Even as the BJP has expanded beyond its traditional areas, its journey to Delhi would not have been possible if the original ‘Hindi heartland party’ had not succeeded in Lucknow, Patna and Bhopal. And what a win it has been. By Friday evening, late trends indicated that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance had either won or was leading in 73 out of the 80 seats in UP, an unprecedented achievement. The alliance had also won or was leading in 31 out of 40 seats in Bihar, and in 27 out of 29 seats in Madhya Pradesh.
In UP, the win is remarkable for the party had come a distant fourth in the last LS elections, picking up nine seats. It has swept the communally polarised landscape of Western UP, defeating Jat stalwarts like Ajit Singh and his son, Jayant Chaudhary. The area where it has been traditionally considered weak, central UP, has also gone in its favour. And its gamble of placing Narendra Modi in Varanasi has reaped rich dividends, with the party sweeping the numerically significant belt of Purvanchal. Only Sonia and Rahul Gandhi won their seats from Congress, while the ruling Samajwadi Party dispensation had won or was leading in five seats. The BSP, despite drawing a respectable vote share, did not win a single seat.
The sweep is historic and is being attributed to four key factors. One, the Modi hawa worked in the state across Hindu castes and classes, leading to the kind of consolidation BJP had last seen in the 90s. From Mayawati’s Dalit base to OBCs and upper castes, no one was immune to the Modi magic. Two, Amit Shah’s political and managerial skills helped boost up BJP’s organisational strength, ensured booth level committees were in place and put a stop to internal squabbles. Third, the questionable performance of the SP at the state level led to people yearning for a change. And finally, the critical Muslim vote appears to have fragmented between different parties.
In Bihar, Modi has clearly trumped his arch-rival, Nitish Kumar, who split with the BJP last year on the issue of his PM candidature. At a distant third, Kumar’s own minority government in the state is now vulnerable.
But the expected comeback of Lalu Prasad, who was banking heavily on a consolidation of the Muslim and Yadav votes, also failed to stop the saffron surge. His wife, and former chief minister, Rabri Devi, and daughter, Misa Bharti, were staring at a loss.
Like UP, there was a clear pan-Hindu consolidation - Kumar’s social base of extremely backward castes and Mahadalits appear to have switched to BJP. This added to the party’s own core upper caste base, which was spiked up by Paswan votes brought in by the alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan. While detailed analysis is awaited, it is likely that even sections of Yadavs have shifted loyalties from Lalu. Unlike UP, Bihar has never seen this kind of BJP surge. In 2010, when the NDA did well winning 32 seats in the state, BJP was the junior partner.
In Madhya Pradesh, BJP, riding high on the recent assembly victory of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has expectedly done well. It has now proved beyond doubt that the Congress has lost its grip on its traditional stronghold: The BJP has now won three assembly elections in a row and done well in consecutive Lok Sabha elections. Except for two party stalwarts, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath, all other Congress candidates lost. Chouhan’s own popularity across classes and communities, buttressed by the Modi wave, is being attributed as reasons for the party’s success in the state.