Modi hits triple ton, BJP makes a historic comeback in u.p. ■ Namo hits rahul, akhilesh for sixes ■ maya cries foul as shadow looms over bsp's future ■ Amarinder takes punjab, crushing kejri's ambitions ■ saffron sweeps u'khand, loses goa ■ Congress may retain manipur
NEW DELHI / LUCKNOW: A grand canvas of victory with a distinct Modi signature in Uttar Pradesh, exceeding even the most optimistic predictions, capped a day of ecstatic tidings for the BJP. Results to the five state Assembly elections that rolled out on Saturday -- widely considered as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's tenure that just crossed the half-way mark - came as an emphatic yes-vote.
Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand are decisively in the bag for the BJP, while Goa may be within reach if the party desires to pursue it. Manipur, small but salient in terms of the BJP's nationalistic plank, seemed to be inching back to the Congress after a cliffhanger -- though the 'Others' give it a chance to chance to return to power.
If the BJP victory in Uttar Pradesh was all about astute planning, caste calculations and public anger against the feud in the SP family, Brand Modi came as a force multiplier, delivering in the typical 'shock-and-awe' style. It even eclipsed Indira Gandhi's halcyon days in India's politically most important State, a fact that will colour events conclusively from now on.
His imprint, as one of the most formidable models of political leadership in recent times, was writ large on other subterranean trends, like a unifying anti-incumbency vote across the states. For the BJP, the electoral boost comes as a popular validation of the Modi government's policies at the Centre. The BJP relied heavily on its superstar campaigner and he pulled it off with aplomb.
He set the agenda in each of the seven phases with rivals busy following him, and he left the final two phases for the hardest push. His Varanasi blitz in the last two days ensured that the party conquered the eastern frontier of the state, decimating the opposition. Starting it off with the acronym "SCAM" in the west and hopping to the 'UP ka god liya beta' quip in Awadh, Narendra Modi stirred the political landscape and struck a chord with his voters with equal ease.
From jibes about the SP-Congress alliance, taunts against the SP's tainted minister Gayatri Prajapati to his 'kabristan-vs-shamshan' comment in Fatehpur, the impact of his speeches helped his party trap the floating non-Muslim, non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav MBC voters.
Modi took the bull by the horns to confront the negatives of demonetization despite the deterrent memory of the Bihar debacle of 2015, and succeeded in casting his spell on voters.
The spectacular win in UP (the biggest for any party in decades, surpassing Kalyan Singh's 221 in the heyday of Ayodhya) also came in the face of a fragmented, mobile electorate -- and its breathtaking scale meant that the BJP's regional party opponents faced decimation.
On one side, the Rahul-Akhilesh alliance came to nothing in front of Modi's charisma and Amit Shah's meticulous planning that went down to the booth level.
On the other hand, there is the desolation faced by the BSP, seen as the dark horse till the other day. Mayawati was reduced to making allegations of EVM tampering after her poor No. 3 showing, having won barely 19 of the 403 seats that her party contested.
The other states too voted broadly in sync with the anti incumbency mood. The Congress earned a pretty creditable face-saver in Punjab, winning 77 of the 117 seats and displacing the Akali-BJP coalition.
The credit for holding his own against the huge pro-AAP sentiment in the countryside goes to Capt Amarinder Singh, who led the campaign even in the face of ambivalent support from the Congress high command.
Goa and Manipur seemed to be headed for a photo-finish, with the Congress putting up a reasonable fight in both states though things could go either way when the issue of the government formation comes up. The BJP, in power in the first and a new challenger in the second, will be hoping to burnish its overall narrative.
A big loser all around was the Aam Aadmi Party, which was supposed to have taken Punjab by storm, and perhaps even Goa. The ambitious AAP has crash-landed, with its 24 seats in Punjab being only marginally better than the Akali-BJP's tally of 18. In Goa, AAP figured only as an 'also-ran' party, not winning a single seat in the State.
The Kejriwal brand has suffered a huge blow with these results --a heartening factor for the BJP and the Congress. He was the only leader who dared to pose as an alternative to both of them.