The Bharatiya Janata Party retaining all four states that went for election is significant in many ways. The most spectacular and important among all these victories is the return of Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh election. He has broken many records and created new ones, including the record of being the first chief minister of UP to have completed a full term and returned to power.
The icing on the BJP’s victory cake is that the farmers’ agitation, the bad (and factually incorrect) publicity of Covid-19 pandemic waves and its handling and accusations of misuse of police by the chief minister seem to have had no effect on the UP electorate. The sushasan (good governance) and ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ planks as well as improvements in law and order situation and other economic programmes of the Narendra Modi government and the states must have gone down well with the electorate, especially the women voters who feel much safer.
In the Uttarakhand election, the BJP has successfully overcome the humiliation of having three chief ministers in one year. It is another thing that the sitting CM lost, but ultimately, this doesn’t matter because his party won.
In the Goa election, the BJP tided over the loss of its tall leader, former CM and defence minister Manohar Parrikar, and managed to win in spite of not having a popular face. In addition, assessments that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) would dent the prospects of the BJP resulting in a hung assembly have been proved totally wrong. Again, the BJP’s decisive victory in Manipur, which has a nearly 41 per cent Christian population, speaks volumes of its acceptance as a secular party in the face of criticisms of being a ‘Hindutva’ party.
What the election results mean for Indian politics
These election results have once again reiterated the point that good governance, hard work, connectivity with people, strategising (like panna pramukh — one worker per polling booth) and, above all, having a charismatic leader like Modi are combinations of factors that sweeten the victory brew. The results have also relegated the Congress to a position beyond redemption. While the earlier defeats sealed the fate of Rahul Gandhi as a leader, these election results have stamped his sister Priyanka Vadra as a political non-starter.
The Congress party will surely call for a ritual stock-taking meeting but is unlikely to come up with a revival solution, which would essentially involve the Gandhi family handing over party reins to a younger leader and taking a back seat. The ‘G23’ ginger group will now see a vocal revival but it is doubtful if they can change the leadership. For all those who assert that the Congress without the ‘Gandhi family’ is unthinkable; these results have proved that the Congress under the ‘Gandhi family’ is a disaster. Incidentally, the whims and fancies of high command appear to be the sole reason that the party has forfeited its power in Punjab to the AAP.
The AAP’s victory in the Punjab election has many interesting and worrying aspects to it. No doubt Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and admittedly the only leader, popular face and strategist of the party, deserves credit for scripting a new history for his party.
One interesting feature of Indian politics in the last few years has been the two-party contests between the BJP and the Congress. The BJP successfully displaced the Congress in many states and the Congress in return defeated the BJP in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, along with other smaller states. Even at the Centre, the contest was between two coalitions — the NDA and the UPA — led by the BJP and the Congress, respectively.
In 2014 election, when the BJP came to power, one of its agendas was to dislodge the Congress from as many states as possible to bring what it called a “Congress-mukt Bharat” (Congress-free India). While this happened in some states, there were states where the Congress was very weak or lost out to regional parties like in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. But ironically, the BJP is not in power in any of the states where the Congress lost power to regional parties — be it Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, etc. Punjab has joined this unique political club of the ‘non-BJP-non-Congress-ruled’ group of states.
AAP needs to be careful with Punjab
The Congress shot itself in the foot in the Punjab election by dismissing its popular chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh and bringing down its own government, an absolutely unwise and damaging decision. Earlier, in the united Andhra Pradesh, the party’s high command acted in a similarly rash and abrasive manner following the demise of then-popular leader YSR Reddy. His son was treated badly by the party president, which led him to form a new party. The rest, as they say, is history.
The space vacated by the Congress in Punjab could have been filled by another national party, like the BJP, instead of a regional party that might have a relatively limited vision of national security and strategy. As a border state, Punjab has been facing, and continues to face, security challenges. Anti-national elements and sleeper cells of the Khalistan movement could resurface and start causing trouble. Former Congress leader Amarinder Singh had taken a strong stand against these elements and faced threats many times as a consequence. There have been accusations of some elected representatives of the AAP being sympathetic towards Khalistani elements and supportive of their activities.
The AAP leadership should carefully traverse the minefields in Punjab and cooperate with the Centre, and avoid getting into conflict with it as it has done on many issues in Delhi.
The author is the former editor of ‘Organiser’. He tweets @seshadrichari. Views are personal.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)