The massive mandate for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh has left everyone stunned. The Modi-Shah roadroller has not just crushed the ruling Samajwadi Party and the BSP, it has squashed the spirit and hopes of parties across the political spectrum.
Former J&K Chief Minister and National Conference boss Omar Abdullah was the first to say it upfront in a tweet: “At this rate, we might as well forget 2019 & start planning/hoping for 2024.” And RJD chief Lalu Yadav’s lieutenant Raghuvansh Prasad Singh harped on the need to replicate the Bihar model where all anti-BJP parties forged a mahagathbandhan to successfully stop the Modi surge there. That for him was the TINA (there is no alternative) factor.
What is worrying other parties is the scale of the BJP alliance’s victory not once but twice in two-and-a-half years. When in the 2014 general elections the BJP-led front bagged 73 of 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP, which contributed in a big way to Narendra Modi becoming prime minister, it was seen as a flash in the pan. The alliance has now pocketed a whopping 325 of the 403 Assembly constituencies, picking up seats dominated by Jats, non-Jatav Dalits, Yadavs and even Muslims, indicating it has grown deep roots in UP.
Predictably, the knives are out in the Congress against vice president Rahul Gandhi’s insipid leadership as they will be in ally SP against Akhilesh Yadav. With the Congress doing a Rip Van Winkle, the BJP Modi-fied the narrative by occupying the centrist space with bold reforms coupled with pro-poor programmes and promises that are good vote catchers.
However, the UP outcome is as much an opportunity as a challenge. Running a State as complex as UP is not easy. Having won the perception battle, the party now has to act quickly to end goonda raj, clean up the administration and create jobs. Else, the semi-final result could end up becoming an albatross around its neck in the run up to the 2019 final bout.