The Gujarat unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would not be a bad fit as Nike’s brand ambassador, because they, incredibly, just did it. Again. For a seventh consecutive time, the BJP won the Assembly elections in Gujarat, variously described as Hindutva’s crucible and lab to one of India’s most developed and industrially progressive states.
If being the seventh consecutive victory is a record, the BJP, which has now equalled the streak of wins by the CPI(M)-led Left Front in West Bengal, it is the sheer scale of win and domination of the sweep to achieve its seventh term that illustrates the absolute mindspace occupied by just one political figure — Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Because the saffron triumph unimpeachably belongs to just one leader — Mr Modi, and stands as testimony to the stature and popularity of just one icon.
The BJP not only bettered its own all-time best victory in 2002, the-then first win as chief minister by Narendra Modi, of 127 seats out of 188, but also breached the watermark record of the Congress, under Madhav Singh Solanki in 1990 of 149, by becoming the first party ever in Gujarat’s history to cross 150 seats, winning 156 out of 188.
Such was the domination of the BJP, which also increased its vote share beyond the half-way mark of 50 per cent, polling over 52.6 per cent votes. If Gujarat’s electorate responded to the BJP’s plea for support in so astounding a way that it was the BJP’s best-ever effort and performance, they gave the Congress its worst-ever defeat. The contrast could not be more glaring.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s effort only made it worse for Congress, and a consolatory claim of becoming India’s ninth national party aside, the AAP was thoroughly trounced in the BJP’s biggest stronghold.
The projection of the BJP’s win in Gujarat on national politics must reflect on the sustainability of the Modi factor in all polls ahead, be it the state Assembly elections next year in Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram, or the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
In all of these elections, the untarnished and growing image, stature and popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi puts the BJP in the driver’s seat. Added to it, organisational strength, election machinery, narrative, campaign strength and micro-level booth management makes the BJP formidable.
The Congress has its strengths, but becomes weak when it goes into battle head-on against Modi. The principal Opposition party becomes even weaker when a smaller party like the AAP makes it a triangular contest. A fragmented Opposition will only elevate the already-strong BJP higher in the elections ahead.
The BJP’s core vote in different parts of India has solidified into a force which, when fused with other elements, makes it the central force in our country’s politics. The party will win by default, whereas it would be for the Opposition to script a victory for themselves each time.
Would, and could, they rise up to challenge Mr Modi’s BJP? The answer will decide the future of India.