"Two hundred seats and counting" – this would have been a fair assessment of BJP prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi’s prospects immediately after the results of five state assembly elections were announced on December 8. The Congress rout appeared irreversible in the near future and Modi’s popularity seemed on an unstoppable ascent.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi addresses students at Delhi University's Shri Ram College of Commerce in New Delhi. This was his first public speech in the national capital after winning the Gujarat assembly elections for the third time in 2012. (HT Photo/Sunil Saxena)
However, the last three weeks have seen the emergence of three factors that could change the political current. One cannot predict how these factors will unfold in the coming months, but they could prove to be speed-breakers for Modi’s long march. The BJP is naturally worried and the Congress is suddenly beginning to hope.
Aam Aadmi Party
For the BJP to cross 200 of the 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, it must do well in urban centres where it has a strong base. The way things are, Kejriwal has managed to catch the imagination of urban dwellers.
The RSS had given tacit support to the Anna-Kejriwal movement that discredited the Congress beyond any chance of redemption.
Now that revolution threatens to devour the BJP too — the BJP leadership has already identified the looming danger.
A sizeable portion of NRIs who contributed to the AAP election fund in Delhi may suddenly develop cold feet if they realise that Kejriwal could harm Modi.
At any rate, AAP today holds the potential to spoil the BJP game in roughly 30 seats – in the NCR, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Bengaluru and other cities.
Read: AAP effect? 'One note, one vote for Modi' is BJP’s new campaign pitch
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Confusion Among Youth
The impatience among the youth towards the Congress has been the biggest force behind the rise of the BJP and Modi over the past two years. Modi’s perceived decisiveness has had a strong appeal on the supportive youth.
That support suddenly seems to have been tempered by two reasons. The reported stalking of a young woman by the Gujarat police has been noted by the youth and the argument that it was done at her father’s request has only complicated the matter.
The second is the saffron party’s position on gay rights. While the Congress and AAP came out strongly in support of gay rights, the BJP took the position that it is against Indian tradition. The aspirational youths who had overcome caste politics and looked towards the BJP as the vehicle for realising their dreams are suddenly confused by the party’s invocation of tradition and parental control.
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Read: Narendra Modi focuses harder on youth after AAP scare in Delhi
Congress-BSP factor in UP
While the BJP’s performance in its key states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and even Karnataka is certain to be impressive, the unknown factor is its prospects in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that elect 120 MPs.
If all parties contest separately, the BJP could get many as 50 seats in UP and 20 in Bihar. As of today, the contest in UP is emerging as one between the BJP and the BSP, with the BJP clearly in the lead. The Congress has realised this danger, and the idea of an alliance with the BSP has been floated. A Congress-BSP alliance in UP will turn the tables on the BJP in UP and restrain it to less than 25 seats.
Altogether, the way these three known unknowns unfold over the coming months can considerably impact the political current. The Congress and BJP will both try to influence these three factors.
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