BJP unable to replicate central dominance in state elections

What could possibly have changed in four months? BJP ought to have swept these two states with near two-thirds majority going by the outcome of the general elections. Clearly, voters are distinguishing between assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

PTI
For BJP, this means it would have to assume every state election from now on will be a close contest.
NEW DELHI: BJP is being tested in states where it has been seeking re-election. And the results in Haryana and Maharashtra show that this trend has not reversed despite the emphatic victory in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls.

What could possibly have changed in four months? BJP ought to have swept these two states with near two-thirds majority going by the outcome of the general elections.

But the same question could be asked of the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. After all, what changed so significantly that Congress was wiped out in the Lok Sabha polls just six months after forming governments in these two states.


Clearly, voters are distinguishing between assembly and Lok Sabha elections. This was visible in Odisha which went to polls along with the general elections. BJP got more MPs but its rival the Biju Janata Dal won the assembly elections, indicating that voters made the distinction even though these were simultaneous polls.

At a broader level, it appears that while BJP has a strong central leadership, it’s yet to fully establish the same dominance at the state level. Traditionally, BJP has had strong state units. For all the years that BJP was not in power at the Centre, it was served by strong state leaderships in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

This bit seems to be coming under stress. BJP picked up majority in states like Haryana for the first time after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory in 2014. In Maharashtra, BJP could only become the largest party in a four-cornered contest and later revived the alliance with Shiv Sena for a majority. It was billed that these governments would return to power based on the work of their respective chief ministers.
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In other words, BJP came to power in these states riding on the overarching Modi wave but has found it difficult to expand on that base. Which is why its party leadership decided to ensure that the alliance with Shiv Sena is not broken despite considerable acrimony.

Having said so, BJP has managed to hold its own. After all, it’s headed to win over a 100 seats of the 164 it fought. In 2014, BJP contested 260 seats on its own and won 122. In that sense, the party has maintained a high strike rate. Even in Haryana, as the PM mentioned, the party has increased its vote share from 33 to 36%.

Yet, the dominance that BJP has established at the Centre is not replicating itself in state elections. And this is now emerging as a pattern. The opposition, which appears decimated at the national level, will make its presence felt in various state assemblies. And the manner in which that interplay evolves will to an extent determine the nature of political opposition in the country from now on.

For BJP, this means it would have to assume every state election from now on will be a close contest. It may be difficult to turn every assembly poll into national election but it may have to consider ways to project and utilise its central leadership more effectively to widen the gap or improve its chances, as the case may be.
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