The dynamism that the ruling BJP has displayed post its victory in the just-concluded Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh stands out in contrast to the stunned silence within the Congress. The BJP has gone through with a clearly-conceived plan to phase out the Old Guard and infuse fresh energy, by appointing three staunch organisation men — Vishnu Deo Sai in Chhattisgarh, Mohan Yadav in Madhya Pradesh and Bhajan Lal Sharma in Rajasthan — as chief ministers. There has barely been a murmur of protest from the previous contenders.

That the BJP has replaced Shivraj Singh Chouhan in MP, Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh despite having won the elections there, shows that the party has a long-term plan that factors in new political realities and challenges. The Congress, meanwhile, is yet to take stock of its defeat and decide what to do with the entrenched leaders Kamal Nath, Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel who were rejected by the electorate. The BJP has also shown that it understands voter preference for novelty and fresh ideas. In the Mizoram and Telangana elections, the voters supported newcomers who came with different ideas for governing the States. As many as 37 of the 40 candidates of the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) in Mizoram were fresh faces with no prior electoral experience. The young party won an impressive 27 seats in the 40-member Assembly under the leadership of former IPS officer Lalduhoma. In Telangana, the Congress picked up momentum under the relatively young A Revanth Reddy to breach the seemingly invincible record of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi.

Indeed, the BJP was able to infuse dynamism into its campaign in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh by putting up MPs, Cabinet ministers and new faces as fresh candidates while refusing to project the Old Guard as CM candidates. A balancing of caste equations has simultaneously been attempted by the selection of an OBC as CM in MP, a tribal in Chhattisgarh and a Brahmin in Rajasthan who has a Thakur and a Dalit as Deputy CMs.

The ruling party feels confident to experiment with new leaders and be battle-ready for the future. In one stroke, it now has an entirely new set of leaders in its pocket-borough provinces in the Hindi heartland. But this strategy could backfire at times, as in Karnataka where the party has had to turn back to BS Yeddyurappa after having forced him to quit mid-term as CM in 2021. Yeddyurappa’s son BY Vijayendra has been appointed the BJP’s State unit president six months after it lost the Assembly elections in the State. Yet, the BJP has a new line of leadership in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, MP, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat. The test of these manoeuvres lies in the quality of governance the new leaders are able to provide. But for multi-party democracy to thrive, the Congress must change its ways — and be ready with fresh alternatives.