Let us consider BJP winning UP and Uttarakhand as history and talk about 2024 and beyond. To synthesise the future, one needs to analyse the past.
Someone observed Narasimha Rao, on becoming PM, worked like there was no tomorrow. Leading a minority government, forced constantly to look at uncertain future, he was a man in hurry. And, he did whatever he said and more than that whatever he had never said.
Perhaps, the majority that Narendra Modi got had made him a bit complacent. Maybe Bihar was a much-needed jolt that had provided a course correction. Though Modi government ensured a proper implementation of Aadhar and extending the banking cover to include a larger population, to be frank there were no major path breaking policies, to state correctly – till Rajan was the head of RBI. Of course, Modi had to concentrate on international arena in the first year, as till becoming the PM, he was – as stated by the then Congress leaders – a state leader. Much efforts were wasted on the GST fiasco, without any tangible results. And, the quality time of the government was consumed in debating nonsensical issues like intolerance and beef related deaths.
Seems, despite being the leader of the majority government, Narendra Modi was frustrated at his own failure and had to shake himself out of the traditional way of governance. So, he had to take risks and hit his first six. And that was Demonetisation. While the opposition debated the economic effects of demonetisation, people considered it as an attack on the ‘corrupt’ rich. Demonetisation was the revenge of the poor on the corrupt and Modi was the means of this revenge. This much was already established now in the form of results of state assembly elections.
The way Modi moved to Gujarat, immediately after completing his canvas for UP elections shows finally he has entered the Narasimha Rao mode, at least as far as electoral politics is concerned. Well, today people might be thinking that the opposition shall forego the 2019 general elections and prepare for the next i.e., the one in 2024.
But, if he learnt the lessons of Bihar and Delhi, Modi would be working hard for all state elections without any complacency, as he need to have majority in Rajya Sabha too so that he can control the function of both Parliament houses. Five big states, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan would be electing new governments in 2017 and 2018. As four out of five of these states are currently being ruled by BJP, the pressure is on BJP to retain these and win even Karnataka, the only southern state that was ever ruled by BJP.
Though there is virtually no opposition in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, there is the anti-incumbency factor to be dealt with. In Rajasthan, like in Tamilnadu the power used to swing and BJP needs to stop the pendulum. Though Karnataka may come back into saffron fold, the crown of BJP’s rule, Gujarat remained enigmatic. For the firsts time in many years, Chief minister of BJP was changed, and it happened in Gujarat. The aggrieved Patel community and the malicious Kejriwal have created some cracks in the solid foundation. Though the hypocritical reasoning of demeaning Patel community that is self-sufficient to have reservations so that they too can become slaves to ’employee’ mentality was already exposed, the cracks that have appeared need to be smoothened and cemented. And Kejriwal is expected to work with much more vigour in Gujarat, but he may end up helping Modi in decimating Congress.
So, BJP may be prepared for 2019, better than Congress. This, coupled with the fact that now the face of collective opposition remains Rahul Gandhi, who works for BJP clandestinely, Modi may win 2019. However, by 2024 Narendra Modi would be 74 years old and BJP should start from now how it should work for that election. Else, the party’s campaign may end up like Advani’s ‘India Shining’.
Though there are no state level leaders in Congress now who can win elections on their own charisma and appeal (the last one being YSR of united AP), this is the only party that has a pan Indian presence.
Despite many states ruled by BJP, if BJP can not present a viable alternative face to Narendra Modi, who could guide the party in the long run, the campaign of 2024 would be running wild. Perhaps, the new face of BJP should also fight his way to the top like Narendra Modi, though not necessarily against him. As Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Dr. Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje, who were almost contemporaries of Modi too would be older by that time, the new generation has to learn the tricks of the trade. And, it may not so happen that all good spokespersons would be good in gathering votes. In fact, BJP shall allow second rung leaders to lead the party in states ruled by it so that the future is secured. Though the party has many young leaders at the centre, as of now it seems only Devendra Fadnavis is the one who know how to win elections. In the coming two years, BJP shall add more names to the list. May be Dharmendra Pradhan or Piyush Goel or someone else, BJP shall entrust the responsibility of winning states to them. Moreover, as of now BJP is short of quality manpower to cater to the party and government that was evident in the way the party handled parliament in the last three years.
BJP may bring Odisha under its area of influence by 2019, but by 2024, BJP should consider to rule the state. Similarly, BJP had already wasted its chances to emerge as a credible alternative in Andhra and Telangana, especially Telangana where BJP is a known party.
Meanwhile, what may factor negatively for BJP is the lack of action on any of the scams that have occurred during the Congress rule. In fact, Congress joked about the investigations into Bofors scam, the firsts one to cause a fall of central government. As the trials into the 2G scams have hit a dead end and without any political indictments in the coal scam related cases, it is difficult for BJP to explain its stance and conviction on acting on the corrupt politicians. It is meaningless to squeeze Vijay Mallya, while Sheila Dikshit and Robert Vadra were walking free. As BJP never was half tough as Congress on leaders of other parties, convictions of Congress leaders was not expected. But, the current BJP is not the soft and suave one like it was during the days of Vajpayee.
Now, the party is more business-like in its approach towards elections, selecting and discarding allies. So, if the party would like to have a long-term influence over Indian voters, it is time to deliver some results.
Though it is rumoured that Modi would be springing many more actions like Demonetisation, after UP elections, what they would be and how they would affect people and how they are conveyed to people are going to matter. Like the way BJP extended its reach to the north east, they shall strive to reach states like Tamilnadu and Andhra. All this may be started now, by bifurcating the largest state Uttar Pradesh, so it can be governed in a proper way.
So, Narendra Modi, the man on a mission should start functioning in the role of a mentor after 2019. For the time being, he may start by identifying one Fadnavis in each of BJP ruled states.