The Congress, in contrast, which has been on a losing streak since its rout in 2014 — barring a few exceptions — sent a reminder of its fighting capacity against the BJP ahead of 2019.
By Ravish Tiwari
COMING barely six months before the Lok Sabha elections, the results on Tuesday arresting the BJP’s winning streak underline that the contest for 2019 Lok Sabha elections is very much open. BJP leaders sought to ring-fence their government at the Centre from the Assembly election results. Their argument: yes, the Congress made gains but the fact that it was so close in Madhya Pradesh and not so bad in Rajasthan shows that the party may be down but it’s certainly not out.
The reality could be a little more complicated. In the three Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the BJP has lost as many as 177 Assembly seats — almost 47 per cent of what it held in 2013.
The Congress, in contrast, which has been on a losing streak since its rout in 2014 — barring a few exceptions — sent a reminder of its fighting capacity against the BJP ahead of 2019. In fact, the Congress gained 158 Assembly seats (more than 133 per cent) over what it held after the 2013 elections.
Beyond this state-specific arithmetic, the results could assume national significance. For, they dent the impression of the BJP’s invincibility ahead of 2019. Given how the BJP went on to the form/join governments in 14 of 22 Assembly elections held since 2014, today’s results constitute a significant setback. Wresting power from the BJP also gives the Congress a strong case in its attempt to emerge as a magnet for Opposition unity.
Additionally, given how Congress president Rahul Gandhi has gone for the BJP’s jugular since the Gujarat elections last year, these results give the party bragging rights to project itself and its leader as an alternative to the BJP. In the process, it dents the BJP’s key TINA (there is no alternative) campaign plank.
So far, the Opposition has been criticising the BJP alleging it has failed to deliver on its 2014 promises but a string of BJP successes across the country shielded the party from these barbs. However, the success of the Opposition today with a clear narrative putting the BJP on the mat over rural distress in largely agricultural states has the potential to emerge as a theme to corner the ruling party in 2019.
The results also exposed BJP’s limitations as an incumbent. While the BJP won power in most of the states since 2014 as an Opposition party, it struggled to retain power in Gujarat late last year. This holds significance given that unlike in 2014, the BJP will seek re-election as an incumbent in 2019.
That raising the Ram Temple and cow slaughter and the fielding of Yogi Adityanath did not deliver dividends suggests that the BJP may try to recalibrate its Hindutva pitch for 2019.