Let’s not forget that together Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh account for 65 seats in the Lok Sabha.
The results of the five state assembly elections prove four things. First, the Congress has rediscovered the art of winning. Second, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a Congress-mukt Bharat will remain a jumla, at least in the foreseeable future. Third, despite the mega push by the BJP’s Hindutva poster boys like Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and party president Amit Shah, issues like jobs, development and farm crisis trumps the politics of polarisation. And fourth, the famed Modi magic is on the wane.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s supporters may claim it is still working and that it has ebbed only a little, the opposition will take heart from the fact that the Congress has defeated the BJP, not in one or two, but three heartland states.
The results will weaken Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. If the five state elections were billed as the semi-final before the big final of general elections next year, then the voter, parties, leaders, experts have today received clear signals that the race for 2019 is still open.
Here’s a quick lowdown on the four important signals from today’s results:
Congress rediscovers art of winning
Forget the victory margins or difference in seats. The Congress’ own managers had expected to win hands down in Rajasthan and manage just about enough numbers to form governments in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. It also hoped to give a strong fight to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana. But, the voter had other plans.
On the result day, the Congress, despite inadequate resources to match the cash-rich BJP, managed to win Chhattisgarh with a thumping majority, get Rajasthan with a modest majority and looks set to form the government in Madhya Pradesh (as per latest Election Commission figures).
The Hindi heartland is showing signs of moving away from the BJP and the onus is now on India’s grand old party to build on today’s successes.
Let’s not forget that together Rajasthan (25), Madhya Pradesh (29) and Chhattisgarh (11) account for 65 seats in the Lok Sabha. Of these, BJP won all 25 in Rajasthan, 27 in Madhya Pradesh and 10 in Chhattisgarh – a whopping 62 out of the total 65 in 2014.
Retaining that number in 2019 will be very difficult, almost impossible, for the BJP.
However, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his advisers would do well to introspect why they couldn’t manage a two-third sweep in Rajasthan and a comfortable victory in Madhya Pradesh.
Did the three big leaders in Madhya Pradesh – Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia – promise to work in complete tandem but actually chose to work with cross-purpose on the ground? Did they work to defeat each other’s candidates?
Rahul Gandhi should seek answers and fix responsibility for the lapses. Madhya Pradesh should have been a knockout for the Congress, but turned out to be quite the boxing match.
Congress-mukt Bharat a pipe dream
Like his other, more famous jumla of putting Rs 15 lakh in every bank account, Narendra Modi’s repeated assurance to the restive BJP cadre to deliver a Congress-mukt Bharat will also now remain just that – a jumla.
The voters have sent out a strong message to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah: don’t become too big in your monopolistic ambitions, there is room for everyone. Instead, focus on the issues that matter, voters seem to telling the BJP on the result day.
After today’s results, the Congress has now reclaimed its position at the helm of the opposition alliance against Modi-led BJP. It will have more leverage while dealing with allies like the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s BSP.
Forget polarisation, focus on governance
While the complete picture will emerge only after the final party-wise tally of seats is made public, it is now almost clear that rural India, especially the farmers, is turning against the BJP. The charge of crony capitalism, which Rahul Gandhi keeps on hurling at Modi and the NDA government, has started to finally stick.
Modi and his party leaders can no longer afford to laugh away the serious issue of farm distress, the after-effects of demonetisation and the poor implementation of GST. Voters have taught him and his party a strong lesson: selling pakoras or paan is not aspirational for a young India.
Statues will have to wait. The so-called acche din will have to be delivered quickly if Narendra Modi wants to put up a semblance of a fight next year.
Most importantly, he will have to let his actions do the talking now, leaving speeches to the BJP leaders.
Modi magic is on the wane
While there is no doubt that Narendra Modi remains the tallest leader in the country, his stature has been severely diminished. While he will be spared direct attacks, Amit Shah may not be that fortunate. The self-styled Chanakya and strategist-who-couldn’t-lose could now face salvos from rivals and opponents, both within and outside the party.
The margdarshak mandal will be empowered. While Messers L.K. Advani and friends may not directly attack the Modi-Shah duo, do wait for the next signal from them. Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha may even walk around with that ‘we-told-you-so’ smirk.
Modi may have to start looking for new speech writers who can give him the words that voters want to hear to be reassured. Clearly, speeches on ‘vidhwa’ (an attack on Sonia Gandhi), ‘kaamdar versus naamdar’, ‘shehzaade’, ‘maa-beta’, ‘daamadji’ seem to be falling flat.
Modi will also have to send out a strong message to his state leaders to start governing rather than hoping to win by dividing people. Hindu-Muslim, India-Pakistan will not help you walk the distance in 2019.
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