March 11, 2022
NEW DELHI – The success of the Bharatiya Janata Party in four of the five states that went to the polls are unmistakably a triumph for the Prime Minister, and the reasons are not hard to find.
It is his prescription for India’s development, his management of the challenges of the past two years, and the hope he offers of being able to lead India in the very difficult times that lie ahead in the face of a deteriorating global situation ~ and these will doubtless impact the country ~ that have found ready resonance at the ballot box.
In even Uttar Pradesh, where his party was able to make law and order a primary issue, Yogi Adityanath has triumphed as much from the policing his administration provided as from his successful implementation of Mr Modi’s schemes, a point conceded fairly by the party in its campaign plank of double-engine governance.
Mr Adityanath faced anti-incumbency, reflected in the reduction in the BJP’s tally, and a history of no CM of the state ever securing a second term, but triumphed because he was able to adroitly marry his achievements to those of the Prime Minister. Certainly, the victory of the BJP in Uttarakhand and its emergence as the party best poised to form government in Goa have come on the back of less than inspiring performances by its Chief Ministers in the two states.
While Pramod Sawant scraped through with a margin of some 500 votes, Puskhar Singh Dhami lost the election. Unquestionably, therefore, the Modi factor, as it were, played a critical role in these two states, just as it did in Manipur. The other significant facet of the election is the triumph of the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab, decimating in the process the Congress, which was the incumbent, and marginalising the Shiromani Akali Dal, historically the other heavyweight in the state.
More significant though is the rejection of every politician hitherto considered a heavyweight in the state, be it Captain Amarinder Singh, Prakash Singh Badal, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Charanjit Singh Channi or even the largely puffed up Navjot Singh Sidhu. The state is now poised for its Zelenskyy moment as satirist Bhagwant Mann prepares to be sworn in as Chief Minister. But while the win in Punjab is significant, it must be viewed in context, and not blown out of proportion in the manner some commentators already have.
AAP now oversees destinies of six per cent of India’s population, up from three per cent when it was confined to Delhi; in other words, it is still a long distance away from being a national alternative. It is perhaps ironic that the Congress should be confined to the footnotes of a comment on an Indian election, but that is where the party now finds itself, having failed in each of the five states in the fray.
While it was never expected to do well in Uttar Pradesh, its meek capitulation in the other four states speaks of problems that its current leadership is clearly incapable of resolving. The party appears to have reached a decisive moment, and redemption, if any, can come only from first recognising its irrelevance.