After Bihar poll defeat, rumoured Cabinet reshuffle is a question of 'when' and not 'if'

2015 has politically proved to be a bad year for Narendra Modi.

For the first time since he became chief minister of Gujarat in 2001 to when he became Prime Minister of India in 2014, and then won a series of state Assembly elections, Narendra Modi had only tasted success. The severe drubbing in the Delhi Assembly polls suffered at the beginning of this year by the BJP, was said to be the result of a 'man-made self-inflicted strategy failure wound’ more than anything else. The BJP’s defeat in Bihar and magnitude of its loss can’t be attributed to any such thing.

 After Bihar poll defeat, rumoured Cabinet reshuffle is a question of when and not if

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in a file photo. AFP

BJP president Amit Shah had really worked hard to ensure that the party’s campaign went as per strategy and the organisational machinery, state unit as well those imported from other states — mainly Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand — gelled well with the requirements on the ground. All senior party leaders were stationed there with supposedly meaningful assignments. A political-social coalition was built by tying up with Ram Vilas Paswan, Jitan Ram Manjhi and Upendra Kushwaha’s parties to ensure that the NDA's Bihar team matched the electoral and casteist arithmetic of its rival JD(U)-RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan. To set the chemistry right, the party’s biggest draw, an orator and crowd-puller sans pareil, Modi addressing over 30 rallies all across the state.

Modi undoubtedly drew huge responsive crowds all over the state, but as results have proved, this was not enough to win the election. His Rs 1.65 lakh crore Central package to Bihar sounded too big to be true to many.

The BJP says that it will introspect over the defeat to find as what party vice-president Prabhat Jha refers to as “why we failed to get a feel of popular pulse and communicate properly to the masses".

Sunday’s verdict has indicated that the challenges before Modi are immense. How he will respond to them is intensely debated in the informed BJP circles. But then, how he responds to the challenges ahead will depend on how he identifies issues relating to how and why things went horribly wrong in Bihar. He has to make a mid-course correction and make its impact tangible and visible. The Winter Session of Parliament is not going to be easy for him and his floor managers. The GST and a number of other bills including the land bill are pending. The big bang judicial reform legislation, the NJAC has been struck down by the Supreme Court. He and his senior leaders will have to start communicating with the Opposition.

Nobody in the BJP is officially talking about the single biggest reason for the loss in the Bihar polls: Their ideological fountainhead Mohan Bhagwat handing over an emotive quota issue on a platter to the Lalu Yadav-Nitish Kumar combine. But in private, BJP leaders have been talking about this issue at length. It is also a matter of debate whether it was an innocent remark repeated thrice, or a consciously calculated move to contain the Modi-Amit Shah aura of invincibility. Will Modi-Shah talk to him over this issue? Nobody has the answer. There is a realisation that too much negative campaigning against the rival also does not work.

A senior party leader told Firstpost that “Modi is kind of person who will take this loss seriously as the implications of the Bihar elections were not limited to whether his protégé or his rival ruled the state. So far, he has had to be very cooperative with all concerned in the Sangh Parivar and tolerant of motormouths like Kailash Vijayvargiya, Yogi Adityanath, Mahesh Sharma and others. Their statements have derailed the governance agenda and created unnecessary controversies. Such elements from the fringe and mainstream will have to be tamed. The spirit of 2014 mandate will have to be correctly observed.”

He visualised a situation where Modi may revert to his Gujarat model of governance: Keeping the RSS and its affiliates at an arm’s length in matters of governance and vigorously pursuing the administration for the delivery of public goods with executive powers vested in the government. Another leader agreed, saying that the result is bound to impact the party and the government and Modi will have to usher in some visible changes including toning up the health of the national economy and containing prices of essential commodities like pulses.

There is a feeling in the party that its time that Modi does a practical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of his ministers and consider a shuffling of the pack as also dropping some under-performers. It’s a matter of common knowledge that BJP has a limited talent pool in Parliament and also in the organisation. A Cabinet reshuffle has been discussed for a while, but whether he does it before the Winter Session is the big question.

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Updated Date: Nov 10, 2015 13:08:11 IST