Delhi’s catastrophe was just a lesson to be learnt, after all the battle either ends in a win or a loss, setbacks too teach you something. Still, the little lesson from Delhi has lot many learnings, discussed in the past, analyzed, criticized; hence in my view, the time is to move on. Upcoming contests are way far bigger and crucial than the Delhi one, and it seems that though the BJP has not been the first choice in Bihar, and merely a choice in Bengal, since the rise of Modi as a national hero for the BJP, milieu has much altered. The challenge, however, is to convert this wave into real and substantial number of votes, a requisite for the central government to bring key legislations by way of increase in numbers in the Rajya Sabha. Didi’s Bengal and an abruptly changed politically unstable state of Bihar pose both a threat as well as opportunity for the BJP; while in the former, though TMC’s hold has not much dipped, Left votes have shifted in the BJP’s kitty, and the ‘yes-no’ Janata Parivar in the latter seems to prove a self-destruction approach of BJP’s opponents. BJP can tap these occasions provided that Shah’s tactic in respective states and Modi’s delivery at the center until legislative elections are in sync with the prevailing demands of voters, more or less underprivileged and the lower middle class households. Not to forget, both states have significant strength of minority votes, votes from unemployed/ underemployed and deprived.
One of the crucial learnings from Delhi’s debacle is that the BJP will have to employ a two-pronged strategy, one that shall be aimed at displaying BJP as a more constructive and pro-development political party as compared to arch-rivals, and second to be aimed directly at voters, making each one of them feel that BJP, as alleged by opposition, is not just a party for corporates or the middle-class, rather it is equally focused on the notion of all-inclusive growth, where none of the clusters is left out, even the minority. Let us discuss the first where BJP’s delivery at the national level and also the approach adopted by the duo, Modi and Shah would decide the party’s fate. Though JD(U)’s rebel Jitan Ram Manjhi would now think of forming another party to lure his vote bank, the Mahadalits of Bihar that makes up 11 per cent of the entire population, it cannot be denied that this short-term CM of the state be welcomed in Bihar BJP, a move that will surely be a loss-loss condition; Manjhi did not prove his caliber to govern the state, except for some illogical statements he made; hence maintaining desirable distance, though treating him as friend is looked-for. Firming up party from within, an unheeded essential that marked a gap between voters and candidates in Delhi is to be thought over well in advance to provide ample time to leaders to connect with people from their constituencies.
Everything lies in numbers. BJP-JD(U) alliance could manage a little over 39 per cent vote share in the 2010 assembly elections, while in 2014 general polls BJP with new partners LJP and RLSP managed to secure 38.8 per cent. Now the point is that the BJP will not only have to retain the vote share of 38.8 per cent but will have to increase it by around 5 per cent to rule out the coming together of RJD and JD(U), along with a likely support from Congress. This time, elections will not be triangular. In Bengal, the BJP has improved in 2014 Lok Sabha polls by managing 17 per cent votes, but TMC’s figure of 39.8 per cent seems far than easily beatable. With the downfall of CPI(M), however, BJP’s position may further improve by some percentage. Then is the Saradha probe by CBI that is revealing TMC’s corruption in WB, freedom to illegal migrants from Bangladesh may also go for the collapse of Mamta’s party, though only when the BJP is able to tap that 40 percent of vote share that has been loyal to Didi for long. We can also see BJP tuning with Mukul Roy, but his inclusion in state BJP will again discourage long time loyalists. All in all, Shah will not only have to aggressively polarize the Hindu vote bank of both states, but will need to politely win the confidence of other castes, that are somewhat assured now post Modi’s words on religious tolerance.
Then are the efforts to be made from Delhi that would impact the thoughts of voters in both the states. Budget session is on and the PM is on the right and much desired track of forming consensus with opposition parties, both within the legal framework as well as through personal nods, Mulayam’s family kids with PM in Saifai and his attendance in Baramati, Pawar’s home of politics, were more than just celebrations, paving way for six ordinances in the ongoing session is the primary target; now we can see the Vajpayee’s magical touch in our dear PM Modi. Not just these legislations are crucial, also is each and every endeavor of the central government prior to elections in Bihar and Bengal. In fact, Modi will need to surpass his image of being a leader of economics and corporate houses and shall stablish himself as a social reformer and Messiah of the poor. Why not deploy two ground workers, one from BJP and the other from RSS to talk to people in both states, understand their concerns and bring them to the notice of the government, which can then frame policies accordingly? Connect with poor, unemployed, minority and lower middle class is the basis to win the heart as well as votes of people in India, and the same has to be BJP’s strategy in all upcoming legislative polls. JD(U), RJD, TMC and Congress will appease the minority to the core, and this time collectively; hence bringing all Hindus into BJP’s fold is the key; though when you rule a state, governance does not make a distinction between religions/ castes, every Indian and his/ her dignity is the responsibility of rulers.
In the queue are also the legislative polls in the state of U.P., where the strength of Mulayam and Mayawati cannot be underrated. BJP’s nationwide vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections grew by over 12 per cent, still they are not to overlook that BSP, which could not win a single seat, was still at the third position with respect to nationwide vote share. To be specific, in U.P. the BJP fetched a vote share of 42.3 per cent in 2014, SP fetched 22.2 per cent and BSP 19.6 per cent. Looking at the condition in the J&K, PDP proving to be a headache for the BJP, and also the wide gap between the ideologies of BJP and SP or BSP, it is sure that BJP cannot afford a hung assembly. Clear mandate is very much necessary to run a BJP government that should not deviate from its basic principles and established practices. Polls in U.P. may not be that close, but voters’ mind is influenced every now and then with the decisions of the central and state governments. Best strategy is to strengthen state units of BJP and infuse a sense of authority and belonging in them, undertake tasks that can lead to direct and visible benefits to the poor and other vulnerable clusters, and minimum divergence from core BJP principles and ideology.