CSDS-Lokniti 2024 pre-poll survey | Nepotism, Defections and Alliances: BJP need not worry about its realpolitik

While the BJP has routinely criticised the Congress for dynastic politics, recent developments suggest that the BJP itself has faced similar accusations

Updated - April 12, 2024 07:13 am IST

Published - April 12, 2024 05:06 am IST

A couple on a motorcycle rides past a banner with the pictures of Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. File

A couple on a motorcycle rides past a banner with the pictures of Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

Political leaders are often seen switching allegiances, leaving their parent parties to join others, in pursuit of personal or strategic interests. This time around, leaders from various parties, both seasoned veterans and fresh faces, appear to flock towards the BJP, reshaping the nature of political competition. While the BJP has routinely criticised the Congress for dynastic politics, recent developments suggest that the BJP itself has faced similar accusations. Moreover, alliance formation appears to have evolved beyond ideological considerations, taking a pragmatic turn purely for electoral gains. Against this backdrop, Lokniti-CSDS survey sought to understand how these issues fare in the mind of voters.

Also Read:Lokniti CSDS pre-poll survey for 2024 Lok Sabha elections

Nepotism

Nepotism remains a recurring theme, with the BJP consistently critiquing the Congress for its dynastic politics and favouritism. However, the BJP has consistently welcomed politicians from other parties irrespective of their ‘dynastic’ background. Then there are leaders in the BJP itself who have strong family backgrounds in politics. How do voters perceive this? Do they see the BJP as a nepotistic party? According to pre-poll data from Lokniti CSDS, voters are evenly split in their opinions on the BJP being nepotistic. Equal proportions of voters expressed the view that the BJP is less nepotistic than the Congress and that it is equally nepotistic. Only a small minority believed that the BJP is free from nepotism (Tabe 1).

Interestingly, those supporting the I.N.D.I.A. bloc (36%) and other opposition parties (27%) are more inclined to perceive the BJP as equally nepotistic. On the other hand, supporters of the BJP (32%) and those of its allied parties (29%) tend to view the party as less nepotistic than the Congress. What is interesting is that among the voters of the I.N.D.I.A. alliance and opposition parties, two in ten feel that the BJP is less nepotistic than the Congress, while one seventh from the BJP and its allies feel that the BJP is as nepotistic as the Congress. Moreover, about one-fourth of BJP voters maintain the belief that the BJP is not nepotistic at all. A significant portion (36%) of voters had no opinion on this question, suggesting that respondents were either not well-informed or not interested.

Party crossovers in BJP

Ever since the BJP became the main vehicle to get power, there have been many and consistent instances of leaders from other parties crossing over to the BJP. Some newcomers joining the BJP bring along a history marred by corruption, potentially tarnishing the party’s credibility. We sought to understand voters’ sentiments regarding this matter. A little less than half of the voters (45%) believe that the BJP should refrain from accepting leaders with a tarnished image, a sentiment shared by half of the BJP supporters (51%). However, a significant minority, one-fifth of the voters (21%), see no issue with parties accepting such leaders, this view being more pronounced among those voting for the BJP allies (32%) than those voting for the BJP (21%). A notable proportion, about one-third of voters (34%), did not provide a response to this issue (Table 2).

Amidst the surge of leaders into the BJP, questions arise regarding their motivations. We asked voters whether these leaders are joining the BJP to protect themselves from enforcement agencies such as the ED or the CBI, or if they genuinely like the party. A large proportion of respondents (46%) believes that these leaders are seeking protection from the CBI or the ED, while close to three in ten voters (27%) believe that these leaders genuinely like the party. Another quarter of voters refrained from giving any opinion (27%) (Table 3).

Alliance criteria

Not only are political leaders switching parties for strategic reasons, but party alliances are also increasingly driven by electoral pragmatism rather than ideological alignment. The data suggests that nearly half of the voters (45%) believe that ideological alignment during elections holds little significance, as everything is fair in politics. (Table 4).

The sentiment that ‘everything is fair in politics’ is prevalent across all parties, with a significant portion endorsing this perspective. The highest endorsement comes from voters of BJP allies, BSP, and Congress allies, where over 50% feel that this approach is acceptable. Conversely, the lowest endorsement comes from voters of smaller parties (38%) and the Left parties (42%). Interestingly, voters of the Left parties are most likely to advocate against forming alliances that are ideologically very different, with four in every ten voters of these parties agreeing with this view. (Table 5).

In sum, we find that whether on the question of dynasticism or of defections or alliances, opinions of the respondents are somewhat ambivalent. Like parties and politicians, ordinary citizens too, seem to be more driven by pragmatic considerations and an amoral and non-ideological view of politics. It is not easy for non-BJP parties, therefore, to corner the BJP on these grounds while it is possible for the BJP to engage in this type of realpolitik without much apprehension of political reprisal.

Vibha Attri and Devesh Kumar are researchers at Lokniti-CSDS

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