Bhubaneswar: With loss in Jharkhand fifth Indian state has slipped from the grasp of the Bhartiya Janata Party. The aura of invincibility that had come to surround the party and its mascot, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi seems to be withering, much to the relief of its opponents.
What is more worrisome for Modi and home minister, Amit Shah, who, for all practical purposes still runs the BJP, is that Jharkhand vote will be seen as some kind of a referendum on issues like the Citizenship Amendment ACT (CAA), Ram temple and the dilution of article 370 as the party had built its campaign around them instead of focusing on regional and local issues which was the strategy of its rivals--Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Congress.
Among other factors responsible for the debacle in Jharkhand are the BJP’s failure to consolidate the non-tribal votes despite having run the state under the leadership of Raghubar Das, a non-tribal, for five years. Party’s experiment with Das gave JMM the opportunity to play the tribal card to the hilt.
Jharkhand election results are a wake-up call for the BJP which is already gearing up for the upcoming assembly polls in Delhi and Bihar. While Aravind Kejriwal-led AAP is a tough opponent to beat in the national capital in Bihar BJP has to contend with a tricky ally in chief minister, Nitish Kumar. Much will, hence, depending upon how the party plans its strategy in the light of the lessons learnt in Maharashtra and Jharkhand. In Haryana, too, its success was limited and it would not have been able to form a government without the support of Dushyant Chautala's Jannayak Janata Party which took the deputy chief minister’s post in the bargain. Chautala again is a tricky ally.
It is now obvious that the BJP needs to make changes in its strategy and reduce the party’s excessive dependence on Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and his lieutenant-in-chief, Amit Shah as far as assembly election campaigns are concerned. It should rather concentrate its energies on grooming strong regional leaders who can shoulder BJP campaigns in their respective states capably.
Similarly, the party should focus on highlighting regional and local issues in state elections as people find them easy to connect with. Excessive focus on national issues, especially controversial issues like CAA and article 370 can potentially turn assembly elections into a mini referendum on them with defeats causing damage to the party both at the state and the national level. Such debacles can even erode people’s confidence in the government at the Centre.
There is no denying that BJP has become a top-heavy party with Modi and Shah controlling it firmly and, to an extent, brutally. Too much centralisation of power is bad for any party struture and BJP is no exception. Control freaks, who sometimes try to hide behind superficial delegation of power, can end up doing irreparable damage to the party in the long run.
It is equally important for BJP that the government led by the party at the Centre improves its performance, especially on the economic front. The party cannot hope to win elections merely by stepping up its rhetoric on controversial issues like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)