BJP Has Its Work Cut Out Ahead Of 2019

The loss of 3 states in the Hindi heartland are a setback for the BJP and a big boost for the Congress as the verdict comes a few months ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP had won all 25 parliamentary seats in Rajasthan and 27 out of the 29 seats in Madhya Pradesh in the 2014 general elections. Even in Chattisgarh, the BJP had won 10 of the 11 seats on offer. Thus, the serious ramifications of the loss in the assembly elections in all 3 states and its inevitable spillover to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections which are 5 months away can’t be ignored by the party at its own peril.

To be fair to the state governments, it can be said that all the three Chief Ministers were battling anti-incumbency with Shivraj Chauhan and Raman Singh having completed a hat-trick and seeking a fourth term. Strangely, the State where the anti-incumbency factor should have been the strongest because of Shivraj’s long tenure, had the closest fight with both the incumbent BJP and the opposing Congress crossing the 100 mark in a house of 230. It goes to the credit of Shivraj Chauhan that he ran such a close race even after being in power for 13 years. However, Raman Singh was not so lucky as he suffered a two third loss to the Congress after being at the helm for 3 successive terms.

If anti-incumbency led to the fall of the 3 BJP governments, then surely the Modi-Shah wave did not have the desired effect on the masses as both the PM and the BJP President spent a considerable part of their time in all 3 states doing election rallies. The big semi-final as these elections were billed have drawn a blank for the BJP and should shrug off  the complacency and overconfidence of its top hierarchy.

The losses were imminent as they were preceded by defeats in Lok Sabha by polls in Rajasthan and also in the Panchayat elections. The loss in municipal elections in MP was also an indicator of the changing mood of the voter. The moving away of the jats and the gujjars from the BJP in Rajasthan and the drifting away of tribals in MP and Chattisgarh is a cause of concern ahead of 2019.

For the BJP, the Congress Mukt Bharat slogan will have to be at the backburner and the party’s think-tank will have to come up with a better strategy to counter an upbeat and a revived Congress which has tasted success in 3 crucial states just ahead of the big 2019 fight.

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The BJP piggybacked on the Modi-tsunami in 2014 to taste unprecedented success in 2014 but that is unlikely to happen again in 2019.

States like UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bihar gave unflinching support to the party having returned 195 out of a possible 249 MPs with Gujarat and Rajasthan giving 100% result for the party. Thus, the party won close to 70% of its total seats  (69.1% to be precise) from these 6 states, a feat which is impossible to repeat in 2019 unless there is a similar swing for the party.

To offset the likely losses in these big states, the BJP will have to fill up its kitty from the South and the North-East if it has to reach the magical figure of 272. But that would be easier said than done as apart from Karnataka BJP’s presence, in the other southern states is marginal . Moreover its one time ally and NDA partner Chandra Babu Naidu is no longer by its side .

In fact, things are not looking good for the party in Maharashtra and Bihar as far as the allies are concerned. Shiv Sena is a force to reckon within Maharashtra and has 18 MPs in the current Lok Sabha but the relations between the two are far from cordial, with Udav Thackeray leaving no stone unturned to embarrass the government at the centre from time to time. Sanjay Raut, the Shiv Sena MP, was quick to remind the BJP that its victory chariot had been halted .

The resignation of Upendra Kushwaha from the Modi cabinet also does not augue well for the party as it means a loss of another ally (RLSP) at a crucial juncture ahead of the big fight where every ally and every seat will count in the final analysis.

Coalition dharma has been adopted by all parties including the BJP to form governments and be in power.

Absolute majorities, like the one BJP tasted in 2014, have been hard in coming and allies and outside support have been crucial in forming governments in the absence of a decisive mandate. Vajpayee realised and understood this political compulsion and ran a successful coalition of 13 parties for a full term.

In the absence of any wave or swing in the ensuing 6 months, the BJP’s higher echelons and the so called think-tank would do well to revisit and salvage their relations with their allies turned foes in their own interest and that of the party. While it’s time for introspection within the BJP, the Congress can afford a jig for the moment.


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About the Author

Aman Gupta
Political Editor, Samast Bharat magazine