Assembly election results are a bigger feather in Modi’s cap than the 2014 victory | assembly-elections$uttarpradesh-2017 | Hindustan Times
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Assembly election results are a bigger feather in Modi’s cap than the 2014 victory

The thumping BJP victory in Uttar Pradesh – combined with the results in Uttarakhand, it amounts to a sweep of the old, pre-bifurcation UP – is arguably a greater achievement for Narendra Modi than his 2014 Lok Sabha triumph.

assembly elections Updated: Mar 15, 2017 13:22 IST
Bobby Ghosh
The BJP victory in Uttar Pradesh may be a greater achievement for Narendra Modi than his 2014 Lok Sabha triumph
The BJP victory in Uttar Pradesh may be a greater achievement for Narendra Modi than his 2014 Lok Sabha triumph(Arun Sharma/HT PHOTO )

The thumping BJP victory in Uttar Pradesh – combined with the results in Uttarakhand, it amounts to a sweep of the old, pre-bifurcation UP – is arguably a greater achievement for Narendra Modi than his 2014 Lok Sabha triumph.

Back then, Modi had a great deal going for him: he had a record of economic success in Gujarat; and his main rival, Congress, was completely discredited by a scandal-tainted second term in government. Smart political management by Amit Shah had wrapped Modi in a cloak of inevitability.

This time around, the odds were to some degree against Modi.

He couldn’t run on his record: Modi has not yet had significant economic success as Prime Minister — at least, not the kind that most voters can feel. His biggest economic gamble, demonetisation, has not yet delivered results that would be tangible to anybody pressing a button at the polling booth. If anything, most voters were still experiencing the pain wrought by demonetisation.

For all the hype of Modi’s foreign visits, he has not yet scored a major foreign-policy win. Where it matters most, relations with India’s neighbours, there has been no change for the better: with Pakistan and, to a certain degree China, relations are actually worse.

Whereas the Congress, led by an indisposed Sonia Gandhi and an inexperienced Rahul Gandhi, was practically supine in 2014; in UP Modi was up against two formidable rivals – on paper, anyway – the charismatic Akhilesh Yadav, and the redoubtable Mayawati.

There was nothing inevitable about a BJP win this time. Indeed, Modi had lost some of his aura of invincibility with state-level defeats in Bihar and Delhi.

What did not change was Modi’s personal appeal to voters. In 2017, as in 2014, large numbers of UP-ites were convinced that he, more than anybody else, would serve their best interests. But it was not a given that his own credibility would deliver victory in the state: after all, UP has a history of voting one way in general elections and another in assembly polls.

Finally, Modi had to overcome the drift that usually follows a big election win. We’ve seen this before: winners become complacent, party factions start bickering, sloth and corruption creep in.

The fact that Modi overcame all those things makes 2017 a bigger feather in his cap than 2014.

Bobby Ghosh is editor-in-chief of Hindustan Times

Twitter: @ghoshworld