The stupendously shocking loss in the two Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh has, all of a sudden, made the Bharatiya Janata Party look vulnerable. The humiliating defeat in the saffron bastion of Gorakhpur in particular, will for a long time traumatise the top leadership, though the outcome of the election should not be interpreted as the end of the road for the Narendra Modi-led NDA government at the Centre.
Despite these electoral reverses, the BJP continues to be the conspicuously dominant party in the country, and it would require clever strategy, micro-management and a prudent selection of nominees by the Opposition to upset the calculations in the 2019 Parliamentary showdown.
There is little doubt that the BJP would certainly emerge as the single largest party, and therefore would evidently have the first option of being invited to form the next government. However, the party would now have to once again demonstrate its political superiority by revisiting its methods and seat distribution, while concurrently mending fences with its allies.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s decision to break away had more to do with his anxiety over domestic issues, rather than the supposedly unkept promises of the Centre. In the unlikely scenario of the TDP returning to power in the state next year, he would once again be content to do business with the BJP. At present, in order to survive he has to maintain a safe distance from the Modi government.
It may sound far-fetched, but there is every possibility that the UP debacle of the party might have been engineered by vested interests from within. Firstly, the leadership has to ask itself why the Gorakhpur ticket was not granted to the preferred nominee of the Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath? Secondly, the other question to be addressed is why the practice of collectively deciding on the tickets was not adhered to for these bypolls? The strange matter was that no meeting was held of either the Parliamentary Board or the Central Election Committee to finalise the nominees.
In UP’s political circles, a conspiracy theory doing the rounds is that after Yogi Adityanath was seen to be emerging as the generation-next iconic leader of the BJP, a futuristic symbol of the Hindutva brand of politics, his detractors decided to fix him once and for all. After the rout on his home turf, the Chief Minister can perhaps no longer in the immediate future, hope to make it as the poster boy of the saffron brigade. His standing has clearly been diminished and his wings surgically clipped to thwart him from attempting further flights.
The Samajwadi Party and its ally, the Bahujan Samaj Party, need to be complimented for pulling off a coup in the ever fertile political arena of India’s most populous state. The two parties, if they remain together, can pose a formidable challenge to the BJP. However, they need to comprehend that their victory was not on account of these two formations pooling their resources. It had as much to do with the internal power tussle within the BJP, where a section of leaders, on being marginalised by the current leadership, are beginning to believe that equations may drastically change in the post 2019 political scenario.
There is absolute unanimity so far as accepting Narendra Modi as the tallest leader in the country and thereby the BJP’s principal vote catcher. However, it is the political calculus that may determine the future course of both the BJP and its supporting parties. It is a well known fact that in the party there are leaders who do not see eye to eye with either the Prime Minister or his closest lieutenant Amit Shah.
If they have remained silent, it is because they have chosen to lie low and wait for an opportune time to spout their resentment. In their view, if the BJP was to get a reduced number of seats (Shiv Sena’s mouth-piece Saamna states it would at least be 110 less), the allies may influence the choice of who should lead the alliance. This is a reality, and thus should compel the current leadership to become more accessible.
Simultaneously, the Opposition parties have accelerated their efforts to finalise modalities needed to forge a common front. The regional satraps have made it crystal clear that they were unwilling to accept the leadership of the Congress and it would be both arithmetic and chemistry that would determine as to who should be the spearhead of such an association. Segments within the Opposition are striving to form an anti-BJP, anti-Congress alliance, which, at this early stage, does not appear to be politically viable.
It goes without saying that in a democracy, the Opposition needs to be strong enough to keep the government on its toes. However, it will not be the developments within the Opposition ranks that in the future would navigate the course of political events. The real power tussle may take place within the Sangh Parivar that possibly could pose a challenge to the BJP’s current leadership, though Modi and Shah are highly combative players, who would be difficult to dislodge, both from within and outside.
The Prime Minister’s detractors fully acknowledge that the next polls would be Modi of 2014 versus Modi of 2019. Other activities in the political terrain would be inconsequential. Between us.