Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid to retain power in 2019 looks stronger than ever, with the BJP now reigning over the north, west and the east, quite the way the Congress did in its heyday. With JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar forming a government with the NDA in Bihar today, the BJP and its allies now rule over 70 per cent of the country’s population, marking an unprecedented saffron footprint. What’s more, the BJP overwhelmingly dominates the major states in the country, as its alliance is in power in seven of the 12 states which send 20 or more MPs to the Lok Sabha.
In the remaining five non-BJP-ruled states, regional parties such as the AIADMK and BJD, which govern Tamil Nadu and Odisha respectively, have been favourably disposed to the saffron camp. As the BJP expands, the Congress has shrunk significantly in the last few years. The 130-year-old party now rules only in one big state, Karnataka, where the BJP under B S Yeddurappa is working overtime to upstage it in the 2018 Assembly polls.
The mission to rule from Kamrup to Kutch and Kashmir to Kanyakumari has long been a war cry for the BJP, which has been adding to its ever-swelling kitty of NDA-ruled states in the last few years. With Nitish Kumar switching sides, the first half of its mission is almost complete as it rules the vast territory between the two regions barring West Bengal, where Mamata Banerjee is firmly in the saddle. The BJP is also present in southern India, which is the weakest link in the BJP’s formidable armour. The party along with its ally TDP is in power in Andhra Pradesh. The BJP enjoys friendly ties with the ruling parties of Telangana and Tamil Nadu.
Kerala and West Bengal are the only major states where the saffron tint is still to strengthen. Senior BJP leaders believe that the return of Kumar, identified with good governance and probity, to its fold has severely dented the opposition’s attempts at forging a united front against the NDA. “Who will be key faces in any such opposition front in 2019? Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Lalu Prasad? None of them can corner us on the issue of corruption or good governance. Nitish was a different matter,” a jubilant party leader said after Kumar was sworn in.