The Delhi loss is humiliating for the BJP, yes. But will that halt the victory march of the party across the country? The answer is an emphatic no. This is for the simple reason that challenger space remains largely vacant in most states.
The Aam Aadmi Party is too limited in its geographical reach and organizational depth to trouble the BJP at the national level. Its progress will be incremental. The Congress is dead for all practical purposes; even if it manages to revive itself it will be long before it could be counted as a credible political choice; and the Left has reduced itself to a bunch of noise-makers with no electoral heft beyond a very limited sphere.
In the states the regional satraps are making it easy for the BJP. Nitish Kumar is determined to gift Bihar to the party on a platter. It is difficult to imagine him getting back into power after so many self-inflicted political injuries, the Jitan Manjhi episode being the latest example. Lalu Prasad’s presence on the political scene is pathetic indeed. Here’s the head of a party who cannot contest an election and be the chief minister, but he won’t allow a second rung of leaders to grow and take charge.
In West Bengal, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has created an opening for the BJP to get its foot in and create a presence. In Orissa, it has only to choose the timing to occupy the big opposition space vacated by the Congress. In Assam, the latter is already in the exit mode. If the results of the latest civic body polls are any indicator, the state could well see a BJP government after the next election. To put it in short, in the absence of a credible challenger, it’s advantage BJP everywhere. The party can treat Delhi as an aberration.
Let’s try and understand why. For great performances in elections, three factors – organization, leadership and the message – need to work in tandem. None of these can deliver a victory operating in isolation. In the general election last year, the BJP’s campaign had all three in right balance - the Sangh Parivar’s strong organizational muscle, the powerful leadership appeal of Narendra Modi and the message of change that the party conveyed to the voters at large. The result was stunning.
In Delhi, it had the same leader, but the organization was in a mess, and there was no message. Personal attacks on rivals only reflect that you have nothing positive to communicate to your voters. The AAP trumped the BJP on all three counts – it was organizationally superior, Kejriwal appeared a stronger leader compared to the Modi-Bedi combine, and it was much more convincing in what it conveyed to the voters.
Electoral contests are not only about how strong you are as a party, it is also about how weak your opposition is. Had it been the Congress and not the AAP in Delhi, the BJP could still have won comfortably. It had its problem areas but the Congress had bigger problems to grapple with. It had neither leadership, nor organizational strength nor any message to send across.
Now, let’s place it in the national perspective. Which non-BJP party in other states has the combination of these three factors going for it? None, at the moment. Their fight is not only against the BJP, the political entity, but also the Sangh Parivar, which has a much bigger social agenda and thus a much wider social base. It will be difficult for the routine, aging political parties to match the organizational depth of the Sangh.
Despite the criticism of the Sangh hotheads for their aggressive, inflammatory uttering during elections, it is not likely that the BJP would sideline them. They give the party a competitive edge over other parties and so far, with the exception of Delhi, they have been useful from the electoral point of view. To counter the communal agenda of the Sangh, the other parties need to present a strong secular counter. No party has gone beyond pandering to the insecurities of the minorities so far. It has been yielding diminishing returns election after election for them.
Narendra Modi may have lost this election to a superior challenger, but compared to the likes of Nitish Kumar he is still has much bigger appeal as a leader. He is appearing jaded now and his oratorical skills no more evoke awe, but the others in competition are placed much worse. How long can people go on hearing a Lalu or a Mamata saying the same things. His position can only be contested by someone fresh offering something new.
Now, the message. Modi has not delivered much on the ground but he can still talk about the young, aspirations, development and the vision of a new India. Do we hear anything similar from the older set of leaders? No. Their message is still caught in a time warp. They don’t address to today’s India, they speak of an India three decades ago, the period they cut their teeth in politics. The language has not changed, nor has the understanding of the world around.
The BJP can go happily about its conquests for some years now. The challenge will eventually come - politics abhors a vacuum and the opposition space has to be taken by someone - but that's a long time off.
Updated Date: Feb 17, 2015 09:48:01 IST