New Delhi: The last round of elections for 2014 has been concluded. Undoubtedly, the overall winner is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Like it did in the 16th general election, the BJP once again defied the odds and surprised critics. In Jharkhand it is poised to form the first majority government in a state formed 14 years ago. In Jammu and Kashmir, the party fell short of its self-professed Mission 44, but came a close second to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), leaving it in an enviable position—either to end up as the leader of the opposition or exhibit political daring to share power in the state with the largest party.

Some of the implications of the visible shift in political momentum in favour of the BJP, led by prime minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, are obvious and some not. Here are five takeaways.

First, and the most obvious, Modi continues to be the electoral flavour of the season. The latest win reiterates the new dynamic in Indian politics, with the BJP replacing the Congress as the principal pole. The Congress-led opposition may have given the Modi regime a bloody nose in the first two sessions of the new Parliament by blocking the passage of key legislation, but outside Parliament, the Modi allure is very much alive and the politics of this country continues to undergo a structural overhaul.

The Congress should be cognizant of this, even while it happily goes about with its negative campaign both within and outside Parliament. Playing the role of an obstructionist is like being on a razor’s edge, and striking a fine balance has never been the forte of the Congress.

Politically, the BJP is going to find itself stronger. It now rules seven states. Yet, the party will have to figure out how it can monetize this political power to ensure smooth passage of laws—a makeover of the Rajya Sabha favouring the BJP is still years away, implying that it would have to rely on a sure-footed floor management strategy.

Second, the terminal decline of the Congress continues. After suffering its worst ever rout in the 16th general election—it was reduced to 44 seats, leaving it well short of claiming the mantle of the leader of the opposition—the Congress was voted out of power in Maharashtra and Haryana.

Its count of states where it is in power is still an impressive nine, but given that five of these are in the Northeast, the 125-year-old party risks being reduced to a regional force. The scrutiny of the leadership of the party, defined around party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, will increase.

Third, there is an obvious vacuum in the opposition space, which is now gradually being defined as anti-BJP (at one time it was anti-Congress). With the abdication of the leadership of the Congress, the party is rapidly losing its way. This is obvious in Parliament and now becoming more apparent at the state level too.

Logically, it is a moment that other wannabe political entities should seize. It is actually a tailor-made situation for a political entity such as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). After its spectacular debut in the Delhi assembly election, it should have used the 16th general election to create a national launch pad for itself and quickly claim the space of the opposition. Unfortunately, it has made all the wrong moves ever since it resigned from power after 49 days in Delhi. The collective leadership has now given way to a single leader, Arvind Kejriwal, and his caucus. However, the rapid decline of the Congress and the past-the-best-date politics of other contenders such as the Samajwadi Party means AAP can actually look at a second life in politics.

Fourth, the election in Kashmir may well mark a turning point for the state. It would be easy to point at the high voter turnout to suggest extremists have been marginalized, but this may or may not be the case. The bigger message coming out of Kashmir is that of the people’s aspirations. Like the rest of India, it, too, possesses a young demography; and once again, like young citizens in the rest of India, they want jobs. In the case of Kashmir, especially after the devastating floods, rebuilding the state’s infrastructure has emerged as a key electoral issue and responsibility of a new government. In some ways, this is the mainstreaming of Kashmir, which otherwise has always been an outlier and a complex member of the Union.

The subtext of this election would also be the emergence of the BJP in the state. Essentially, it will replace the Congress as the national force in the state. But its ideology prevents it from acquiring the political promiscuity of the Congress, and hence sharing power with either of the regional parties, the National Conference or the PDP, will always be a problem for it.

Though numbers suggest a political stalemate in the election, it is clear from the first pronouncements of both the PDP and the BJP that the prospects of coalition government are bright. Given that the infrastructure in the state has to be built from ground up, an elected government in the state is a necessity.

This apart, the BJP has more than doubled its tally, taking it to a record high of 25 seats, reiterating the maxim championed by its president, Shah, that if there is a will there is a way. That’s an ominous message for other states such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, where the BJP has never really had a significant presence.

Finally, the big trend from the verdict in Jharkhand is the return of stability to a state that has seen nine governments in 14 years. The electorate of the state seems to have had enough. And significantly, by backing a BJP bereft of a prominent local face, it is once again establishing that elections in the Modi era are glocal.

The Prime Minister, like in the general election, has, by the sheer weight of his persona, been able to override local factors and position himself at the centre of the political debate.

To a large extent, his is also a product of an exceptional circumstance—the vacuum created by the exit of the Congress from the national stage even as the rest of the opposition is in disarray.

For comprehensive election coverage, visit www.livemint.tumblr.com

Close