By Rajan Narayan

THE countdown has become for the 2024 parliamentary election. The last session of parliament during the current term will soon end. Speaking at the last session in his last speech Narendra Modi expressed confidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will come back with more than 400 seats. It is clear that the completion of the Ram Mandir and its consecration will be the main plank on which the BJP will fight the election.
Repeatedly, Narendra Modi has stressed that the inauguration of the Ram Mandir marks the revival of Hinduism if not Hindutva. Certainly the Hindutva forces are on a new high. Everywhere in the country the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and even the student wings of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have been engaged country-wide in one up-manship processions. Sometimes these victory processions have created problems with the baiting of Muslims.
However, finally Narendra Modi has acknowledged his debt belatedly to LK Advani. LK Advani has been conferred the Bharat Ratna for his services towards initiating the Ram Temple movement. It was the Ram Janmabhoomi Yatra launched by LK Advani which culminated in the building of the Ram Mandir and its consecration or “prana pratishtha” in Ayodhya on January 22, 2024 .
Coincidently, or otherwise, the Ram Janmabhoomi Yatra launched by LK Advani started from Gujarat. It is now understood that Narendra Modi was one of the main organisers of the Ram Janmabhoomi Yatra. However, the BJP has to consolidate its power across the country. It got a boost when Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar quit the INDIA block to re-join BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The NDA is the front led by the BJP.

THE Congress finds itself increasingly isolated. Mamata Banerjee has made it clear that any leadership with the Congress is not expectable. She has ruled out the alliance with the Congress. As far as the parliamentary seats in West Bengal are concerned the only bastion of the Congress is in Karnataka and Telangana. But in India it is the regional parties who are supreme. Tamil Nadu has long since been seem alternate governments by the AIDMK and the DMK. Similarly, Kerala has been primarily the bastion of the left. It is the only survival bastion of the left. The left parties ruled West Bengal in the first 20 years of power in West Bengal.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee made a mistake when he gave the green signal to the Tatas to build their Nano plant in Nandigram. This was used by Mamata Banerjee to arouse the rural countryside against the Congress. Her Trinamool Congress came into power with a sweeping majority and it continues to dominate the politics of West Bengal, having replaced both the CPM and the Congress.
So the combined opposition of all India is considerably weakened. Its leadership with Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi is no longer accepted in the entire North. It may be recalled that the Congress lost the last general election and held before the parliamentary poll. The BJP swept Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chandigarh. There are isolated pockets in the north which are still under the control of the national alliance against the BJP.
Arvind Kejriwal is still very strong in Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal has expressed his confidence that AAP will win all the five parliamentary seats in Delhi. It may be recalled that AAP came to power with an overwhelming majority in Delhi in the face of stiff opposition from the Congress and the BJP. It was Sheela Dixit who was the uncrowned queen of the Congress. She also is credited with very good governance. Clearly, she could not appeal to Delhi’s huge slum and migrant population. Delhi like Mumbai and increasingly Goa is largely the bastion of migrant settlers.

KEJRIWAL came to power promising medical facilities, which he delivered. He also took on the power distribution companies and reduced the cost of power for the common man substantially. Kejriwal has a record of also providing housing to the poor. The only problem that all parties including the BJP in will face is competitive popularity.
In her budget speech Nirmala Sitharaman claimed that free rations have been given to 80 crore people, considering the total population of India is 120-130 crores. This means the BJP acknowledges there are 80 crore people who are below the poverty line.
In Punjab Kejriwal has promised door-to-door free rations to 22 lakh people. Punjab is the only state that the AAP has control over. In Delhi, it is the Lt Governor who calls the shots. The Enforcement Directorate is reportedly trying to force Kejriwal to join the BJP. The ED has issued repeated summons to Kejriwal. Kejriwal who was an income-tax officer before he resigned and contested the elections has stamped the summons as illegal. It will be curious to see who will win, the ED or Kejriwal.
India is now in a regional parties stronghold and in the long term the most important is perhaps the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the AIDMK in Tamil Nadu. In both these states, there are a large number of parliamentary seats in which the Opposition is dominant. Except that in Maharashtra it’s the BJP and its partner in government led by the breakaway faction of Eknath Shinde. The EC has given the symbol of the bow and arrow of the Shiv Sena to the Shinde faction. Udhav Thackeray has been totally marginalised.
Similarly in the case of NCP which has played a very dominant role, the Elections Commission has given the clock symbol to the Ajit Pawar faction. Part of the problem India has is that even the NCP will split. NCP leader Sharad Pawar is playing a major role in the INDIA group. The other stalwart with INDIA group was Nitesh Kumar of Bihar but he left. The other major partner of the INDIA group is the Trinamool Congress of West Bengal.

WEST Bengal is an important state as it elects 25 members to parliament. So between Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal, they can steal the balance. They ensure that the BJP does not get more than 350 seats. Indeed, Rajdeep Sardesai in his YouTube channel maintained his argument that it would be difficult for the BJP to get 400 seats. He has pointed out that the INDIA group has with its partners 150 seats in parliament.
The INDIA group will have to make a major breakthroughs to soften up Indian voters. It will also face stiff competition from Arvind Kejriwal of AAP. It looks more and more like as though the AAP and Mamata Banerjee will be the main competitors of the Congress for the leadership of the INDIA group. The BJP meanwhile is riding high on its achievement in consecrating the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. It is something which has caught the imagination of the people. Even leading Bollywood stars belonging to minority communities like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan made belatedly visits the Ram Mandir. More than 300 members of the UP parliament met at the Ram Mandir. The Ram Mandir seems to have become popular not just with the masses but also the classes. Every senior industrialist has made it a point to present their darshan at the new Ram Mandir.

IN the case of Goa, Narendra Modi which was here at February 6, 2024 to make a lot of promises. It is claimed that during his trip to Goa he inaugurated new projects worth Rs1,350 crore. These inaugurations and foundation stones may be nothing. They do not make it to ground realities. There has been talk on the Mandovi river ropeway to the fort of Reis Magos for over a decade now. Repeated prime ministers and chief ministers have assured its completion but nothing has happened so far.
So is the case with the Goa Institute of National Water Sports. At the beginning of Miramar beach. This too has been inaugurated several times. The principle agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Goa was really to kick off Energy Week which is a huge international affair with many business representatives from abroad seeking business in India.
Goa seems to be gaining prominence in event management, both national and international events. The recent international major event which took place was the Purple Fest Festival for the people with handicaps to be redressed.
In his budget presentation of 2024 Chief Minister Pramod Sawant followed the example of Modi in stressing on infrastructure. The stress is on housing for those who can’t afford homes. Another leaf from Modi’s book is to extend public health services. Free gas cylinders have been promised to large sections of the population.
The first popular schemes that were introduced were the Ladli Laxmi and Graha Aadhar schemes which are operational in the state. There are however plenty of arrears and the state government has yet to escape the death trap. The projects launched by the PM in his recent visit may not be completed during the next term. It does not matter as people forget the promises made by governments.
It looks as though the BJP will rollercoaster its way to power again. There is dissent in every part of the country. There are misgivings that BJP’s agenda will turn India into Bharat. Relatively, the damage has been done. Now Modi in his latest statement talked about modifying the educational system to better promote Bharatiya values or sanskar. The main guiding principles will come from the Vedas. It’s left to be seen how smooth a ride the BJP has in 2024.

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