As the BJP now rules 21 of the country’s 29 states, major as well as regional Opposition parties have no choice but to pull up their socks, leave behind their differences and come together if they have any desires to control the saffron surge.
With its electoral victory in Tripura and formation of governments in Nagaland and Meghalaya in alliance with local parties, the BJP has put six out of eight states of North-East India in its kitty. Put together the BJP is now in power, either directly or through an alliance, in 21 out of India’s 29 states. Party president Amit Shah, recently said, “We have an MP in Ladhakh and Kerala. We have a government in Kohima and in Kutch”. Influence of the BJP, which was once confined to the so-called cow belt or Hindi-speaking states, is now, in Prof. Rajni Kothari’s words ‘a dominant party’ in every region of the country, barring the deep south and a portion of the east. Within a short span of less than four years, the saffron surge is prominently visible everywhere.
The Saffron Surge
Sources within the BJP rank the party’s recent victory in the North-East as its most significant electoral story since it won the 2014 Parliamentary elections. Some political observers opine that most of BJP’s electoral gains in the North-East region had started manifesting in 2016 when the party won Assam for the first time in 2016 and Manipur for the first time in 2017 and in Arunachal Pradesh where the BJP came to power in 2016 by engineering a large defection from the Congress. With regard to significance of the BJP’s electoral victory in the North-East, some experts give credence to party president Amit Shah’s interview to a national daily in early January this year where he had said that his party was expected to win more Lok Sabha seats in the North-East than it had in 2014, when it had won 10. These experts further opine that it would perhaps help the BJP offset some of the losses it is bound to suffer in the Hindi belt (Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) where it won 149 seats out of a total of 160 the last time.
The electoral victory in the NorthEast assumes special significance for the BJP because it comes against the run of play in recent months when the party returned to power in Gujarat but with a significantly reduced majority in terms of seats while retaining its vote share and lost by-elections to two Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan. The BJP has pinned high hopes on Karnataka (where elections are due soon) and Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, where elections will be held towards the end of 2018. Going by the tone and tenor of BJP’s government formations in the North-Eastern states, some experts call it Congressisation of the BJP because from Arunachal Pradesh to Manipur, and now in Meghalaya and Nagaland, the BJP has used the opportunist’s rulebook for somehow getting into the driver’s seat.
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March 31, 2018