Another big bye-poll loss and another big blow to the ruling BJP. Much has been said and discussed about the defeat, causes analysed and opinions given by all and sundry. Is the situation that bad? Are the poll results an aberration or a trend in the making? (Worse, is it a well-set trend already probably?) Is there a seething anger-wave against the BJP across the Hindi belt?
From Rajasthan to MP to UP, the results certainly point towards one trend- that the BJP is neither able to hold on to its own seats nor win new ones, except the lone seat in Bihar. The only prudent way for the top strategists for the BJP to look at the trend is to assume that their grip over the Hindi belt is loosening and find ways to reverse the trend.
Two assumptions hold good here: first that the ruling party is doing something terribly wrong and two, that what they are doing right is not enough. Add to this another real possibility of the opposition closing ranks against the BJP and it is a no brainer that the BJP is in big trouble.
It is common knowledge that the people voted in 2014 on the basis of the promises made by the PM during the run-up to the general elections; more for Modi than for the BJP. To be more precise, it was for his model of development which took the campaign form of Sab Ka Saath; Sab Ka Vikaas and Acche Din. One need not be a genius to understand that one term is not enough to do all that was promised and probably, the common man is still ready to give another chance to Modi. But what turns him away is the unabashedly open pursuing of Hindutva related issues that are of nil relevance to the non-core supporter.
In a country used to leftist and centre left propaganda, where right wing ideology is suppressed for decades and also, people have been put in all kinds of places to scream intolerance and divisiveness, at the drop of a hat, people would not take kindly if issues like Gau Raksha, beef eating etc., gain prominence, especially when larger and more important issues connected with day to day living bear heavily in the minds of the people. With the promised Acche Din not being seen to be delivered, with difficulties caused by demonetization and GST, with rural and agrarian distress being more real than just a media creation, with the security situation vis-a-vis Pakistan and China not being perceived as any better compared to 2014, the only section of the society that was still supporting the BJP was the middle class, but all that changed on Feb 1. With no new tax relief and the ill-advised LTCG, the finance minister demolished that big pillar too. Thus the non-core BJP voter has every reason to feel betrayed. The only reason why they might still vote for the BJP is to give it more time to deliver. But if time and political energy are spent on other non-core issues, the voter is not likely to give the benefit of doubt to the BJP and is more likely to hold it accountable for its failures.
A week back, the ruling party was on a high over the fact that the country has been painted saffron more or less fully, except for a few states. The danger of its losing a few of them in the elections to be held later this year seems to be quite real, if it does not get its act together and puts in place, a robust course correction.
The big X-factor in all this are the regional parties and they know that while the BJP plays hard and continues to grow and expand at their expense, the Congress is at its weakest moment in its history. No amount of gloating over the BJP’s bye-poll losses can hide the loss of its candidate deposits and the reversal in the North-East. Therefore, they would be more than willing to do business with it than the BJP.
The bye-elections provide one silver lining though, for the BJP- it is now more or less certain that it is going to face a determined and united opposition that will include most of the regional parties. There is still enough time to strategize and prepare for the big fight ahead. With a properly planned and executed course correction, the BJP may still pull it off. Let us not forget that in 2014, the AIADMK got 37 out of 39 seats, even while going alone.