A review of the key political drivers as elections to the Lok Sabha expected in the first half of next year  the politics in India is heating up with multiple confabulations ongoing. While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is consolidating the position after success in three North East States of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura the first two in coalition with regional parties, the opposition is determined for a strong showing in the polls next year though unity is proving to be elusive.
Here is a review of the political scenario in India in the first quarter 2023 [January-March2023]
Elections The Quarter saw political activity related to State and bye elections and attempts by the Opposition parties to pose a challenge to the centre ruling party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with only partial success.
BJP succeeded in formation of a government in Tripura while joining the coalition led by regional parties in Nagaland and Meghalaya in the three North East States where elections were held in February. The outcome was much cherished with the Prime Minister and the Home Minister joining the swearing in ceremony of the ministers in the latter two states.
The main opposition party the Indian National Congress was tied at three with BJP and its allies in six bye polls spread across five states.
The Election Commission has also announced polls for the key state of Karnataka to be held on May 10. There was disappointment in Jammu and Kashmir as the Union Territory was anticipating an announcement of polls for the summer.
BJP Attempting to consolidate the gains so far and prepare the Party for 2024, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the second day of the Bharatiya Janata Party two day national executive meet, wherein he said India's best era is coming and everyone should dedicate to the development of the country. President JP Nadda was given an extension possibly in view of impending state and the Lok Sabha elections next year.
The Party is naturally keen to return to power at the Centre and is ensuring preparations commence early. The BJP announced new state unit chiefs in Delhi, Bihar, Odisha and Rajasthan with an eye on strengthening the party while hard campaigning is ongoing for Karnataka the only state in the South where the party has been in power so far. Attempts are also being made for inroads in Kerala and Tamil Nadu with the support base being provided by the Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh or RSS.
Opposition Parties. The walkathon by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was in the centre stage named as Bharat Jodo yatra, what political gains that emerge from the same remains to be seen as the Congress MP from Waynad was disqualified from the Lok Sabha on sentencing by a district court in Gujarat based on a defamation suit filed for naming the Modi community as, “thieves,” thus indirectly referring to the Prime Minister. Congress workers launched a nation wide agitation while opposition parties claimed this was a witch hunt by the ruling BJP.
85th Plenary Session of the main opposition party, the Congress was held at Chhattisgarh’s Raipur. The meeting was led by party president Mallikarjun Kharge. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and eight leaders of opposition parties wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging “blatant misuse of central agencies”, citing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) arrest of senior Aam Aadmi Party leader Mr Manish Sisodia.
Attempts at opposition unity have continued with a function to celebrate the 70th birthday of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president and Tamil Nadu chief minister M K Stalin seeing a group of non- BJP parties pitching for an alliance ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Adani Issue and Parliament Session. The report by US based short seller Hindenburg Research on critical weaknesses in the Adani Group portfolio was raised by the opposition in the Budget session of the parliament stalling the proceedings claiming close links of Mr Gautam Adani to the prime minister.
The opposition sought a joint parliamentary committee [JPC] probe, while the BJP demanded an apology by Mr Rahul Gandhi for running down the country during a visit to the UK.
The BBC on 17 Jan broadcast documentary in UK examining role of PM Modi, then-Gujarat’s chief minister, during 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim riots. There was considerable commotion with various student bodies and some opposition state giving prominence to the documentary to earn political brownie points which has been banned in India.
There is no room for hate crimes based on religion in a secular country, the Supreme Court observed while stating that such crimes should not be ignored and “whitewashed” but rather be stopped with an iron hand. The observations came in the backdrop of the Uttar Pradesh police refusing to acknowledge the assault of a 62-year-old Muslim man Kazeem.
There was turmoil in Punjab as vigilante Amritpal Singh and his supporters stormed a police station seeking release of arrested leader of the group known as Waris Punjab De. The leader Amritpal Singh is now absconding.
Key Drivers Ahead. In the year ahead, focus on Lok Sabha elections preparations will continue. The main drivers will remain BJP’s finetuning of the campaign consolidating advantage of PM Modi’s vote winning abilities while opposition unity can be another determining factor. Karnataka polls should provide some trends ahead followed by those in other states going to the polls this year. The timing of the Jammu and Kashmir polls remains elusive which could be held now post the Amarnath Yatra in August-September.