source url Four years ago, the Bharatiya Janata Party stormed the fortress of New Delhi. It was more an escalade after a siege, PM-in-waiting Narendra Modi laddering his forces into the Congress citadel with Generalissimo Amit Shah running razor-sharp operations all the while. At that point the BJP was in power in all of seven states.
Cut to the present. After Karnataka, the BJP has now ‘got’ 22 states, with 18 chief ministers of its own, including the one to be appointed in Karnataka, most likely the once graft-tainted and summarily junked B.S. Yeddyurappa.
It’s a poll spectacular that underlines political trends obvious since 2014. First, the Congress seems to be in terminal decline; BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra’s sarcasm about the Grand Old Party having become the nation’s newest regional outfit does ring true. And the Prince doesn’t matter: Rahul Gandhi’s coronation and his recent semi-declaration of prime ministerial ambition appear to have made little difference to voting choices. The BJP can fight—and win—against the disadvantage of multi-term incumbency, as it did in Gujarat recently, but the Congress can’t buck even one term’s worth. That’s significant, considering the next round of state polls in BJP-held Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh that will be the semi-final before the 2019 biggie.
Second, the BJP is diligently and ruthlessly following through on its Congress-mukt Bharat pledge. The Congress doesn’t have a pledge to keep, it only has Rahul Gandhi to follow. The great young hope of the Congress is simply not delivering the goods. The contrast is stark, and the voter sees it looped every time the BJP enlarges its political domain.
Third, the BJP has come to occupy the position of the Indira Gandhi-led Congress, or the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor. The only way, it increasingly looks like, for the BJP to be ejected from Delhi is by a non-BJP coalition of the willing, what the Opposition did in 1977 or then in 1989. That development would cement the already winning-level BJP support the moment it happens; voters seem to prefer a strong Centre rather than the immiscible miseries it has been served every time this happened. The BJP is rather happy in the TINA power it has got in the last lap of the Congress-Mukt Bharat march.
Fourth, states going the BJP way are really following the Modi-Shah juggernaut. That elections are the primary business of the party is the lesson the Congress has failed to learn from the BJP. The next contest is not Rahul versus Modi, it’s Modi-Shah versus the Rest, NDA allies not included. A re-run of Gujarat and Karnataka, in other words, and we all know how those two went.
Fifth, most regional parties not with the Congress or the BJP end up hurting the Grand Old Party more. The great vote split, or the vote-katva as it is called in the Hindi heartland of Bihar, is at work. The Congress has lost the stature to make smaller regional outfits fall in line, and is now buffeted by every wind even as it faces off with the saffron storm. Witness the Congress reaching out to the Janata Dal (Secular) even before the Karnataka results are formally declared. All the fractures are in the Opposition space, leaving the post to the first past it.
The BJP has expanded and consolidated, but the Congress has shrunk and failed to defend what little it had. And there’s one year left, possibly less if Modi throws in a snap poll surprise, for the final of 2019.