So, by all accounts, the BJP is going to win Assam. Okay…well…we shouldn’t be counting our chickens before they hatch. Having said that, I’ll do precisely what I said I shouldn’t be doing: we’ll dwell on what a victory in Assam means for the party.
For one, the reaction of the RW over Assam will mostly be about relief, after back to back debacles in Delhi and Bihar. The right wing felt that it had its back to the wall and Assam will feel like a green pasture after a long electoral drought. You know what’s awesome about this? That the Right Wing is so hungry for victory. Close your eyes for a moment and count all the electoral victories piled up by the BJP since 2013… given all those wins, it is kind of amazing that the right wing seemed so desperate for a win in Assam. If you look at the other side, the Congress has now been reduced to dust in 9-10 states (depending on how you count Bihar) in a row since 2013 and they are scheduled to lose Kerala and Assam next month!
Yet, the Congress no longer seems hungry for success. In fact, they seem quite content with Kejriwal sweeping Delhi and Congress being the 3rd wheel in Bihar. This massive gap in expectations matters. Those who never aim high never achieve anything. The fact that the Congress no longer dreams big means that it will never again achieve big. This is a tremendous fall for a party that has ruled the country for 55 years! Is there anyone in the Congress who is thinking about getting 272+ seats in 2019? On the other hand, is there anyone on the BJP side who is not obsessed with making sure the party again gets 272+ on its own?
You can see this attitude on social media itself. Watch the Congress supporters content with being led and shown the way by AAPians…for goodness sake…the AAP rules just 1 state. That Congis on social media so readily surrender to AAP shows the general defeatist, lazy mindset of the party…
Of course, the second big takeaway for the BJP is that a whole new world has just opened up in the Northeast. Anybody who still derides the BJP as a party of Hindi speaking Brahmins and Baniyas needs to go to a mental asylum. In fact, politics has come full circle and it is the BJP which should now be asking if the Congress is a truly national party. The BJP has a massive presence in the North, dominates the West, is the main opposition in Karnataka (sure win in 2018) and is now going to rule Assam. The Congress is a big zero in the North, a big zero in the East and is far far behind in the West.
Yes, the BJP could not cross the barrier in Bihar. But, remember that the BJP has never had a Chief Minister in Bihar! There are only 3 parties that have ever had Chief Ministers in Bihar: the Congress, the RJD and the JDU. All 3 parties that have ever had CMs in Patna got together to stop the BJP…this time! Can they really hold off the BJP offensive five years from now? What is amazing is that despite 1100 MLAs and 282 Lok Sabha MPs, the BJP is still on the offensive…the seculars didn’t win Bihar, they merely defended it. The BJP is actually still actively expanding its footprint…Congress has long given up on the idea of expanding, or winning back the territories it has been wiped out from.
The Right Wing often gets impatient (including me) and demands that the Prime Minister aggressively implement a core right agenda. Perhaps we are being too harsh here. The system that crushes Hindus was not built in a day…it took 50+ years of seculars at every level from executive to bureaucracy to judiciary to academia to show business to create this system. They have massive reserves, they have extensive patronage networks that have been nurtured over decades. They cannot simply be wished away. Indeed, the first and foremost thing that Modi must do is ensure a comeback of the BJP in 2019. Everything else is quite secondary. If the BJP fails in 2019, the seculars will quickly repair the breach in their armor. When the Congress came back in 2004, they acted as if the “natural order” has been restored after a gap of 6 years. This time, they might not be so complacent… after the scare they got with the 282-44 thrashing. If the Congress comes back in 2019, they will retaliate…they will punish us all for daring to think of a Congress mukt Bharat.
Indeed, the good thing about Assam is not just the victory, but also that the BJP has quickly internalized the lessons from the ground. Since they realized that the Modi card simply wasn’t working at the state level, they projected a local leader well in time. By Indian standards, it is quite amazing in itself for the party boss to accept his limitations and step back in time. Can you imagine the Congress admitting openly that the Shehzada will play second fiddle to a local Congress leader? This is the kind of “corporatized structure” that the BJP has been able to inculcate within itself, giving priority to results over hierarchy. The BJP won’t just win Assam, it will now have a new local satrap in Sarbananda Sonowal. It is local faces like these that enabled the party to withstand 10 years without power at the Center. In fact, if the BJP loses 2019, it is these regional faces who will act as the shock absorbers : and the BJP will have to generate its fightback from the state capitals. In fact, in the decade from 2004-2014, the “high command” of the BJP became almost completely Congressized. It did not matter, because the BJP’s regional leadership was able to provide the second rung leadership. Ultimately, no one individual matters, not even Modi. If tomorrow Modi turns “secular”, the important thing is that the BJP will have the bench strength to generate another Modi.
The final lesson from Assam is for people like Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal. If they want to be Prime Minister, they will have to create a national party first. This is especially true in the current scenario, where the only stable trend in the last 15 years is that people want governments with decisive majority. In 2004, the winning party had just 145 seats or so. In 2009, the winning party had a much more formidable 207 seats. In 2014, the winning party had a decisive 282. The party that wins 2019 will have to convince voters that it has a chance of winning 272 seats….at the very least.
For obvious reasons, I don’t want either Kejriwal or Nitish Kumar to absorb the lesson. In fact, I want them to be on the hunt, looking to become PM in case of a hung mandate. That plan is never going to work, but what it does is prevent the people from coalescing around the Congress as the sole alternative to Modi. Let’s face it…other than Congress, which opposition party can realistically hope to cross 100 seats in 2019? So, I bless these regional leaders hoping to become PM.
So, who else wants to try and enter the PM race? Mayawati, why don’t you give it a try? It is quite another thing that Behenji spent her whole life in UP and never even got 20/80 Lok Sabha seats. Amit Shah spent 9 months in UP and came back with 73/80. Don’t let this reality discourage you Behenji. I think you have a great chance in 2019 of becoming PM 🙂 Who else wants to try? Mulayam? Chautala? How about Lalu ji? Hey…why not Hardik Patel too? Even Kanhaiya Kumar seems like a great prospect 😛