There is a very famous quote - “It is relatively easy to reach the top but difficult to maintain the position there”.
If someone understands it better and appreciates this more than anybody else, it is Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. As May 2019 is nearing, Modi and Shah must be getting goosebumps, since they have a mammoth task in hand to repeat BJP’s massive performance during May 2014.
Make no mistake. What the BJP did in May 2014 was once in a lifetime phenomenon. It was after 30 years, that a party (BJP) got a full majority in the Lok Sabha. What exactly happened in 2014 was many positive factors for BJP coincided with each other - which was a rare coincidence. The factors included the weak and jaded performance of UPA 2, the unimaginative and smug leadership of Congress, a strong Modi wave, a fragmented opposition as well as strong groundwork and booth management of BJP cadre.
But both Modi and Shah are well aware that such miraculous coincidences don’t take place every day. In 2014, BJP's performance in northern, central and western India peaked and from here it is only bound to wane for sure.
Look at the seat numbers for NDA in few of the states in General Election 2014:
UP – 73 out of 80, Rajasthan – 25 of 25, Gujarat – 26 of 26, MP – 27 of 29, Bihar – 31 out 40, Maharashtra – 42 of 48 and Haryana – 7 of 10.
These are mind-boggling numbers. The BJP’s leadership knows that these numbers are well-optimised numbers and it is the peak and the only road from here in these states is the one that goes down.
As per today’s situation, BJP is bound to lose heavily in Rajasthan and Haryana in 2019. There would be significant losses on cards in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The tally in Maharashtra is also bound to come, albeit not by a big margin.
The solace, however, for the BJP/NDA is that it is still well poised in UP and Bihar, largely because of the Yogi’s hold in UP and Nitish's return to the NDA fold. Moreover, in UP, Congress BSP and SP are still in a shamble state.
The NDA is set to lose around 50-60 seats in the above-mentioned top-performing states in 2019. Modi and Shah know that there is not much which can be done to avoid this loss. There are a serious anti-incumbency and resentment against the Raje government in Rajasthan. Similar is the story in Haryana. Shivraj in MP still sits steady but 16 years of incumbency is bound to have some effect. As visible from the recent state election in Gujarat, BJP is not the formidable force which it used to be during Modi’s era there. Moreover, Congress has some visible leadership in MP and Gujarat in these states and flexing muscles.
Sensing this, for last few months, Modi and Shah have been relentlessly vying to find out new territories to spread the wings of BJP to compensate the inevitable loss. As such not having pan-India presence has been the Achilles heel of BJP; for decades, they have been confined to specific territories. But the scenario started changing in 2014. BJP opened its account in West Bengal in May 2014 General Election, then swept state elections in Haryana and Assam and came to power there for the very first time. These were seminal events for the party.
That gave confidence to BJP for moving further. Amit Shah and Modi are sharp and astute politicians; rather say they have a mindset of a salesperson, a businessman. Like a shrewd business-owner, they scan the political atmosphere continually and figure out the weak spot to hit upon. Based on this quality only, they have identified their target areas and the same is evident with their initiatives over the past couple of years.
Modi has been putting plenty of emphasis on the north-east. He knows that BJP can make inroads in north-east and BJP’s success story in Assam has played a role of catalyst. Modi is pitching himself as an ultimate saviour and a panacea to the north-eastern states.
Then Tamilnadu is another battlefield. Modi is trying to rope in BJP in a big way after the death of Jayalalitha. He is eying for the right opportunity to establish BJP there amidst political instability. Odisha has been yet another bastion, where BJP is trying to capitalise on anti-incumbency against years of Naveen Patnaik’s rule. Its local stalwarts Dharmendra Pradhan and Sambit Patra are trying to make headway and build a cadre.
West Bengal is another territory under the action plan of Modi-Shah duo. The BJP is trying to pitch itself as an alternative to the TMC as Congress in the state is almost dead and CPM is also not able to come to the forefront now. BJP sees West Bengal as a long-term big opportunity as it has been successful in putting Mamta in the defensive mode lately. Similarly, Amit Shah sees Kerala as yet another possible area to spread wings and has been able to get some success in building cadre there.
You may have a political disagreement with NaMo and Amit Shah but no one can rebut their political acumen and their relentless efforts for their party.
They know that they have to maintain the position at the peak and gearing up for same and finding new territories would be the key before 2019. They need to put up a firm plan in place to gain 50-60 seats from other territories, which are set to lose in their strong bastions during 2014.
One last thing, despite all those political victories over the past 3-4 years, complacency is the word which is not found in their dictionary.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)