From a sweeping victory in Assam to opening its account in Kerala, the BJP looked set to make big electoral gains on Thursday, bettering exit poll predictions that perhaps underestimated the undercurrent of support in favour of India’s ruling party.
After back-to-back defeats in Bihar and Delhi last year, this is a much-needed victory for the BJP. Its government at the Centre completes two years on May 26 and critics had repeatedly questioned if the “Modi wave” was still working.
The good show in assembly polls will embolden the BJP to pursue its economic reforms with a renewed vigour and lift the dwindling morale of party cadre ahead of crucial election in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand next year.
The BJP will market this as an endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governance model and a personal victory for party chief Amit Shah whose leadership had come under the scanner after losses in Delhi and Bihar.
Going by early trends, the BJP looked headed for an emphatic win in Assam and set to make its debut in Kerala and increase its tally in Bengal. This will be an ideological victory for the BJP and the Sangh parivar in these states.
Assam and Bengal battle illegal immigration from Bangladesh, an issue that the BJP and its ideological mentor, the RSS, have been raising for many years.
Their campaign seems to have caught the imagination of voters in Assam thatwas under Congress rule for the last 15 years. The anti-incumbency faced by Tarun Gogoi in the northeastern state played in the BJP’s favour.
The saffron party was successful in its strategy of keeping non-Congress votes united and pitting them against the combine of Gogoi and Badruddin Ajmal of All India United Democratic Front, the self-styled champion of minority population in Assam.
The trends indicate the BJP not only managed to keep its hold over the Bengali-speaking population, but even gained among indigenous Assamese and tribals who have traditionally voted for the Congress.
“The result shows that people have faith in Modi governance model. BJP got votes in rural areas and among poor,” BJP spokesman MJ Akbar said.
In Bengal, the BJP is inching closer to a double digit tally. This is the party’s best-ever performance in the eastern state whose polity has largely remained bipolar.
The Congress and the Left parties had an alliance in Bengal this time, but the BJP not only increased its vote share from the previous assembly election but took leads in many assembly segments.
The BJP is also leading in two assembly constituencies in Kerala, the southern state where the RSS for many years could not translate its organisation base into electoral victory for the BJP.
If the BJP wins these seats, it will be for the first time that it will open its account in Kerala, another state with a bipolar polity.
Much like Assam, the BJP forged alliances with regional outfits in Kerala and that seems to have worked. The RSS control over BJP’s organisation -- an RSS pracharak was appointed state president ahead of the poll -- also helped contain factionalism in the southern state.