It was an election during the course of which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed more than 30 rallies; Lalu Prasad went about the town quoting RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s interview on reservations; and beef eating vicariously entered the political discourse after a public lynching in faraway Dadri in Western Uttar Pradesh.
All in all, Bihar Assembly elections in 2015 saw a high decibel acrimonious campaign stretching over a month.
During the lull between the last phase of polling and counting of votes, BJP president Amit Shah met a motley group of beat reporters at the party headquarters in Delhi. A journalist asked Shah how an adverse outcome in these elections would impact the Modi government.
“I will continue to come to the party office, and Modiji will continue to work for the development of the country from his office in the South Block,” retorted Shah in his inimitable style.
This Friday morning when Modi and his handpicked party President visit their respective offices, their grip, both over the executive and the organisation would have strengthened a lot more in a power structure meticulously controlled by the duo.
In politics where power flows from the ballot, nothing succeeds like success; especially the one at the hustings.
The first lesson which BJP seems to have learnt from Bihar and Delhi drubbings was: don’t raise the stakes to a level where an adverse outcome brings your biggest vote-catcher in the direct line of fire.
It is a textbook lesson straight from the annals of Congress’ school of politics. Which is: in victory the leadership takes all the credit; in defeat, the lesser mortals are expected to take the brickbats.
In Assam, where it mattered the most, the party made an optimum use of the Prime Minister during the campaign. The party duly declared a chief ministerial candidate and did not fall into Tarun Gogoi’s trap of turning it into a CM vs PM or a local vs outsider battle.
In a departure from the past, Modi campaigned like the prime minister seeking votes for his party and not as the leader of the BJP pitting himself against regional satraps. The change in stance seems to have paid off reasonable well.
The party also clearly delineated major battles from minor ones by not spreading itself thin. Where is mattered the most, it conceded space and struck regional alliances as in Assam.
In other states, by lowered the bar it has made even local incursions look big in the perception game. The lotus has finally bloomed in God’s own country.
In West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, where powerful regional satraps were locked in a direct fight with regional outfits, the party maintained a delicate balance. With key legislations stuck in the upper house, support of these parties is of critical importance to the BJP in the future.
The biggest impact of this electoral relief for the BJP would be evident in the long pending organisational and cabinet reshuffle long overdue. Shah is likely to announce his new team of office-bearers before the national council meet next month.
This is likely to happen in tandem with a much written about Cabinet rejig. The Prime Minister and the party president will now be able to bring about changes from a position of strength.
As the current round of polls put a question mark on Congress’ ability to lead an anti-BJP front in the next general elections, BJP will attempt to use the debilitating effect of these elections on the main opposition party to push key legislations in the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament.
BJP still has three years and a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha to govern and perform; and the electorate voted it to power in 2014 to do precisely that.
Elections are a regular feature in any democracy. Governments come and governments go.
As it prepares for the next big battle in Uttar Pradesh 2017, the current round of polls if anything has shown that BJP can win elections without dragging in dietary habits of the electorate into political discourse.