The Congress has attributed its loss in four state polls to problems including infighting and vowed introspection, but steered clear of getting drawn into discussing BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s impact.
The saffron party, on the other hand, has not let go of the opportunity provided by the sweep to showcase the Modi impact.
“The elections were a semi-final before the Lok Sabha polls. People have given clear message that they are not going to accept the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. They have accepted Modi as their leader,” former BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who was in charge of Delhi, said on Sunday.
The party asserted Modi had played a big role — in building up the mood and by agreeing to requests from all BJP chief ministers to address additional rallies.
The Gujarat chief minister addressed more than 100 rallies, said strategists close to him, adding that his “Congress-mukt Bharat” (Congress-free India) slogan acted as a catalyst.
The victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi — which account for 72 of the total 543 Lok Sabha seats — would strengthen Modi’s bid to bring the saffron party back to power at the Centre after 10 years.
According to Modi campers, his focus will be on increasing his reach and reworking strategies. He was the Hindu nationalist party’s star campaigner in all four states and did not hold back, attacking the top Congress leadership with ferocity.
Now, his criticism of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is likely to be unsparing, though he may choose to speak more on new policies and programmes.
Modi’s close aides also saw the positives in Delhi despite the strong showing by Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
According to Modi’s aides, a few surveys showed those who favoured Kejriwal and the AAP in Delhi also wanted the BJP strongman as the PM after the 2014 elections.
BJP strategists, however, conceded that Modi’s impact was lessened in Delhi. They attributed this to the delay in naming Dr Harsh Vardhan as the party’s chief ministerial candidate.
In Chhattisgarh, the party’s failure to drop some ministers and MLAs who faced anti-incumbency made the elections a close call, according to the strategists.
BJP leader Arun Jaitely, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said, “Eventually, the biggest beneficiary of these elections is the largest opposition party, which will play a big role in 2014 polls. We have improved our performance in MP and Rajasthan and ensured there is not a big anti-incumbency at work in Chhattisgarh.”
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raje readily credited Modi for the party’s performance.
“The people of Rajasthan were tired of the non-governance of the Congress. Modi is a very big factor because people have seen what he has done in Gujarat,” said Raje.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, deputy leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha, said while no praise was enough for the efforts of Raje and Chouhan, Modi’s impact could not be understated. He said Modi’s extensive campaigning had enthused not just the party cadre, but also voters.