Big Challenge Ahead For Modi-Rajnath
After the three landslides and one Pyrrhic victory, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been quick to revise its targets for the next general election. Riding on the crest of the wave, both Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh have revised the target beyond the magical figure of 272. The party wants to carry the momentum of winning 408 of the 590 seats going. For analysts, the fact that the party will have to do this from only 11 states, makes it seem like a pipe dream. It is a foregone conclusion that the party will not open its account in at least 16 states. States like Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh could have tilted the scales, but the party has all but written of the potentiality of these places.
These eleven states comprising Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal, Gujarat and Maharashtra, together have only 293 Lok Sabha seats. However, well the party performs in these states, the idea of forming the government without coalition partners seems to be a virtual “mission impossible”. The party has high hopes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, hoping to get at least 60 out of the 120 seats. In Maharashtra, the saffron will have to pick a choice between Raj Thackeray’s MNS and Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena. Punjab may seem like a cake walk, but it is early days. The strong anti-Congress wave is evident across the nation. The Assembly results of the four states have sounded the death knell for the Congress but history has proved otherwise. In 1998, the Congress had swept Delhi and Rajasthan elections but was routed in the 1999 general elections; likewise, in 2003, the BJP won in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, but had to bite the dust in 2004 elections. Election victory in the state does not necessarily translate into a win in the Parliament. These four victories have strengthened the position of Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, but at the same time the murmurs of growling dissent were heard. Party insiders are reluctant to give the credit for the Madhya Pradesh victory to Modi, attributing it to Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has proved his mettle. The factions within the party have started to redraw the lines. Shivraj Singh Chouhan naming L K Advani before Modi in the list of credits during his victory speech is but one indicator. Incidentally, Sushma Swaraj too avoided any reference to Modi, in her tweet after the results. She said: “It is a pro-BJP wave in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and anti-Congress wave in Delhi.” She congratulated Chouhan, Raman Singh, Vasundhra Raje and “party colleagues”. However, Rajnath Singh was quick to recognise Modi’s role in the current victory. And immediately after the election result, Vasundhara Raje had given full credit to Narendra Modi for party’s landslide victory in Rajasthan.
The Modi miracle that worked in Assembly elections has forced the Modi tenors inside the party to keep mum after winning three states. Now it is proved that the party Chief Rajnatlh Singh rightly announced Modi’s name at an appropriate time, opposing Advani’s view to announce Modi’s name after Assembly elections. For Chouhan, the victory written on the wall, his popularity did not wane one bit during the build-up to the elections. Raman Singh may give credit to the victory—though narrow one—to Modi, the whirlwind tours did boost up the morale of the party men. In Delhi, the party had to dump Vijay Goel for Dr Harsh Vardhan because the Modi magic needed a credible backup. BJP stalwarts in Parliament too feel threatened by Modi’s growing popularity. In the build-up to the polls, which may last a good six months, the intra-party differences with Modi are expected to get sharper, given his style of functioning.
Modi should make efforts to bring back former BJP stalwart BS Yeddyurappa through a merger with the Karnataka Janata Paksha, even though this move will see resistance from senior members including Advani and Swaraj. Naveen Patnaik and Mamata Banerjee too could be game changers. The party has missed the bus in Andhra Pradesh. The party has to also work hard to find reliable partners like Akali in Punjab. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has always given a blind support to Modi and now Akali Dal is organising a grand public show in Moga, a border district in Punjab, to strengthen the candidature for prime ministership.
The party should learn a lesson or two from the Delhi elections debacle. The drum beats and bugles may sound near, but the long march ahead will not be smooth. Like the seer aptly said, Hunooz! Dilli door ast!