Its eyes fixed on the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is likely to continue with changes at key positions in its several state units to address organisational issues and emerging political challenges. The recent revamp of its apex organisational body, Parliamentary Board, may have made more news for its omissions of Union minister Nitin Gadkari and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, but the BJP has also made it more socially and regionally representative. For the first time, non-upper castes are in a majority in the board, as the party continues with its outreach to traditionally weaker and backward sections of society.
Before that, the BJP top brass had effected changes in several states and is now likely to appoint a new president of its Uttar Pradesh unit and bring in some new faces in Bihar where its traditional calculation has been upended after the JD(U) dumped it and joined hands with the RJD-Congress-Left combine. In the last few weeks, the BJP has appointed state presidents in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh and shuffled people manning crucial positions in several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and West Bengal.
The ruling party had reaped a bumper harvest in most of these states in 2019 and made major gains in Bengal and Telangana. There has also been speculation about the fate of Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai. Critics have questioned his leadership abilities in a state where the opposition Congress remains a strong force but the BJP has so far ruled out any change.
Its decision to include B S Yediyurappa, the ageing but still-powerful Lingayat leader, in the Parliamentary Board though highlights its continuing attempt to sharpen its social outreach in its lone southern stronghold. Giving Sunil Bansal, its high profile UP general secretary in charge of the organisation, a national role is as much an acknowledgment of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s pre-eminence in the state’s affairs as of its faith in Bansal’s abilities amid talks of differences between the two leaders on several issues.
Sources said regional and caste calculations will be the driving force in the party’s choice for the replacement of Swatantra Dev Singh, a minister in the state Cabinet, as its Uttar Pradesh chief. A party leader said the BJP remains dominant in Uttar Pradesh and added that its national leadership has always given primacy to strong coordination between the party’s organisational machinery and governments in states for electoral success. With Adityanath’s stock rising following the BJP’s empathic win in the 2021 assembly polls, the party is looking to maintain its dominance over its divided rivals in India’s largest state which has been central to its big wins in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Bansal has been now made in-charge of Telangana, West Bengal and Odisha, three states ruled by different regional parties and marked by the BJP for its next round of expansion Realignment of political forces in Maharashtra and Bihar have necessitated changes in these states for the BJP.
The challenge for the party is stiff in Bihar where the ruling NDA had won 31 and 39 of its 40 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and 2019 respectively. However, the combined might of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD has sent the party to the drawing board as its rivals’ core support base appears stronger on paper. BJP sources said the party will have to make major outreach to backward classes and scheduled castes while keeping its traditional base, which includes upper castes, in good humour. Likely changes in the state, including a new president and leaders in the both Houses of the state legislature, will be reflective of that, they added.
At a meeting of state BJP leaders with Home Minister Amit Shah and party president J P Nadda, a target of winning 35 seats in 2024 was set. The BJP recently changed its president and the leader of opposition in Chhattisgarh in what was largely seen as an exercise aimed at reshuffling its cards in the Congress-ruled state where it has been suffering losses in bypolls and local elections.
Even neighbouring Madhya Pradesh has often figured among the states where the BJP is expected to make some changes at important positions. After its success in toppling the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, the BJP replaced its president Chandrakant Patil, a Maratha, with Chandrashekhar Bawankule, an OBC, considered a traditional support base of the party.
Though the Sena has weakened after the split, but there is a view that its alliance with the NCP-Congress combine may still pose a potent challenge in the elections. BJP president J P Nadda had last month made key organisational appointments in some state units, drafting the RSS’ Rajesh G V as general secretary (organisation) in Karnataka. Rajesh G V replaces Arun Kumar, who has returned to the RSS, considered the ideological mentor of the BJP.
Ajay Jamwal, who was the regional general secretary (organisation) in charge of northeastern states, now looks after Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh units of the party in the same position while Manthri Srinivasulu was moved from Telangana to Punjab as general secretary (organisation).