Narendra Modi and Amit Shah at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi after Haryana and Maharashtra poll results | Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi after Haryana and Maharashtra poll results | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi was warmly welcomed at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi after the double-edged victory in the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections Thursday, but interestingly, party president and Home Minister Amit Shah, was not.

“Bharat Mata ki jai,” Shah said, exhorting the audience to respond in kind. But there wasn’t a loud response. “Arrey bhai, you have won two states,” Shah had to add, before his audience responded enthusiastically.

PM Modi’s glitter, on the other hand, remains intact. Here are three reasons why.


Also read: Haryana shows BJP isn’t invincible in assembly polls. But here’s what saves it in the end


First, within hours of the results, the master communicator was reaching out to his voter to explain what happened, why the BJP had failed to get a majority in Haryana (40 seats in a house of 90) and had done worse in Maharashtra (104 seats in a house of 288, down from 122 in 2014).

Modi congratulated chief ministers M.L. Khattar and Devendra Fadnavis, and described their performances as “exceptional and unprecedented,” sending the message that in good times as well as bad, the leader would always publicly support his team.

In contrast, there was not one word from Congress president Sonia Gandhi or her influential son, Rahul Gandhi. With Haryana’s Hoodas openly in revolt, Rahul had attended two rallies during the campaign, while his mother had cancelled even the one she was supposed to attend.

Thursday evening, the Congress high command was silent. Considering the Congress had done so well after so long, perhaps its workers needed a pat on their backs? But party workers had to be content with Anand Sharma insisting that the Congress fightback in both states was the beginning of a mass movement.

Second, when Modi swept the Lok Sabha polls in Haryana six months ago, the party won all 10 Lok Sabha seats with 58.21 per cent of the vote share. But as he focuses on his building his world image as a statesman in his second term – he is travelling to Saudi Arabia again on 29 October – the PM’s reliance on party president Amit Shah has grown even more.

If arrogance is what cost the BJP, especially in Haryana, where all except the chief minister and his deputy lost their deposits and the vote share has come down by 22 per cent from the Lok Sabha elections, then surely Amit Shah should get the message?

In his own, elliptical way, that’s what the PM was doing. Certainly, it was too soon to put his closest aide and confidante Shah on notice, but by having present and former party presidents sit on stage at the BJP headquarters – Amit Shah, J.P. Nadda, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari – Modi was both signalling a united front (despite persistent rumours that Gadkari was being sidelined) as well as warning Shah of signs of trouble.

Third, Modi realises very clearly that if he falls or fails, it will be on the back of a slipping economy. He said as much at the BJP headquarters as he congratulated Fadnavis for keeping Maharashtra, pointing out that “political stability” was essential for India’s financial capital, Mumbai.


Also read: Maharashtra, Haryana send a message against the BJP’s arrogance of power


But if Modi doesn’t watch out, stagnating rural and urban demand could further aggravate political stress. Elections in Delhi – where Arvind Kejriwal has adopted Modi’s tactics of creating the perception of a strong leader – and Jharkhand in a few months from now will surely be a test on Modi’s handling of the economy.

In fact, the shabby state of the economy edged out the BJP’s employment of nationalist rhetoric around the scrapping of the special status of Jammu & Kashmir through Article 370 as well as slogans promising to protect the country from the poison of Pakistan next door.

This is surprising in Haryana, where the so-called Jat “martial race” (a term employed by the British to flatter those it appropriated to do its fighting) sends thousands of men to the armed forces. In the Lok Sabha election, three-time Congress candidate from Rohtak, Deepender Hooda found that early postal ballots normally sent by soldiers from the front were one big reason for his paper-thin margin of defeat.


Also read: Panga with Sharad Pawar has cost the BJP dearly in Maharashtra


So, what happened this time? Analysis by ThePrint’s Chitleen Sethi shows that both Jats and non-Jats have returned to the Congress as well as Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party (JJP). The incredible support for Khattar’s decision to computerise recruitments in government jobs and put an end to massive bribery and scandal, that was so evident during the Lok Sabha campaign, seems to have been overtaken by the deteriorating economy.

However, the fact that more people from the armed forces have died during Modi’s first term than the previous five years is still behind the curve and not feeding into politics, at least as of now.

As he travels to Saudi Arabia after Diwali, Modi has much to chew on.

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6 Comments Share Your Views

6 COMMENTS

  1. We don’t need to break our head much. As long as you don’t trouble much you will win. That’s why opposition makes come back always. So Amit Shah and Modi must steer clear of controversial sound bites. On Hindi divas praise Hindi on English day, praise English, on Tamil Day praise Tamil, on Kerala birthday praise Malayalam. Simple isn’t it? Don’t dictate one should learn a particular language as 1st, 2nd or third or fourth language. Similarly, steer clear of lynchings, take strict action against perpetrators.

  2. Another gem of an article from Jyoti as one would expect from her! Who gave Jyoti the idea that just because past Presidents of the BJP were on dais, Modi is putting Shah on notice? What is Modi’s going to Riyadh on 29th Oct got to do with Modi not finding time for Haryana politics? This sort of analysis makes Jyoti what she is! Modi is one who can go to Haryana for a full day and travel to Riyadh late night, finish his meeting next day and be back to Haryana to address a two hour rally by evening, if that is required!! There is nothing for Modi to chew any more. He knows BJP depends solely on him but he is now creating a good team of second level of younger leaders who can take it forward, Amit Shah has proved himself; so have Fadnavis and Khattar. Nadda is being groomed as well. Bigger concern is indeed this- Despite BJP running clean, non-corrupt governments in the two states for 5 years, the efficiency of the State machinery does not reflect the output. It is the failure of state machinery and corruption at administrative levels that is pulling down the performance of the state governments. Larger issue, of course, which Modi alone has to solve at his political level is how to get going on big bang economic reforms which are badly needed for a long time. Ultimately, it is not Art 370 or Ram Temple or UCC that will be his lasting legacy but the economic transformation that Modi will bring about for the country.

  3. This sudden shock was necessary and it will do no harm to the health of BJP. Skilfully analysed, this will do course correction.

  4. The conventional wisdom is that people vote differently for state and national elections. However, that may not explain the fall from grace in Haryana. Without discounting local factors, the fact remains that the economy is intruding on an electoral conversation that sounds almost irrelevant to ordinary citizens, in both rural and urban areas. For the faithful, the abrogation of Article 370 would be a much bigger achievement than dropping a few bombs on a terror facility. However, this narrative is past its sell by date. The party will have to reconfigure its strategy for Delhi, Jharkhand and Bihar. It is no longer looking like an unstoppable elemental force of nature.

  5. To say the least, this is a silly analysis. Modi is a great communicator because he congratulated his workers even in bad times? The main question is why the bad times came.

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