BJP will have to rework its electoral game plan given the strong performance by Cong

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership should be thanking its stars and its star campaigner prime minister Narendra Modi. The party will form its sixth government in Gujarat though with a wafer-thin majority. It has also snatched power from Congress in Himachal Pradesh with comfortable numbers.

But, the writing on the wall is there for all to see. Congress, led by president Rahul Gandhi, has made serious inroads into BJP bastion, in Narendra Modi’s home state at that. Right caste combination, spirited campaign and mobilising youth from across Patidars, other backward classes and Dalits by Congress have definitely upset the BJP’s applecart, bringing its tally to less than 100.

BJP president Amit Shah’s target of 150 seats was nowhere in the realm of realisation. Still, the saffron party can bask in electoral victory given its resilience. Sangh parivar left no stone unturned to secure BJP’s victory in preparation for the 2019 epic Lok Sabha polls when Modi would seek a second term.

Though Modi attributed the mandate to good governance and development, the saffron party will have to sit up and rework its electoral arithmetic given the strong performance by Congress.

BJP in Saurastra region’s rural belt seems to have taken a huge beating, losing over a dozen seats to Congress that exploited caste divide, fielding winnable set of candidates and youngsters outshining the experienced leaders.

Reduced margins and 18 lesser seats, compared with 115 of 2012, should tune BJP to the ground reality. They must come with a counter formula for voters fatigue and anti-incumbency to avert the huge dip in numbers and margins.

Prime minister Modi will have to take into consideration the fact that a strong state leadership needs to be groomed if they want to hold on to Gujarat. Nitin Patel was given a miss last time round. After the serious divide in patidars and disruption in the BJP electoral maths, BJP will have to seriously consider him as its future face. The party will also do well if they pick its second rung team to counter the Congress onslaught. The 49-day legislative assembly campaign was also marked by the emergence of Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor troika leaders on an anti-BJP plank. This will have to be factored in Modi’s future campaign plans.

Agrarian crisis to which Gujarat is no exception seems to have played out in the state assembly elections. If BJP’s domineering presence in urban seats was any indication, GST and big notes demonetisation may not have impacted the party’s performance. Economic disruption in rural belt may have adversely impacted the party prospects across those seats.

In the entire rigmarole, there’s no denying the fact that Modi has emerged as the most popular leader. He must be lauded for expansion of the party in states where it hardly had any presence.  But larger battles await Modi in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh where the party’s bound to face anti-incumbency after having been in power for three consecutive terms. Here, too, the farmers unrest cannot be taken lightly. Losing one of the big states during next one year could hamper plans for 2019 Parliament elections.

Modi will also have to dislodge Congress from power in Karnataka and make a big splash in North Eastern states, including Mizoram.