« Back to articlePrint this article

2019: Has Modi peaked too early?

April 28, 2017 09:57 IST

'Eventually the law of averages has to play catch up with Modi and the BJP, sooner or later,' says Rajeev Sharma.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

Paradoxical it may seem, but the landslide victories of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party, first in the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand assembly elections, and now in the politically important Municipal Corporation of Delhi may not hold Modi and the BJP in good stead when it comes to the most important electoral battle -- the next general election which is due in exactly two years from now.

The reasons are many. First of all, the Modi-led BJP is peaking too early, to use a cricketing term.

The rate at which the BJP is winning elections of various kinds -- panchayati/municipal/district councils/assembly -- is mind boggling.

Modi has been performing like the legendary cricketer Don Bradman and playing magical innings in every match.

The prime minister has been having a dream run.

But eventually the law of averages has to play catch up with Modi and the BJP, sooner or later.

After all, even the great Bradman, who required just four runs in the last innings of his life to notch up a dream average of 100 was bowled by an Eric Hollies googly for a duck and thus ended up with a Test average of 99.94!

At this rate, the most likely scenario is that the Modi-led BJP would comfortably win assembly elections due this year-end in his home state Gujarat ruled by the BJP for the last 19 years and the Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh.

In both these states the BJP is in direct contest with the Congress, a happy situation for the BJP as it has not lost a single election since the last general election three years ago where the BJP's principal rival was the Congress.

The only state where the Congress posted a landslide win since the 2014 general election was Punjab, but here the BJP was a junior partner to the Shiromani Akali Dal. And the chances are that the BJP will contest the 2022 Punjab assembly polls without the SAD.

Municipal elections seldom evoke national interest. But Delhi is different. The BJP's emphatic victory in the just concluded MCD polls may well trigger a radical change in the Opposition's strategies at the national level.

The Delhi municipal polls have once again brought the Opposition face to face with a swim-or-drown template -- swim, if the entire non-BJP Opposition unites or drown, if they don't.

Consider the vote share in the MCD election: BJP 36.1%, Aam Aadmi Party 26%, Congress 21%.

Clearly, the BJP would have lost comprehensively if AAP and Congress had contested the MCD election together. But politicians carry more ego in their heads than they carry petrol in their cars!

The same script was in full play in UP and all know what the BJP did to the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party and a 132-year-old party like the Congress.

After these poll debacles, first in UP and now in Delhi, the Opposition would be too dumb to not realise the only winning mantra against the mighty Modi: United you win, divided you lose.

This mantra was demonstrated successfully in Bihar in the October-November 2015 assembly elections when the combined Opposition made mincemeat of the BJP.

Despite that the egoistic Opposition went into elections in UP and Delhi without a grand alliance and the results are there for everyone to see.

The Bihar Mahagathbandhan or grand alliance was stitched together by the wily Lalu Prasad Yadav, but the non-BJP stakeholders in UP and Delhi were consumed by their individual egos and shifted the blame to the Electronic Voting Machines.

The MCD polls results should break open the Opposition's blindfold. The BJP was ensconced in the MCD for the last ten years and had no stunning achievements to showcase.

In fact, the BJP-run MCD kept itself at loggerheads with the AAP-led Delhi government and Delhi became a capital of filth and garbage mountains as the two political rivals played gutter-level politics at the cost of Delhiites.

On the contrary, AAP had some concrete deliverables as the Arvind Kejriwal government actually slashed down considerably water and electricity bills and the Delhi government's Mohalla Clinic public health scheme was a runaway success.

And yet the BJP posted a stunning electoral victory for the record third consecutive term.

True, that the BJP laid a great deal of emphasis on organisational structure, cleverly exploited the vastly changed demographic ground realities in Delhi by fielding a large number of candidates from Poorvanchal and did not repeat a single sitting candidate, thus tackling the issues of corruption and nepotism.

But even if the BJP not done any of these, the result of the municipal election would have remained by and large the same.

The reason: Brand Modi.

The Opposition realised that they were not fighting the BJP, but Brand Modi. That is why Kejriwal cautioned the electorate that the MCD would be run by him, not Modi. But even this card did not work just as the Opposition's similar noises in UP had fallen on deaf ears.

Therefore, the MCD election results should be the last straw on the camel's back as far as the Opposition is concerned.

It should finally jolt the Opposition out of its complacence and force them to join hands whenever and wherever elections are held next. Perhaps it would.

Gujarat will be a test case for this and we will see in the next six or seven months if the Opposition has learnt any lessons.

One will have to wait and watch to see if AAP (which is still eyeing Gujarat despite a hat-trick of poll debacles in Punjab, Goa and MCD) and the Shiv Sena-supported Hardik Patel will join hands with the Congress to take on the BJP.

If the elusive Opposition unity finally comes about, Modi and BJP would have a tough time.

The match then will really be on.

In such a scenario it would become relevant to say that the Modi-led BJP peaked a bit too early.

Rajeev Sharma, independent journalist and strategic analyst, tweets @Kishkindha


Rajeev Sharma