Is it time for the BJP to think about a different strategy for state elections?

ROHIT CHANDAVARKAR
Monday, 23 December 2019

Though the BJP has done very well in parliament elections in 2014 as well as 2019, the party has not been able to develop acceptable state level leaders who can take everybody along and ensure party’s victory in assembly polls. This applies to Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and now even Jharkhand. Is it time for the BJP to be humble and study some strategy to fix this problem. What has hit the BJP after these multiple losses is the fact that every single election cannot be won anymore on the basis of just Narendra Modi’s campaign rallies. State level strategy and faces will be needed in the future. 

Last 26 months have been a rollercoaster ride for the BJP. The party has had phenomenal success in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year and returned to power with a big majority with Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s leadership getting public approval across the country but in the same period the party has seen one after the other debacles in assembly elections in various states. One image that went viral on social media on Monday, as the Jharkhand assembly poll results came in was that of India’s political map of December 2017 versus the country’s political map of December 2019, showing sizable decline in area under BJP’s influence.

Starting with Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh state elections, the process of BJP losing state after state, has now come up to Jharkhand. So Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand have gone from BJP’s control.  That is some trend that the party should be seriously worried about. The numbers that have come out in Jharkhand clearly indicate that the people of the state have out rightly rejected the BJP.

Most national political analysts have come to the conclusion that the BJP lost Jharkhand not because of any national issues such as the Citizenship Amendment Act issue but because of local factors. The blame especially in BJP’s circles is being put on sitting Chief Minister Raghubar Das and his alleged miscalculations in seat distribution but if he has gone so wrong in his mission, it also means the BJP central leadership put in the wrong person in-charge of the state! So central leadership is also responsible for the debacle.  In Maharashtra’s recent elections, many senior BJP leaders such as Eknath Khadse say that BJP lost many seats because state leadership backed by central leadership made many wrong decisions and behaved in a dictatorial manner. Now similar charges will be levelled against Das. 

There are murmurs now in the BJP office corridors that Das was too dictatorial and arrogant. It clearly indicates that though the BJP has done well in parliament elections in 2014 as well as 2019, the party has not been able to develop acceptable state level leaders who can ensure party’s victory in assembly polls. This applies to Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and now even Jharkhand. Is it time for the BJP to be humble and study some strategy to fix this problem. What has hit the BJP after these multiple losses is the fact that every single election cannot be won anymore on the basis of just Narendra Modi’s campaign rallies.  

The other factor, which has led to BJP’s debacle in many states is the anger and unhappiness among alliance partners. As soon as Jharkhand assembly results came in, some alliance partners again sensed that they could now demand more from BJP and started raising demands. This happened because right from Shiv Sena to Akali Dal most alliance partners accepted odd deals from the BJP under pressure from the iron fist of its central leadership which created an impression till now that they were invincible. Now the alliance partners like Shiv Sena have sensed that the BJP is not invincible anymore. It is going to be a task for the BJP to now be polite and convince the alliance partners to return to them or continue to stay with them. 

NCP Chief Sharad Pawar gave his reaction to the Jharkhand results. He said “nobody can now prevent the debacle of the BJP in the future”. Pawar has now formed and anti-BJP alliance in Maharashtra so his comments will obviously be against the BJP so they may be taken with a pinch of salt, however one must understand that there is no other leader in India today, who has his ear to the ground as much as Pawar. So if Pawar makes such political predictions publicly, it is perhaps time for the BJP to get into serious introspection.

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