The results have also demolished the myth generated after the BJP’s West Bengal debacle that the Modi magic does not work in state elections.
However, beyond the fate of winners and losers, these elections have underscored a transformative change in the nature of political discourse and the imperative of good governance. One of the major takeaways from the recent electoral outcomes is that the emergent BJP leadership seems to have realized the limitations of a political campaign based on polarising the electorate. Though there were occasional references to such issues, Prime Minister Modi and other senior party leaders distinctly concentrated their political messaging to the party’s performance on the promise of inclusive development and the steps taken by the Central and BJPruled states for the welfare of the common man.
The results in UP and Uttarakhand particularly show that the beneficiaries of the various welfare schemes cut across the fault lines of caste and community and voted for the BJP for a second term.
In the midst of the vote-bank politics based on caste and creed, a new group of voters emerged, cutting across fault lines— the ‘Bharathi large (or the beneficiary group). This new group of voters is the beneficiaries of various flagship welfare schemes. According to a quick calculation, they accounted for 130 million of UP’s 150 million voters.
This marks a change in the approach to the model of governance that panders to the greed of a particular caste and community but concentrates on the development of welfare and growth of all. The slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, is the guiding principle.
In the past, India has launched various welfare schemes the benefit of which never reached the last man in the line due to a corrupt delivery system. The Modi model ensured that it reached the targeted people. He created a basket of schemes each addressing a basic need such as PM Awas Yojana, PM Ujjwala Yojana, Jan Dhan Accounts, PM Kisan Nidhi Yojana, PM Jeevan Suraksha Yojana, and so on.
The Prime Minister’s office scrupulously monitored the implementation of his flagship schemes, Together, if one makes a back of envelope calculation for a household, the Government transferred close to Rs 3 lakh to a household.
This approach makes the whole population the right holder, with some qualifiers for each scheme. This not only ensured the actual delivery of the promised benefit but also made the common man feel that the Government cared for him. This is a giver-receiver matrix of development and has a huge electoral connection.
Perform or perish was another significant message of the electorate this time. The failure of the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh rival Samajwadi Party to convince the electorate was, to some extent a reflection of its poor governance record, especially its inability to maintain law and order when it was in power. The allegation of nepotism in the distribution of perks of power also affected the credibility of its promises of jobs for all. At the same time, the credible performance of the AAP Government in Delhi enhanced its credibility among the voters in Punjab, who were fed up with power struggles within the Congress and SAD camps.
The outcome of the Assembly elections will have long-term implications for the coming state Assembly elections in Gujarat next year and Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra subsequently. For the Congress, the defeat in the Punjab and Uttarakhand is a clear indication of the limitations of its central leadership to manage the party’s state organizations from Delhi. It almost scored a self-foal in Punjab by first encouraging dissidence against former chief minister Capt. Amrinder Singh and then allowing it to continue even after replacing him by Channi to play the Dalit card. A similar lackluster attitude was adopted by the Congress high command in handling the party affairs in strife-ridden Uttarakhand. Factional feuds are still simmering in other states’ units, including Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh ruled by it and there are no indications that the party’s central leadership is capable of handling them.
The down-the-hill role of Congress is bound to leave a void in the space for the non-BJP opposition. West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee are already trying to outflank the Congress in forging an anti-BJP front. After the Punjab victory, Kejriwal also has plans to play a greater role in national politics. While only time will tell what happens to the prospect of the unity of the non-BJP opposition, the BJP can afford to wait and watch with a smug smile. It is going to cash the immediate dividend of its recent success in the coming Rajya Sabha and Presidential elections