Poll results boost Modi-Shah duo, energise BJP
After humiliating defeats in Delhi and Bihar, the stunning victory in Assam and improved performance in West Bengal and Kerala have not only come as a major reprieve to Prime Minister Narendra Modi but would also help empower party president Amit Shah, whose capabilities as "poll strategist" had come under scathing attack.
The big takeaways for the BJP from this year's polls, according to party insiders, have been the success of aggressive nationalism as was portrayed during the Afzal Guru-JNU controversy and also corrective steps from the poll debacle in Delhi and Bihar. [Special Coverage: Assembly Elections 2016]
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday created history as it was set to form its first government in the northeast in Assam, while it opened its account in Kerala -- where the party was generally known for its organisational weakness.
In West Bengal, the party's performance improved and for the first time it will have three legislators in a state where its presence was nominal.
The performance in these elections also gives additional leverage to the BJP as Prime Minister Modi's proclaimed slogan of "Congress free India" seemed to be materializing as the principal opposition party was ousted from power in two crucial states of Assam and Kerala.
The grand old Congress party is now left with power only in six states -- Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram. It is to form government in Puducherry, after winning the elections there.
While BJP on its own polled a substantial 30 percent of votes in Assam, with its allies the vote share for NDA has increased to 41 percent. The party's vote share in Kerala was 10.7 percent while in West Bengal it was 10.2.
O. Rajagopal, the 86-year-old political veteran, created history by winning the Nemom seat in Kerala.
The vote share in West Bengal, though it has doubled from what was in 2011, is however much less than the 17 percent the BJP had polled in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP was also successful in maintaining its vote share in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
The BJP leaders said that the party victory in Assam was special as it reflects the party's growing influence across the country and its stature as the dominant political force.
The consecutive defeats in Delhi at the hands of Aam Aadmi Party and the victory of the Grand Alliance in Bihar in 2015 had almost put the party on the back foot, especially in the context of the debate on intolerance.
"The Bihar results had perhaps given an opportunity to the Congress to create an 'anti Modi-anti BJP' atmosphere in the country. The desperation shown by Congress and Left to stitch an alliance in Bengal was only an extension of the same. But today's election results will nullify all that," a party leader told IANS.
After the much talked intolerance debate, a second round of ideological war against the BJP began with the Congress, Left and other opposition parties again joining hands on the Hyderabad University issue, the JNU row and the controversies around chanting of slogan "Bharat Mata Ki Jai".
However, BJP strategists countered all such campaigns with "aggressive nationalism", and as the results show the move has perhaps brought in immense dividends for the saffron party, not only in Assam, where it wrested power from Tarun Gogoi-led Congress, but also in Kerala.
BJP president Amit Shah's first reaction after the results also indicated this view point.
He described the election results as the "new beginning of politics of performance and showing of mirror to the Congress".
"The results are a stamp on two years of performance of the Modi government and a step towards Congress-free India," a visibly delighted Shah told a press conference.
The same view was echoed later by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi when addressing a gathering of jubilant party workers at BJP headquarter he said, "This mandate will give BJP more strength and energy. The mandate endorses BJP's ideology of development. BJP is getting more and more support from the people."
Shah also said that "positive politics has won and people have rejected negative politics". These remarks were targeted at Congress and other rivals like the Left who tried to play up the so called anti-Modi card.
The party strategy to opt for a subdued campaign, especially by Modi himself unlike Bihar and Delhi, and projecting a chief ministerial candidate in Assam seemed to have worked very well.
"These elections will be a major booster and give us a new momentum on the eve of assembly elections in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh," BJP's Jagdambika Pal said.