The BJP's third straight drubbing in the by-elections, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, after Uttarakhand and Bihar cannot be over-interpreted as a pointer to the national mood where the Narendra Modi phenomenon sustains broadly.
But the party needs serious introspection on the brazenly divisive campaign it ran in UP, where it's eyeing power in 2017.
In some ways, the party's electoral pitch led by Yogi Adityanath was reminiscent of its 2008 bid to dislodge Sheila Dikshit in Delhi in the aftermath of Mumbai's 26/11.
The attempt backfired for its reliance on the macabre. Hoping to exploit the terror strike that shocked urban India, its CM aspirant VK Malhotra went around seeking votes on the promise of sending Parliament House attack convict Afzal Guru to the gallows.
The people of Delhi weren't impressed. They returned Dikshit to power on the strength of her work.
The Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav had no such credentials to flaunt in UP. But his task and that of his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, was made easier by contradictions inherent to the Yogi's anti-Muslim agenda and the "development for all" promise that had fetched Modi a thumping mandate.
The politics of fear Adityanath--and myriad RSS outfits at his disposal--knitted around the so-called Muslim 'love jihad' flew in the face of Modi's call for a 10-year moratorium on societal conflict.
It generated apprehensions that the PM looked the other way in tacit approval of the Sangh's strategy to make Hindus vote as a monolith.
But the game plan had holes. The free hand BJP chief Amit Shah gave to Adityanath wasn't a study in isolation. It coincided with the marginalisation within the organisation of the party's known faces in UP: Murli Manohar Joshi, Rajnath Singh, Kalraj Mishra and Varun Gandhi.
A structured sociological project would explain better the anatomy of the vote that felled the BJP.
On first glance it seems that these leaders' exclusion from the campaign--not to mention the short shrift they got in Delhi--could have alienated the forward castes that rooted upfront for Modi in the parliamentary polls.
The BJP's other mistake ostensibly was of losing sight of the voters' socio-economic profile. Daily wagers abound in hundreds of thousands in UP. They toil daily for a square meal, a prerequisite for which is communal peace, not curfew.
Here the Hindu mobilisation the party attempted against 'love jihad' was at cross purposes with the dreams it sold them of a quality life a little over three months ago.
The moral the party would miss at its own cost is that when two-timed, the electorate punish hard. They withdraw affection at the first sign of betrayal.
The lesson can be best applied in Maharashtra, where the chances of competitive communalism between the BJP and the Shiv Sena in the October elections have receded with by poll debacles in UP, Rajasthan and to some extent Gujarat.
Currently quibbling over seat-sharing, the NDA allies would be better off without xenophobes and rabble rousers. The state that's home to the country's financial capital would heed development, not calls that foment confrontation.