By Vipin Pubby
The Bharatiya Janata Party richly deserves its celebrations for the victory in Tripura and for being a partner in the new governments in Nagaland and Meghalaya. Surely making a mark for the party in the north east is a remarkable achievement for the party which had remained non-existent in the region for almost 70 years after the independence.
Its resounding victory in Tripura was stunning, to say the least, and it translated into a major shift in Indian politics. Yet, as pointed out in one of the earlier analysis, it is a combination of the hard work that the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and the BJP cadres had put up over a period spreading more than three decades and Modi-Amit Shah combination which has catapulted the BJP to be a ruling party in 21 of the 29 states of the country. Conversely a beleaguered Congress has been reduced to power in just four states, including the two Mizoram and Pondicherry.
Congress has almost touched the nadir although it is still better placed than the BJP when it could manage just two seats in Lok Sabha during the 1984 elections. The party has reinvented itself and has emerged as the largest party in Lok Sabha besides a part of governments in 21 states.
That’s the precise point. If the BJP could rise literally from ashes, it can’t afford to rest its oars with the confidence that it has achieved almost a “Congress-mukt Bharat” as Modi and the RSS/BJP had dreamt. And the political churning has already begun as we get closer to the next general elections. Political corridors are abuzz with the talk that the general elections due next year may be preponed to later this year to beat anti incumbency as well as the disarrayed opposition.
The first murmurs of the political churnings are reflected in the unease among the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners. Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has already withdrawn from the NDA government over the issue of non-grant of special status to Andhra Pradesh although it, for the time being, has not distanced itself from the NDA.
Some of the other NDA partners, like the powerful Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab are flexing muscles and some other partners too are getting edgy.
Since the BJP has got a clear majority in Lok Sabha, it has not being paying enough attention to its allies. The SAD, for instance, has been saying that it was being ‘ignored’ while the BJP took major policy decisions. It was also critical of the way in which the name of Dyal Singh Majithia college in Delhi was being saffronised by changing its name to Vandematram College. Although the party chief and former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has said that the alliance between his party and the BJP was strong as ever, such irritants can lead to serious consequences for the alliance.
The BJP also now has to brace for tougher tests in the Assembly elections in the bigger states of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in the near future. While it would definitely try to wrest Karnataka from the Congress, its real test would be in the BJP ruled states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
It is not only the alliance partners of the NDA but the rivals in the opposition who are gearing up to meet the common ‘enemy’. As the adage goes, an enemy’s enemy is a friend. Thus in Uttar Pradesh, rivals Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have joined hands to field joint candidates for Lok Sabha elections and presumably the Rajya Sabha elections in the offing.
In West Bengal the Congress candidate for RS elections is being supported by Trinamool Congress while in Jharkhand the Congress candidate is being supported by the JMM. In Kerala an independent candidate is being supported by all the opposition parties. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi too has taken initiative to get the opposition parties together and has planned a luncheon meeting.
What is of immense significance is the fact that BJP’s victory march from six states to 21 states in its kitty since 2014 includes just one state where it retained power – Gujarat. In all the other states, it had attained victory against an incumbent government. Even in Gujarat it had to struggle hard to retain power. In the process, the party not only called former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh an anti-national and a possible traitor but also harped on divisive tendencies to win in the home state of Modi and Shah.
It shall now have to reckon with anti incumbency, and a huge one at that, in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Its acid test would be in these two states for setting up the stage for the Big Fight for the next general elections.
By Vipin Pubby