Love Jihad, and most importantly – Tipu Sultan. Christians form key voters in many constituencies of Karnataka while in Kerala, they are around 30 percent of the total voters.
The popularity of PM Modi is still swaying the voters at least in the hindi heartland but with eight years in power at the center, BJP will face issues like unemployment, skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, dismal economic scenario, fallout of Ukraine war, etc. in the southern states where hardcore ‘Hindutva’ approach has a limited affect.
Keeping the flock together
National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by BJP is a big tent political coalition with BJP as the largest party. Since 2019, Shiv Sena, Telugu Desham Party, Shiromani Akali Dal, Sudesh Mahto-led All Jharkhand Students Union, OP Rajbhar-led Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, Hanuman Beniwal-led Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, Bodo People’s Front (BPF),, DMDK from Tamil Nadu, Goa Forward Party, Janata Dal – United, and Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) has left the alliance.
Earlier between 2014-19, 15 alliance partners of the BJP had left NDA but could not dent the results of the 2019 general election led by PM Modi.
However, BJP will be looking to cash in on ‘charisma’ of PM Modi and his performance as ‘go-getter PM’ in the southern states while home minister Amit Shah has already made his intentions clear to tread the time-tested party line of ‘hindutva’ by declaring date of opening of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on Jan 1, 2024.
From a humble RSS worker to Modi’s confidant
Though Nadda’s personality symbolizes dynamism, sobriety and maturity yet his success as national president and the faith reposed by the RSS and PM Modi in his leadership contributed in extension of his stint as national president of the BJP.
There was a time when Nadda was forced to exit politics in his home state Himachal Pradesh in May, 2010, due to his stark and unambiguous differences with former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. Nadda had been cabinet minister twice in the state.
But this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it gave him a golden opportunity to work in the national organization of the BJP. He was appointed general secretary of the party in the tenure of Nitin Gadkari that proved a stepping stone to attain height in his political career.
A disciple of JP School of Thought
JP Nadda was a student in Patna college when he participated in Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement against corruption and misrule of state government in the 1970s. This movement later turned into “Total Revolution” and aimed at ousting then PM Indira Gandhi from power on Nov 18, 1974.
He had a close association with RSS as a grass-root worker since the beginning of his public life and worked in BJP’s student wing – ABVP for several years. Nadda was appointed national president of ABVP in 1990-91. He honed his political skills under stalwarts like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, and LK Advani.
A moderate at heart
Nadda is known for his qualities of being moderate and having an accommodating nature. But the daunting challenge against his own nature, he will face in Rajasthan, a state where both of his sons are married now. Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is vice president in Nadda’s team and has a personal equation with him. Raje is looking for a comeback after losing twice in the past under her leadership. However, PM Modi and Amit Shah are looking for a generational change to inculcate fresh blood in the party.
On paper, it looks that Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are the biggest challenges before Nadda to barge but I can tell you from experience of my stint in the desert state that hard choices will have to be made in that parched land where various factions within BJP are baying of each others’ blood while trio of PM Modi-Amit Shah-JP Nadda are hoping for a easy win.
Famous quote of Shershah Suri, “Mutthi bhar Bajre ke liye, sara Hindustan kho deta” – would have lost the whole of India for a sack of millet, may not be lost on JP Nadda when he settles Rajasthan question.
KS Tomar is a senior political analyst based in Shimla, India.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times