Nearly three years into power, the Narendra Modi-led BJP has received a big thumbs-up from voters in the key state of Uttar Pradesh. Leading in 297 seats at the time of writing, the Modi-led BJP is likely to break many records. For one, it never won so well in UP even in the Ram Janambhoomi movement days in the early '90s.
The numbers in UP show marginal and negligible attrition in the BJP's 2014 numbers, when it swept 71 of 80 seats, and its ally Apna Dal won another 2. Modi's party has lost very little from those numbers, and this when Modi wasn't even a candidate to be chief minister.
Five states do not India make, and Punjab has seen the BJP and its ally lose. But make no mistake: the implications of UP are far bigger. It's not just 80 Lok Sabha seats. Since demonetisation, the BJP has been winning all kinds of elections, from municipalities in urban areas to panchayats in Odisha to the big prize of UP.
Today's BJP victories will help it elect its own president and vice president in a few weeks, and help shore up its numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
The big gamble of demonetisation may be considered a failure by economists but voters have clearly given their approval to the move. We should now expect prime minister Modi to continue with his anti-black money drive with renewed vigour.
For a few election cycles now, Uttar Pradesh has voted differently in state and central elections. The BJP has broken that cycle, a indication clearer than any that India's rapture with Modi isn't limited to an election or two.
In Uttarakhand, too, the BJP is sweeping the state. While Uttarakhand sees a Congress-BJP alternating cycle, this election pollsters and pundits believed it was a close contest between the two. A strong campaign around chief minister Harish Rawat, highlighting the lack of a CM candidate in the BJP, could not stop the BJP from winning over an anti-incumbency campaign.
In Goa and Manipur too, the BJP at the time of writing is ahead in terms of vote-share. In Punjab, the Congress's victory is good news of sorts for Modi: it stops the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party, which was threatening to storm his bastion of Gujarat.
The Congress victory in Punjab is a big achievement for it for two reasons. Firstly, it is rare for the Congress to return in a state where it has lost two consecutive elections. Secondly, Punjab shows it is possible for the Congress to defeat the Aam Aadmi Party, whose ambition it is to replace the Congress. But Punjab was more a victory of Captain Amarinder Singh and his campaign manager, Prashant Kishor.
Rahul Gandhi and the Congress leadership in Delhi will take the credit for Punjab they don't deserve. That's great news for Narendra Modi. As Modi rises, the poor quality of opposition leadership in the Congress party is the best news for him. The result in UP reiterates not just India's rapture with Modi but also that the opposition doesn't inspire confidence among voters.
Soon after Modi became prime minister, he said the next elections will be held in 2024, meaning that 2019 is a foregone conclusion. Increasingly looks like he was right.
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