The recent Assembly polls in several States have enhanced the BJP’s image as a pan-India party. Though the party lost in Punjab, its massive wins in UP and Uttarakhand and its significant comeback in Manipur makes the party visible in several states.
The Modi wave in UP and Uttarakhand is a testimony to the growing popularity of PM Narendra Modi and his numerous policy initiatives.
He has earned appreciation not only for his leadership at national and international level but also for several hard policy options that included a surgical strike across the Line of Control with Pakistan, demonetisation and a tough stand against terrorism within and without. Modi has also earned appreciation for his clean image, his drive against black money and zero tolerance against corruption.
Not only that, BJP has gone on an overdrive in respect of both social engineering and constituency transformation to make it more inclusive.
The party has transcended from being a party of a limited constituency comprising upper caste, urban middle class and traders to a party that includes more-backwards, most-backwards and Dalits, especially ati-Dalits. The party even approached Muslims and organised panchayats in 100 Muslim-dominated areas starting from Mewat in Haryana and culminating in Delhi in which their problems were solved at their doorsteps.
Such a massive win for BJP has a due share of Muslim support to the party. To accelerate this, BJP roped in these communities into the leadership structure of the party and even appointed MJ Akbar to the Modi cabinet, giving him the very sensitive External Affairs Ministry. The more-backward leader Anupriya Patel was also inducted in Modi cabinet and most-backward leader Keshav Prasad Maurya was appointed BJP’s State President. The party also gave about 50% tickets to MBCS and EBCs which greatly enthused these social groups and pushed them towards BJP.
The terrible performance of Congress in UP has led many to conclude that this election is a final nail in the Congress coffin. In fact, the Congress coalition with Samajwadi Party was such a suicidal experiment that it will take a very long time for the party to revive in UP.
The party suffered two major setbacks owing to the coalition. One, the party ceded 298 assembly constituencies to SP and that meant that the party almost struck a bloody blow to its own organisational structure that will very adversely impact the party mobilisational drive in the coming Lok Sabha polls in 2019.
Two, by this coalition, Congress allowed Muslims to shift to SP or BSP or AIMIM of Asaduddin Owaisi, and they may never return to the Congress. This was akin to an earlier folly by Congress in 1996 when it went for a coalition with BSP. Thus, with a party already gasping for revival in UP, this coalition with SP appeared like a harakari by Congress leadership and political strategist.
The surprise results in UP have made the task of the new government more challenging because the mandate is indicative of an equally vehement aspirational public psyche, akin to the one that we saw in 2014 in UP and elsewhere.
There would be tremendous pressure on the new government to fulfil those aspirations. Since PM Modi is also an MP from Varanasi, he will also feel the heat and must ensure that he has a CM who understands his governance culture, policy priorities and developmental drive.
One great shock has been the rout of Mayawati and BSP despite much hyped Dalit-Muslim social engineering. Mayawati must now institutionalise the party instead of just going on the presumption of a self-motivated party cadre.
The results of the just concluded elections are a great morale booster not just for the BJP but also for PM Modi and his initiatives like demonetisation and other hard decisions for the good of the country.