To maintain the track record of impressive victories that began with the Lok Sabha elections in May 2014 when BJP became the only party since 1984 to win complete majority on its own, BJP needs to win the Delhi assembly polls slated to be held on February 7.
After the spectacular show in the Lok Sabha polls, BJP won Haryana and Jharkhand assembly polls in equally remarkable feats and performed brilliantly in Maharashtra and Jammu & Kashmir. BJP has majority governments in Haryana and Jharkhand. Reversing the trend, it is now the senior partner of Shiv Sena in the Maharashtra government. And in Jammu & Kashmir, it is the second largest party in the hung assembly verdict.
And one streak has been clear all through this – it was the projection of Narendra Modi that helped BJP reach these heights of electoral achievements and political victories. BJP was projected to race ahead of others but was never seen achieving majority on its own. Even the BJP strategists had not thought so.
Narendra Modi was the BJP face in an electoral battle where the nearest rival prime-ministerial nominee was nowhere near to him in popularity. And he worked well to mobilize opinions on supporting factors like sky-high anti-incumbency against the UPA government and political corruption. He mapped the country with intensive campaigning and his influential oratory.
The push that Narendra Modi and BJP got by the Lok Sabha verdict worked for the party in the four assembly polls and again Modi was the face of the party – every time, in every state – with no chief-ministerial nominees from the party.
These five victories helped Modi become much larger than BJP. And to win Bihar, where elections are scheduled later this year and Uttar Pradesh in 2017, BJP needs Modi’s charisma to work on, to let Modi remain larger than BJP, irrespective of the thoughts on its long-term projections.
BJP is in absolute minority in Rajya Sabha and to push its legislative agenda effectively, it needs bigger states like UP and Bihar with handsome victories, replicating what it did in the Lok Sabha polls winning around 90% of the LS seats in the two states. A thumping victory in these two states will make BJP much more stronger to claim political constituencies in other states, either on its own, or with new allies.
But going by the experiences of the three bypolls between the Lok Sabha polls and the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly polls, where BJP lost and lost spectacularly and had its allies taking on the leadership of BJP and questioning Modi on his ‘waning’ charisma, trying to nip BJP’s ambitions of emerging as the major player in the Indian states in the bud, any loss in an assembly poll with Modi as the face and with no ‘state nominee’ would have compounding effect. The final chapter in BJP-Shiv Sena split saga was written with these bypoll results in the background.
And if the state in question is Delhi, then this compounding effect is compounded even more. BJP has been a relevant force in Delhi. It formed the first state government in 1993. It emerged as the largest party in the 2013 assembly polls after three successive runs as the principal opposition. In the Lok Sabha polls 2014, it was ahead in 60 of the 70 assembly segments (even in New Delhi, assembly constituency of Arvind Kejriwal) winning all the seven parliamentary constituencies of the state. And there is nothing wrong if we say that BJP is ruling Delhi now through the Lieutenant-Governor.
And Delhi is India’s National Capital – with an educated, middle-class voter base that reacts rationally – the votebank that Narendra Modi has been talking about – but this votebank also reacts and reacts promptly on issues like corruption, governance and the type of politics being practised. AAP’s emergence as a major political force in Delhi with faces from the massive anti-corruption movement of 2011 tells us so. And Delhi was the epicentre of movement.
Now, if Delhi voters reject Modi for Kejriwal, within a year of the grand show of the Lok Sabha polls, it will come as a severe blow.
It will send the message to the nation that Modi could not deliver where Modi had to be most effective, in Delhi, denting the Modi Factor, painting it in a dull hue.
And it is a real possibility, even BJP realizes it. Even a hung mandate with BJP as the largest party again would do the same for BJP. Arvind Kejriwal would be suitably positioned to form the government with Congress’ help again then. It will be an electoral setback, symbolically much more potent than the bypoll losses.
And BJP is trying to keep Narendra Modi away from such possibilities, away from the electoral calculations of the Delhi assembly polls 2015.
Crash landing Kiran Bedi in BJP when elections were just three weeks away might well be a part of this strategy.
But would it help, in case, if Arvind Kejriwal becomes the Delhi chief minister again, and that too after the allegations of being a deserter who kept Delhi without a government for a year derailing thus the development of Delhi?
Or is it a part of some long-term thinking and larger strategy?
Sooner or later, the Modi charisma is bound to fade. But BJP needs ‘a Modi larger than BJP’ at least till the UP assembly polls where it would hope to use Modi to make for the absence of a real, strong leader in the state. For UP and Bihar assembly polls, BJP needs to maintain the perception in voters’ mind that ‘they are voting for Modi by voting for BJP’.
After all, with time, anti-incumbency is bound to build against the Modi led government. We have had some path-breaking ideas, some breakthrough policy statements and some honest looking changes in the overall governance process but the time is coming when questions would be posted on their delivery – in real terms, in the form of accessible benefits to them who voted for Modi for ‘achhe din’ (good days).
For delivery, Modi needs to focus in Delhi. And the process has to begin somewhere and Delhi’s questionable prospects for BJP may be the tipping point.
After all, with passing time, and with anti-incumbency creeping in, Modi and BJP cannot take the risk of making Modi the face of the party in every state where polls are due except the imperative lifelines – UP and Bihar. The party needs the regional leaders, the states leaders and Delhi could be the beginning of this exercise. Separating Modi from other assembly poll outcomes could help BJP retain the perception about ‘Modi’s charisma’ for a longer time, at least till UP assembly polls, they would hope.
And in both scenarios, the need to make the move would have acquired accentuated scales with ‘much less than expected turnout’ in the January 10 Abhinandan Rally, that was marketed in the name of Narendra Modi, launching BJP’s Delhi poll campaign – and – with Aam Aadmi Party’s ‘yet another successful hit and run smear campaign’ targeting Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay of ‘having nexus with the power distribution companies or discoms of Delhi’ and we all know that the power discoms of Delhi have amassed, over the years, good enough share of negative publicity.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–/