BJP’s invincible image gets tainted | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 03, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:32 AM, May 03, 2021

Poor show in State Assembly elections in India

BJP’s invincible image gets tainted

BJP has failed to breach Mamata Banerjee's fortress in West Bengal and drew a blank in Kerala in the latest state assembly polls. The party however secured a sound victory in Assam and BJP-led NDA won in Puducherry.

But the wins in Assam and Puducherry have failed to cover its huge embarrassment in West Bengal.

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The relentless campaign and heated war of words for the last one year by Team Modi-Shah, effectively made the West Bengal polls a national election. But results show that their efforts made little difference.

Considering BJP's incredible performance in 2019, where it more than doubled its vote-share and ended up just 3 percent behind the Trinamool, most of the pundits felt that the BJP could improve its tally in the assembly polls.

As it turns out, not only did the BJP not manage to consolidate on its 2019 gains, it failed to even hold on to that vote share. Despite all its money power, its dominance over both mainstream and social media, its heavy-hitting leaders, its attempts at polarisation, the party couldn't even improve on what it had achieved two years ago.

Has the Modi government's poor performance with the deadly second wave of Covid made it lose ground amongst Bengal's voters? Or the Bengal rejected the divisive tactics by the ruling party?

In the major reasons for its failure to win, BJP leaders point out that the lack of a local face as a chief ministerial candidate hurt them, but more importantly an over dependence on TMC defectors for both organisational heft and as candidates didn't go down well with the electorate. Many of the high profile turn coats including former ministers in the Mamata Banerjee government lost the polls.

Heavyweights like Rathin Chakraborti, Baishali Dalmiya, Prabir Kumar Ghosal who switched tents before the election failed in the voting contest.

The answer is not clear at moment as details of the voting haven't been released yet. But it gives a clear signal to institutions across the country that Team Modi is not invincible.

BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya credited Mamata for the TMC's astounding performance in Bengal elections, and said his party would introspect the poll results.

"The TMC won because of Mamata Banerjee. It seems people have chosen Didi. We will introspect what went wrong, whether it was organisational issues, lack of face, insider-outsider debate. We will see what went wrong," he said.

And challenges for the BJP are, now, both organisational and existential.

In Assam for example, the BJP's victory has thrown up the interesting conundrum of just who should be the new chief minister — sitting Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal or Health and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is the BJP's power house in the northeast holding its alliances in several States together, and managed to steer the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests away from politically harming the BJP in the State. Senior party leaders have been saying that the party's parliamentary board will be taking a view on the matter, meaning that a question mark is hanging on the issue.

The big issue, however, is more deep, and that has to do with the gigantic second wave of Covid-19 that is battering India. And while the jury is still out whether the second wave of Covid-19 and the long drawn out polling schedule had a bearing on the TMC victory and the BJP's loss, next year's electoral calendar is looming large.

Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, two States that are being battered by the pandemic and a health and governance infrastructure that is tottering and failing are scheduled to go to polls next year. Both are states that have sitting BJP governments, and the party's own fortresses will be under siege. While the BJP has become a party of meticulous electoral planning and execution, the performance of its governments in these two states will be under the scanner, as of that of the Central government. 

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