The BJP is gearing up to face elections in many states
Seniority in organisation, record of delivery and the Prime Minister's trust - these were probably the most important factors that the BJP considered while announcing the names of election in-charges of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.
This includes four cabinet ministers, two senior leaders of the party who have worked to build the organisation, and at least two leaders who have worked alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi for many years.
The BJP is in action mode already with senior leaders holding meetings across zones every day, and while the 2024 Lok Sabha election is central to its efforts, it is also clear to set a momentum and to optimise its performance, the party also has to perform well in the assembly elections in the run up to 2024.
The BJP has announced cabinet ministers Bhupender Yadav and Ashwani Vaishnaw as the in-charge and co in-charge of Madhya Pradesh, where Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is seeking a fourth term.
It is a two-decade-long anti-incumbency and while the Mr Chouhan has been announcing a slew of welfare measures, the Congress too has announced guarantees of free electricity and income support for women.
Bhupender Yadav is seen as a troubleshooter for the BJP. He has often been sent to states where the party is fighting tough election battles - for instance Gujarat in 2017 and Bihar in 2020. In both cases, the party faced anti-incumbency of many years.
In Gujarat, it was the first assembly election after PM Modi took charge and in Bihar, the BJP was fighting the election with Nitish Kumar-led JDU, which was seeking a third term against an aggressive RJD.
Ashwini Vaishnaw, who is a minister handling critical portfolios such as Railways, IT and Telecom, is also seen as among those trusted by PM Modi and who can deliver. In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has had a strong organisation, and from 2008 to 2013, it has only increased its vote share and seats opposite the Congress.
But that changed in 2018, when both parties received an almost equal share of votes, almost 41 per cent. Neither party crossed the majority mark of 115 assembly seats, though the Congress came close and later formed the government. So the task in front of Bhupender Yadav is not only to strengthen the organisation that has many factions, but also to improve its outreach in Scheduled Tribes (ST) strongholds where the party did not fare well last time. As Environment Minister, Mr Yadav has often held many consultations with tribal groups which could help him in this assignment. Both Mr Yadav and Mr Vaishnaw will also to get the party that has many strong leaders from the state. For instance, ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia and Narendra Singh, state party president VD Sharma and state minister Narottam Mishra, and party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, to work together and present a united face.
The BJP has made Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi as the party in-charge for Rajasthan, and also handed over responsibility of being co in-charges to former Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and Haryana politician Kuldeep Bishnoi.
Mr Joshi had handled the Uttarakhand election in 2022 and the BJP had managed to reverse the trend of incumbent governments being voted out every five years by registering a comfortable victory.
A senior functionary of the party said with Mr Joshi hailing from the south, and having worked with senior leaders such as Ananth Kumar and BS Yediyurappa, he would more likely be more objective and effective in his approach, than others who have been invested in Rajasthan politics.
Mr Patel, a senior party leader from Gujarat who is from the same district, Mehsana, as PM Modi and belongs to the Patidar community, has had many years of experience in the administration. Like many other senior leaders, Mr Patel was not given a ticket in the assembly election. His appointment as a co in-charge is a sign by the party that those who give up fighting elections for the sake of the party can get involved in party work. Mr Patel has worked with PM Modi for many years and knows the expectations from him, as Rajasthan is closest to Gujarat.
Mr Bishnoi comes from the Bishnoi community that is a significant minority in Rajasthan but does not have leaders, which is why it is critical for the BJP. The BJP that has not still declared a chief ministerial face in Rajasthan has former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, and many other aspirants. Mr Joshi and his team now will have to balance the caste factor too, particularly among the Jat-Gurjar-Dalit communities, and leaders such Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, minister Gajendra Shekhawat, Satish Poonia, Arjun Meghwal and Rajendra Rathore, among others. The Congress won the state in 2008 and 2018. But both times, the party had a very thin victory margin. The state has for long voted out the ruling party in assembly elections.
The BJP has appointed former minister Prakash Javadekar as the in-charge for Telangana where the party is fighting not just K Chandrasekhar Rao-led BRS, but also the Congress. Mr Javadekar was one of the important voices from the BJP during the Telangana movement, particularly in parliament and outside. Party functionaries said he had a good equation with the new party president of the state, G Kishan Reddy who is also a minister at the centre, as was familiar with the state because he had been a prabhari earlier.
The BJP has also announced Sunil Bansal as the co in-charge. Mr Bansal, a general secretary of the party who has worked in crucial victories in Uttar Pradesh, has been working in Telangana for the past few months, conducting regular meetings with state leaders. It was his feedback, among other factors, that brought about the change in party president of the state, those aware of the matter said.
The BJP has appointed Om Mathur as the in-charge and Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya as the co in-charge for Chhattisgarh. In 2018, the Congress won a landslide victory in this state, winning 68 of the 90 seats and getting 43 per cent of the vote share.
Mr Mathur is among the senior-most leaders of the organisation, while Mr Mandaviya has dealt with difficult elections such as Karnataka this year and West Bengal in 2021, where he was put in charge of the districts in North Bengal.
Mr Mandaviya, like Nitin Patel, has worked with PM Modi for many years. Chhattisgarh is particularly challenging for the BJP as despite being in power for 15 years, it won just 15 assembly seats, losing eight per cent votes and 34 assembly seats in 2018. Revamping the organisation and taking on Congress's Bhupesh Baghel's welfare schemes and soft Hindutva approach will be key tasks for Mr Mathur and Mr Mandaviya.