Approximately two months have passed since Mr. Narendra Modi’s government assumed power. What has been the public response in its first two months? The forthcoming state assembly elections will provide an answer. Apart from Mr. Amit Shah’s singular and substantial contribution to the spectacular BJP parliamentary poll victory, there was also an unprecedented anti-incumbency wave that helped the party.
It was noted that the BJP performed exceptionally well in states where its main rival was the Congress. The most spectacular result was of course in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Mr. Shah’s adroit moves denied Miss Mayawati a single seat even though her party obtained a 20 percent vote share. However regional parties performed equally well in their respective turfs where the challenge was mainly from the Congress. Proportionately the parties in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Odissa won about the same percentage of seats as the BJP did in UP where it won 73 out of 80 parliamentary seats. Also, it did not escape notice that Mr. Shah’s campaign was hugely aided by RSS cadres that worked ceaselessly in the polls. Credit for results inevitably was shared by Mr. Shah and the RSS. Sceptics therefore tended to minimize the credit due to Mr. Shah by pointing out these facts.
Now however Mr. Shah may get a golden opportunity to display his skills unfettered by factors such as anti-incumbency and the RSS inputs. He recently met with top RSS leaders in Nagpur to discuss strategy for the forthcoming assembly elections in four states. At the end of the parleys the RSS leaders announced that their cadres would not work in the ensuing assembly polls but focus on their own traditional activities. They advised Mr. Shah and the BJP to create their own cadres and cease being dependent on the RSS for future polls. This will provide a great opportunity to Mr. Shah for displaying to the world his own individual talents, which are in plenty, by winning the forthcoming assembly elections as effectively as his party did in the recent parliamentary poll.
Four states, Kashmir, Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, go to the polls later this year. BJP has no significant role in Kashmir. It will confront Congress adversaries in Maharashtra and Haryana, and a regional party in Jharkhand. It remains to be seen whether the BJP contests the Maharashtra and Haryana polls on its own or chooses to ride piggy back on regional allies. There is also the possibility of Delhi going to the polls with the other states. Currently there is pull and push between BJP leaders about whether to prolong President’s rule in the state, form a BJP government after engineering defections, or hold elections. The logical and principled decision will be to hold elections. After winning all seven Lok Sabha seats in the recent polls it makes no sense for the party to opt for any other course. Reportedly the RSS has strongly advised the BJP to hold elections and desist from unprincipled horse trading with potential defectors to form a government. That is why Mr. Amit Shah has been offered a well deserved opportunity to display his talents without the RSS or the anti-incumbency wave sharing credit for results.
If Delhi goes to the polls it will be watched most keenly from among all the states holding elections. Delhi is like mini-India. People from all parts of the country reside here. It is the national capital. Its opinions reflect in some measure the all India view. In Delhi the BJP will have the Aam Admi Party (AAP) as its main rival with Congress in third place. Surely Mr. Shah will relish the opportunity to accept the challenge. Sweeping the Delhi assembly results would reconfirm Mr. Shah’s abilities and provide a huge boost to the Narendra Modi government after its first two months in office. If BJP shies away from the Delhi election people will naturally tend to perceive it as being frightened of the outcome and uncertain about its current national stranding. What will BJP decide? How will it act – as tiger or chicken?