The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vanquished all Opposition by clearly winning two and coming within striking distance in two more of the five state Assembly elections, the results of which were declared on Saturday.
The victory will result in consolidation of power for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah. A reshuffle in the central government and in the party hierarchy is likely. Praising Modi, Shah said, “The only factor for the win is the performance of the Modi government. … Even his political rivals will have to admit that he has emerged as the tallest leader in the country since Independence.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not make a public appearance, but tweeted: “Am overjoyed that BJP has received unprecedented support from all sections of society. Huge support from the youth is gladdening.”
The results also dealt a body blow to the Opposition. “Uttar Pradesh ke ladke” Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi were grappling with defeat, while former chief minister Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will be staring down the barrel.
The brightest spot for the Opposition was Punjab, where the Congress defeated both AAP and BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). It also emerged as the single-largest party in Manipur and Goa.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s plans to scale up his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) nationally also suffered a setback, with lesser-than-expected performances in both Goa and Punjab.
Team Modi-Amit Shah’s greatest victory was, undoubtedly, in Uttar Pradesh. With 312 seats in the party’s kitty, it was clear that all caste and community calculations fell by the wayside. The BJP engulfed almost all support for the Congress and devastated the ruling SP. This was the first time in 37 years that any party had crossed the 300-seat mark in the state.
With only seven seats, Congress is now at a lifetime low in the UP Assembly. Yadav, who had to take on the old guard of his party to form the pre-poll alliance with Congress, failed to cash in on his popularity among young voters or convince them about his contribution to infrastructure in the state. Anti-incumbency and neglect of constituencies by members of the Legislative Assembly cost the party dear.
A visibly dejected Yadav told reporters, “I hope the next government will work better than the SP government.” The BSP won 19 seats, securing only about 22 per cent vote share — down from 25 per cent in 2012. This prompted Mayawati to charge that electronic voting machines were rigged.
In Punjab, AAP posted gains (20 seats), but came nowhere near its high expectation. Instead, the SAD-BJP combine performed better than expected, winning 18 seats.
Addressing the issue of drugs, state Congress chief Amarinder Singh, who is most likely to become the chief minister, said, “Anybody found involved in the drug scourge will be dealt as per law… I have said within four weeks we will tackle this drugs problem.”
The picture in Uttarakhand was the exact opposite, with the BJP juggernaut ousting the Congress. With a promise of forming a stable government in the state, BJP romped home with a highest-ever tally (57).
In Manipur too, where BJP had no presence till 2012, the party made significant inroads. The Congress emerged as the single-largest party, winning 28 seats. But the BJP’s state in-charge Ram Madhav was confident that his party, which won 21 seats, would form the government with allies, National People’s Party (four seats) and Naga People’s Front (four seats). This, however, seemed like a distant possibility.
Goa was the only state where the BJP suffered appreciable reverses, with even Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar losing his seat. The Aam Aadmi Party was a non-starter, here too, failing to win any seat. Here, too, the Congress was the largest party here, winning 17 of the 40 seats in the Assembly.
Savouring its victory, the BJP said its parliamentary board, its highest decision-making body, will meet on Sunday and decide the chief ministers of UP and Uttarakhand.
Prime Minister Modi promised the first decision the BJP government in UP would take would be to retire loans of small and marginal farmers. Similarly, the Congress has promised that its first decision would be to cancel casino licences in Goa and waive loans of farmers in Punjab.
The result has implications for power equations in all parties. BSP chief Mayawati remains immune from threats to her leadership, but it is clear that the party would now be vulnerable to attacks by poachers.
However, Akhilesh Yadav will now have to face the onslaught of blame from the section of the SP that he alienated in the run-up to the election. Charges that Congress was a liability are already being voiced by SP leaders.
Arvind Kejriwal is unlikely to face any questioning from his party. The Punjab electoral performance is likely to influence the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections next month.
Rahul Gandhi was also enveloped in a protective mantle by his party. Congress leader Digvijay Singh said for long, the Congress has believed no one leader is responsible for victory or defeat in elections, thus obviating a demand for a change in leadership even before it could be voiced and before the extent of devastation for the party could be discerned.
Unhampered anymore by political considerations, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre is expected to go full steam ahead now, both in Parliament and outside.
When Parliament opens on Tuesday, an aggressive prime minister is expected to read the riot act to the Opposition benches.
The result will see the BJP put forward its candidate for the President of India with renewed confidence: All fears that a slim majority would force the party to compromise will now be pushed aside.
In the Rajya Sabha, after the retirement of nearly 80 members between now and 2018, the NDA will see numbers slowly shifting in its favour. This election will be a major shot in the arm for the government.