Winning and losing are part of any democracy but nobody could have foreseen that voters in the 2017 assembly elections would declare their verdict in such a resounding manner. The BJP has scored such an incredible victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand that even its leaders could not have imagined this. The way the Aam Aadmi Party was routed in Punjab was also something beyond what most people had anticipated.
Let me begin this column by talking about the BJP. In 2013, when Amit Shah initiated the process of expanding the saffron party in Uttar Pradesh, who would have thought that the party will win 72 seats in the Lok Sabha, leaving all other parties gasping for breath. Now consider the results of March 2017. The miracle of 2014 is repeating itself. Shah looked at politics with a new perspective. He knew the minorities won’t vote for his party. Therefore, not even a single Muslim was given a ticket. Similarly, he knew that the Jatavs among Dalits and the Yadavs among the backwards had already made up their minds. So, he diverted all his attention to non-Yadav backwards and non- Jatav Dalits. For the first time in the history of Indian politics, an election that was fought keeping in mind 70 per cent people has proved so rewarding.
The credit for this landslide victory also goes to Narendra Modi. Almost three years into his tenure, he hasn’t let even a stain of corruption taint the government’s record. It is Modi’s magic that the voters’ confidence in him hasn’t been shaken despite the hardships faced by them owing to demonetisation. He drew huge crowds wherever he went and people clung on to what he was saying. Shortly after he made the remark about shamshan and kabristan, I was visiting the villages around the site of the public meeting. Even as the analysts were squirming, the voters were swearing by him. When he spent three days in Varanasi, the traditional political experts began questioning him. The people have given a thumping response to all these questions.
Now let us discuss the Samajwadi Party. The election results have proved that Akhilesh Yadav’s hard work has proved futile. Even along with the Congress, the party could not win 100 seats in Uttar Pradesh. The family feud, the division of the Muslim vote, the Congress’s bad performance, the delay in ticket distribution and the absence of booth management can all be blamed for their performance. The struggles for Akhilesh Yadav do not end here. His uncle Shivpal Yadav opened a new front against him even before the results were out. He is analysing the verdict as a defeat for the SP’s arrogance. His supporters are saying ‘a few big decisions’ will be taken shortly. If Akhilesh manages to weather the challenges from within and without, with determination and resoluteness, he will prove to be the most promising leader in Uttar Pradesh.
A discussion on Mayawati is needed here. Her graph has been falling since 2012. Now she is shifting the blame of her loss on to electronic voting machines. But she is losing a grip on her core voters and her political magnetism is on the wane. Clearly Mayawati’s views and politics need an overhaul.
Similarly, the Aam Aadmi Party will have to do a rethink on its strategy. They fought the elections in Punjab with a lot of sound and fury. On Saturday morning, when the election results were about to be announced, Arvind Kejriwal’s residence in Delhi resembled the setting of a grand Diwali celebration. AAP’s associate Kapil Mishra was loudly proclaiming on television that a new people’s hero is about to emerge. One hopes that in the future, the seniors of the party will focus on big deeds rather than making tall claims.
Finally, let us talk about the Congress party. It is true that Punjab has prevented a loss of face for the oldest party in the country, but it lost Uttarakhand. The Congress met the same fate in Uttarakhand as the BSP in Uttar Pradesh. Although, it had become the single largest party in Goa and Manipur, victory or defeat in these two states has a limited impact on national politics. Obviously, for Rahul Gandhi, the road to reviving the Congress’s lost glory is long and hard.
The verdict of March 11, 2017 has given rise to the slogan ‘Modi Naam Kevalam’ (Just chant Modi’s name) and given a resounding defeat to the entire Opposition. The challenge before the prime minister now is to deliver on his promises. At the same time, the Opposition — which is on all fours — has to gather the confidence to return to the wrestling ring. With the elections in Gujarat and Himachal round the corner, both sides will have very little time to put their plans into action.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan