With an eye towards the 2022 elections in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, the BJP is reshuffling their leadership team after the farmer protests continue to hurt the party’s popularity. BJP President JP Nadda promoted long time RSS member and current BJP Joint General Secretary Saudan Singh to Vice President with a special focus on the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh. Singh will be based in Chandigarh.
Singh is known as a masterful election strategist who played a significant role in the unexpected BJP victory in Chhittisgarh in 2013. The Punjab and Himachal Pradesh elections are only one year away and facing serious challenges, making it necessary to bring in a skilled organizer and strategist like Singh.
This will be the first time the BJP is contesting all 117 seats in Punjab without its coalition partner the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). The SAD quit the alliance recently, seeing a continued association with the BJP as a liability to its own election prospects.
The BJP has significantly hurt its standing with farmers in all three states due to the passing of the three farm laws which deregulate the agriculture sector. The laws largely benefit larger corporations while removing protections for farmers.
The protests are reigniting a debate on whether state powers should be strengthened to reflect a more federalist democratic structure. The current BJP administration has passed several laws, including the GST tax structure and the farm bills, which significantly encroach on state powers. BJP election losses would be a rebuke to PM Modi consolidating power in the central government.
Another reason the BJP requires a strong showing in these elections is that Punjab and Himachal Pradesh provide the only route to Kashmir and Ladakh - both currently requiring large military deployments. In Kashmir, India is trying to maintain control after revoking their autonomy. In Ladakh, India is in a military standoff with China over a border dispute.
As part of the election strategy, Singh is expected to mobilize RSS members to support BJP candidates, increase Dalit outreach and solidify BJP support in the urban areas.
Image and blog post by Ekta Punjab. For more, follow @ektapunjab on Instagram.