The long, gruelling election season in the country is finally over, at least for the moment. However, a big shift in regional politics has been observed from the results of the 5 states. Any election in the country is now being fought Presidential style and parties not having influential and mass leaders as the CM face are surely setting up for a loss.
In Assam, BJP had CM Sarbananda Sonowal and a powerful leader in Himanta Biswa Sarma, and together the duo managed to keep Congress at bay and secure a second straight term. In the run-up to the elections, while Sonowal was not named as CM candidate, BJP leaders said the party will contest under his leadership. They pointed to the “dominating presence” of the CM in the posters as an indication of no changes in the offing.
In West Bengal, despite BJP pooling all its resources and going toe-to-toe with TMC in nearly every round — fell short. Although, there are myriad reasons as to why BJP faltered when it had the chance to remove Mamata but the biggest reason was the latter’s popularity in the state, despite the strong anti-incumbency wave.
Mamata is still the face which freed Bengal from the clutches of the Left’s tumultuous 34-year old reign. BJP did have strong faces in Suvendu Adhikari, Dinesh Trivedi and others but it didn’t outrightly project them as the CM candidate and it surely backfired, as the results prove.
In Tamil Nadu, the in-fighting between the AIADMK ranks, added with the 10-year strong anti-incumbency wave along with the dimming political stature of CM Edappadi Palaniswami, ensured that opposition leader/patriarch MK Stalin rose to the power.
Similarly in Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan managed to hold his fort, despite the mounting allegations of Gold smuggling case and haphazard handling of the coronavirus crisis. Vijayan is currently one of the biggest leaders in the state and other opposition leaders pale in comparison. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress coalition which had knocked out the left failed to make inroads, simply because it didn’t have a CM face.
The fact that Rahul Gandhi is an MP from Wayanad in Kerala, and yet the UDF could not manage to breach the 50 seats mark should be a testimony to his failed credentials. Historically, every five years, the government changes in Kerala but owing to Rahul’s incompetency, LDF has managed to rewrite the history books.
Read More: The performance of the Rahul-led Kerala Congress is so bad that even a split cannot be ruled out
In Puducherry, Congress had a weak CM candidate in V Narayanasamy who had earlier failed to get his basics right when he lost the floor test in the house. Ultimately, BJP emerged unscathed and Congress was made to eat the humble pie. Another instance where a weak leadership, led to the demise of a party’s fortunes.
In nutshell, the 2021 assembly election results prove that a CM face, and that too, a strong CM face is paramount if parties want to ace the regional politics. BJP, which has relied on the formula of not announcing the CM face in several of the elections in the past, surely needs to kiss goodbye this strategy as it has become archaic and voters cast their votes keeping the CM candidate in mind.
Instead of just declaring a strong CM face days before the elections, that CM candidate must build up the image at least 18 months ahead of the next state wide elections by visiting many towns in the state and meeting with local people and discussing local problems and assure them of providing a better solution if he were to be elected. That way people understand whom they are dealing with and how he/she have been actively approaching them and discussing their issues. Things won’t happen over night.
Also, BJP should do the ground work continuously (Instead of only election times) in these states to avoid anti-Modi & anti-BJP sentiments. The opposition is easily able to capitalize these sentiments and build their politics on this.