The election results today will have far-reaching implications in national politics. Here are some of them.
1) The BJP winning Assam for the first time and making inroads into Kerala, combined with the Congress doing badly in all four states, is going to change the mood in the BJP camp. This comes at a crucial time when the Modi government is about to celebrate its second-year anniversary. The booster shot of Assam will change the post-Bihar image of the Modi government faring badly.
2) The victory in Assam places BJP president Amit Shah in an interesting spot. His victories in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, apart from the general election in 2014, had been overshadowed by the massive losses in Delhi and Bihar. Assam, however, was handled solely by BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who was a prominent RSS functionary till not so long ago. The political grapevine is that Shah is interested in the job of Gujarat chief minister. The incumbent could move to a governor’s job.
3) Since Ram Madhav is from the RSS fold, and the RSS worked hard in Assam, the Sangh will likely become more assertive in BJP matters, especially electoral strategy. The Sangh may want a greater say in the strategy and leadership for the crucial Uttar Pradesh polls, for instance. And if Amit Shah does go to Gandhinagar, the Sangh may have its say about who replaces him for the job. Could Ram Madhav be the next BJP president?
Since Ram Madhav is from the RSS fold, and the RSS worked hard in Assam, the Sangh will likely become more assertive in BJP matters, especially electoral strategy.
4) The Congress looks like it is emerging as the second largest party in the West Bengal assembly, which is an embarrassment for the Left front. It appears that the Left votes have transferred to the Congress, but not vice versa. Sitaram Yechury of the CPM, who had pushed for the alliance with the Congress, will have to look for a place to hide. The Left-Congress experiment may not continue over to 2019.
5) The downward trend of the Congress may put a question mark on the imminent elevation of Rahul Gandhi as Congress president. The heir apparent has already been running the day-to-day affairs of the party. Given that under Rahul’s leadership the party has come to the point of staring at possible annihilation, his elevation may have to wait some more.
6) The Congress is now left in power in five small states (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya) and one big state, Karnataka. It is already facing anti-incumbency in Karnataka. As the sense of existential crises grows, the Congress is likely to grow more desperate. This may increase the relevance of campaign strategist Prashant Kishor in the Congress system. Kishor, who designed the Modi 2014 and Nitish Kumar 2015 campaigns, has already threatened to quit if he doesn’t get a free hand in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
7) Nitish Kumar’s efforts at forming a national anti-BJP alliance may gain traction. The Congress’ decline is as much the BJP’s gain as that of the regional parties. The Congress gained by agreeing to become a junior partner in Bihar and West Bengal, and suffered by refusing to do any pre-poll alliance in Assam. It is possible the Congress may look to form a bigger all-India coalition so that Modi in 2019 faces the index of opposition unity.
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