With all exit polls predicting a clean sweep for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the recently-concluded assembly polls, several leaders have started working overtime to deny the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from walking away with credit for this victory, says Anita Katyal
A number of senior BJP leaders were at pains to point out that the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi were dominated by local and not national issues.
The sub-text here is clear: local leaders having an understanding of state-related issues, and not necessarily outsider Modi, propelled the BJP to a record victory.
“Although it was expected that national issues would prevail over local ones in Delhi since it is also the seat of the Central government, it was not the case…by the time we neared polling day, the discourse had shifted to local matters,” a senior BJP leader, who also holds a constitutional post, told rediff.com.
Similarly, other BJP leaders who are not known to be well-disposed to Modi, have been quick to dispel the widespread notion that the Gujarat strongman had campaigned extensively in the poll-bound states, thus turning the tide in favour of the party.
“Modi barely addressed two or three meetings in each state,” said another senior BJP leader.
Confident about a victory in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, BJP leaders maintained repeatedly that the credit for the outcome should go primarily to the chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh in the first two cases and CM-in-waiting Vasundhara Raje in the third instance.
Chouhan and Raman Singh have come in for high praise for providing good governance while their personal image has remained unblemished even after 10 years in power. In fact, both the chief ministers are known to be humble, easily accessible and affable -- traits which have stood them in good stead in transcending the anti-incumbency -- against their ministers and legislators.
The two will predictably be feted by the BJP for winning a record their term for the party but neither Chouhan or Singh are expected to pose any challenge to Modi’s leadership who has been acknowledged by all as the first among equals. As far as the succession issue is concerned, it is well-settled and closed chapter.
Although there is a section in the party which would like to credit Modi for creating a pro-BJP wave in these states, it is keeping low till the declaration of the election results on Sunday as there is still no clarity about the verdict in Delhi.
It will be difficult for the BJP to tout Modi as the party’s savior and a pan-Indian figure if the Delhi election does not go in it favor. Besides his critics in his own party, the Congress will be quick to rubbish the BJP claim that Modi had achieved a rare feat in the short time since his anointment as its PM candidate.
It will remind the BJP about its losses in Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh where Modi failed to make any impact although he addressed several public meetings in these states.
Senior BJP leaders admitted that they were still confused about the Delhi election as the entry of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Admi Party had upset everybody’s calculations. Although it is becoming increasingly evident that the Sheila Dikshit-led three-term Congress government is on its way out, BJP leaders maintained, they are not sure about their own numbers.
A senior BJP leader told rediff.com that the AAP had caught the imagination of the scheduled castes and working classes as well as the youth and the elite classes, who have become cynical about the entire political class.
“The youth and the elite classes were taken up by the clean and corruption-free alternative offered by AAP while the SCs and other working classes identified with its party symbol jhadoo (broom) as it is the source of their livelihood and also their identity,” explained a BJP leader.
However, the BJP is drawing solace from the feedback that those who opted for the AAP in the assembly election have promised to vote for the BJP in next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
While the BJP is cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the assembly elections, the Congress is bracing itself for a humiliating defeat. The result predictably raise questions about party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s leadership and charisma but sycophantic Congress cadres can be expected to deflect all criticism directed at their leader.
The party’s first instinct will be to dismiss the assembly polls as a “local affair” having no bearing on the coming Lok Sabha elections. Its leaders will point to the assembly results in 2003 and 2008 when the BJP had won in the assemblies but lost in the subsequent general election.
And in case the Congress manages to improve its tally, it will take refuge in the oft-repeated argument that the party could not be written off since its vote share had gone up which, in turn, would stand it in good stead in the Lok Sabha election.