Bypolls: BJP needs to work on its base, Narendra Modi can't save it always

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Bypolls: BJP overlooking its base
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which produced a magical performance in Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 Lok Sabha election in April-May by winning 71 out of 80 seats, fell flat in the bypolls that took place in the same state on September 13. The party faced a complete disaster in the bypolls by winning just three out of 11 seats that went to the polls. The BJP and its ally, the Apna Dal, had won all these 11 seats in the 2012 assembly polls.

In Rajasthan, the BJP lost three of the four seats that went to the bypolls. It was in December last year that the BJP had swept the same state and returned to power after a decade.

Even in Gujarat where the BJP has dominated since 1995 when it first came to power, the Congress managed to snatch some of its seats in the bypolls.

It may be mentioned here that the BJP bagged all the 25 and 26 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan and Gujarat, respectively.

Why did the BJP face this consequence in the September 13 bypolls?

Divisive politics is not a new problem for BJP

For some observers, the ploy of indulging in divisive politics has proved to be counter-productive for the BJP this time in UP. While Amit Shah, the party's president now, succeeded in making the divisive force work in his favour in UP during the Lok Sabha election, the likes of MP Yogi Adityanath did a great disservice to the party through his vitriolic statements. But this majority-minority problem is an old ailment that the BJP suffers from and there is nothing new in this.

BJP's organisation has struggled

There is also a different angle to the story. The BJP, may be because of a failing political ideology and the fact that it was out of power for a decade, has struggled with its organisation at the base level. There is undoubtedly a strong leadership in Narendra Modi at the helm but that doesn't look sufficient to make up for the weakness at the lower rungs. In the build-up to the Lok Sabha election, the assembly polls that took place during this period and also during the Lok Sabha election, it was Modi's Blitzkrieg campaign which had helped the BJP hide its every other problem.

BJP's base has taken a hit in 10 years of UPA rule; does it address the issue?

The previous UPA government's steep fall, the increasing disillusion with an alternative leader like Rahul Gandhi and other factors like UP riots, US lobbies' hatred against Modi and the social media's backing raised his stature to such heights that the BJP went into an auto-pilot mode to get across the poll battles on a happy note.

Does the BJP lack a strong reserve bench?

But once Modi became the prime minister and the Lok Sabha poll wave began to recede, the BJP's drawbacks have begun to surface. Has the party taken enough care of its base-level strength? If that is so, then why doesn't the party have enough reserve-bench strength to fall back on? The BJP fielded a number of MLAs in various states in the Lok Sabha election because of their winnability and they didn't find it tough, thanks to the Modi wave. But now with the general election a thing of the past and Modi no more an electoral competitor, the BJP has found it extremely difficult to project its next set of leaders at the state levels. The MLAs replaced the MPs but the opponent candidates replaced the MLAs.

Just Modi can't cement the BJP's organisation, only grassroot work can

It will be a big task for the BJP or for that matter, Prime Minister Modi to correct the BJP's course from here on. With old guards like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani out of the scene, the new leadership of the party has to cement the organisation together by focusing on the grassroot level and not keep projecting Modi to overcome every poll hurdle.

It has been seen that in states like Delhi and West Bengal, the BJP, despite being at an advantage, has not been able to reap much benefit only because its organisation is not in the best of shape. While the BJP has been reluctant to go all-out for the Delhi polls despite winning all the Lok Sabha seats there, in Bengal, it has not been able to capture the rural people's mood even when the powerful ruling party is facing flak over a huge financial scam.

Narendra Modi, like late Indira Gandhi, is more a presidential face

Modi is more like a presidential face of the BJP today who stands out as an individual among a group. His style of functioning as a personalised administrator also eclipses the BJP, something like late prime minister Indira Gandhi who had grown much bigger than the Congress once and did more harm than not to the party's organisation in the long run.

The Modi factor will not save the BJP in each and every poll test. The party has to grow its base strong in several areas of the country where it is still to make inroads and for that, a concerted effort and not politics of polarisation is required at the grassroots. The Congress is experiencing how harsh life can become when an individual becomes bigger than the whole. The BJP should take a lesson and mend its ways fast. The bypoll results are a warning.

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