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Assembly elections 2018: Exit polls suggest Modi appeal might not be as strong in state polls


New Delhi, Dec 8: If the exit poll results for the five states that went to elections in November and December are to believe, the ruling BJP is set to witness the most disappointing of its performance since 2013 when it won Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh besides finishing as the largest party in Delhi. Months ahead of the Lok Sabha election of 2014, that was a beginning of a dream run for the saffron party under the leadership of Narendra Modi, who was the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP then.

Narendra Modi

Beginning with the results in December 2013, the BJP went on to win states after states - even some where it was never a force to reckon earlier - besides the general elections and Indian politics saw a permanent change.

Exit polls 2018 highlights: Majority of exit polls predict Congress win in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh

Five years since that beginning of a fairy tale, the BJP might feel that it has concluded a circle. If the exit poll results are realised to be true, the BJP will not be in a position to win even one of the five states overwhelmingly. That will give the BJP some significant jolts.

One, it will mean the saffron party's aspired goal of Congress-Mukt Bharat will have to wait for some time and secondly, the electorate might start to believe that Prime Minister Modi is not that potent a force when it comes to state elections and is not being able to make up for the local shortcomings.

Is BJP's lack of local leadership hurting it in Assembly polls?

If the BJP fails to hold on to power in the states of Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh where three of its prominent chief ministers have been in power, it will add to the list including Delhi, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Punjab and Karnataka where the even Modi's charisma could not ensure that the BJP had the last laugh. True, there have also been states like Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh where the BJP did well to come to power - even for the first time in some of them, but one must not forget local factors that played a major role in turning the tide in favour of the saffron party in those states, be it local organisers or anti-incumbency against other parties' rule.

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If BJP loses power in MP, Chhatisgarh, it will be a bad advertisement ahead of 2019 LS polls

The BJP's predicted fall from grace in the two central Indian states of MP and Chhattisgarh will be considered a blow ahead of the general elections for these two states had showed up as examples of the BJP's development-centric governance as a long-term successful project. Both the popular chief ministers of the two states - Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh - belonged to the old era of the party's glorified state leaders who the BJP took pride to show to the old as its pro-development administrators, just like Modi himself was in Gujarat. The party will still have a lot of states under its rule even if the two Singhs fall out of power but with its other big state in the Hindi heartland - Uttar Pradesh - witnessing issues with the administration of CM Yogi Adityanath, adverse results in three big states of the heartland could put the BJP's pride at stake.

The BJP's only other big hopes now lie with Gujarat and Maharahstra where it is in power but the close win in the former in the 2017 Assembly polls and the continuing tussle with frenemy Shiv Sena in the latter means the party is not too relaxed in those two states either.

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Meanwhile, the party continues to struggle to make inroads in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Northeast is one area where the BJP has undoubtedly made some impressive gains but they do not hold too big a prominence in national politics.

The BJP might soon find out that it lacks leaderships at the local levels that can facilitate Modi's leadership instead of banking helplessly on his shoulders. The party is perhaps overusing the prime minister's appeal factor to win several Assembly elections since it doesn't have effective local faces. In MP and Chhattisgarh, the anti-incumbency against prolonged rule of the party perhaps was too challenging to contain but if the BJP indeed loses those states, the fact that the Opposition had nothing better to offer there would worry them ahead of the general elections.

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