Assembly polls: Assam win can be a shot in the arm for PM Modi

  • Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 17, 2016 17:52 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses an election campaign rally. (REUTERS)

A saffron sunrise in Assam as predicted by exit polls on Monday will come as a breather for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

What happened?

On Monday, all exit polls on assembly elections said BJP may form its first government in Assam, the most populous North-eastern state.

What does it mean?

The BJP took advantage of the anti-incumbency sentiment against the Congress government, and its alliance with local AGP clicked.

What happens next?

Salvages party chief Amit Shah’s image as master strategist. After defeats in Bihar and Delhi, party gets a fillip ahead of crucial assembly polls in 2017. Coinciding with the completion of NDA’s 2nd in office, the victory will show no dent in Modi magic.

Read: BJP takes Assam, Jaya slips, Mamata stays, Kerala turns Left: Exit polls

A possible victory for the BJP in the border state, rich in its diverse ethnicity, might be dismissed as a loss of the Congress, which faces an anti-incumbency mood after 15 years in power.

But that will not overshadow the jubilation for the BJP that was desperate for an electoral victory to arrest the slide in its fortune at a time when the Narendra Modi government completes two years in power and is readying for big electoral challenges early next year.

Read: BJP rules out alliance with Ajmal’s AIUDF in Assam

The aggressive campaign of the BJP in Assam, where it was a junior partner in a ruling coalition earlier, was coordinated and supervised by former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary Ram Madhav, who now holds a party position.

After a dream run in 2014 and four assembly elections later, the BJP slipped in Delhi to an embarrassing low of just three MLAs. That was dismissed as an aberration. But, the loss in Bihar encouraged the saffron party’s rivals, who were quick to proclaim that the “Modi wave” was losing its steam.

Electoral reversals in Gujarat civic election, by-elections for Uttar Pradesh assembly seats and some others did not help the matter either for the BJP.

If the BJP manages to defeat Congress in Assam, it will reinforce the perception that the ruling party still has an edge over the grand old party that struggles to revive its fortune. It will also help salvage the image of BJP chief Amit Shah as the master strategist who knows the art of winning difficult elections.

A win in Assam will also underline the fact that the party may still need to stitch up an alliance to remain in power. This will also embolden the RSS that played a role in bringing together the regional forces such as the Asom Gana Parishad.

The BJP does not have much at stake in West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The exit polls predict the BJP might pick up a few seats in these states and the opening of accounts in the southern states would be a big victory for the saffron party.

Any inroads in Bengal, another dry region for the BJP, would be celebrated.

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