The Congress, on the other hand, perished in the elections because its alternative leadership failed to fire when it needed the most. Just like Modi's win made up for the BJP's other drawbacks in the big polls, Rahul Gandhi's failure eclipsed the Congress.
So in a way, it was Modi who made all the difference between the two parties.
Both national parties struggling despite contradictory results in LS polls
But five months after the big polls and with Modi having left for the throne in Delhi, both the national parties look to be in a shambles ahead of the Maharashtra elections, which is a major prestige battle between strong alliances. The situation is looking hopeless for both the national parties who are failing to convince their respective regional parties ahead of the polls that look to be favouring the current opposition.
But why are the two national parties struggling in Maharashtra, despite the contradictory results five months ago?
Strengthening regionalism in Maharashtra exposing the two national parties
Maharashtra is showing the strengthening regionalism in Indian politics and the parallel slide of both the national parties. Both the Congress and BJP are not ready to get out of their big-brotherly attitude towards their regional allies as has been proved by their firm stand on contesting in more seats in the upcoming polls.
But they are failing to understand that the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena, the two regional allies, have a bigger weight in the state politics which they can not overlook, particularly with their weak organizations.
Death of regional leaders have hurt both BJP and Congress
If leadership is considered an alternative to make up for a weaker organization, the two national parties have had their share of bad luck as well. While top Congress leader Vilasrao Deshmukh died due to poor health two years ago, BJP's biggest leader from the state, Gopinath Munde, died in a road accident in New Delhi soon after the BJP came to power.
This has seriously crippled the Congress and BJP in tackling the NCP sans an active Sharad Pawar and the Shiv Sena without Bal Thackeray as well. Although all four parties lost the service of their top leaders in recent times, it is the two national parties which have faced a bigger loss.
Amit Shah faces a big test and he doesn't have much of Modi to help him
The BJP has a huge stake in Maharashtra and will desperate to repair its relation with the Sena, one of its closest allies and also with a moderate leadership at the moment. Amit Shah, who had earned a big reputation after the BJP bagged 71 out of 80 seats in UP in the Lok Sabha polls, will have to prove that it was not a fluke, particularly after the BJP's disappointing results in the bypolls and he will not have much help from Prime Minister Modi in the upcoming battle as well.
why can't the BJP make a strategic retreat vis-a-vis Sena for long-term gains?
It will be much wise if the BJP makes a strategic retreat in Maharashtra thinking about the long-term gains in the state in partnership with the Sena. Why doesn't it back Uddhav Thackeray's chief ministerial claims in lieu of some cream departments in the state? For the Sena, the Lok Sabha was more a BJP's game but the assembly election is definitely the area where it specializes more.
NCP knows the Congress is in a sticky wicket
The Congress, on the other hand, fared worse than the NCP in the state in the Lok Sabha polls (Congress got 2 seats as against the NCP's 4) and there is no doubt that the latter will make use of that advantage now.
The Sena conceded the BJP its ground during LS poll but now it wants its share
The increasingly discredited top leadership of the Congress has also encouraged it to dictate terms for this is the best time for it overtake the senior partner and emerge the more powerful ally in state politics. The NCP knows that the Congress, also plagued by a strong anti-incumbency, is not in any position to retaliate against its demands.
Once a regional leader himself, Modi might see more forces modelling his rise to Centre
The weak position of both the national parties reiterates the strengthening regionalization of our democracy. The rise of Modi from a region to the position of the prime minister has already set a new pattern in Indian politics. Now, it is the turn of the other regional forces to execute their plans. The irony is: Modi is now sitting on the other side of the table and might feel awkward to see his own party struggling to comply with the unwritten regional norms while ruling at the Centre.