The comeback king of the Bihar Assembly elections, Lalu Yadav predicted the Mahagathbandhan tally at 190 better than any of the exit polls. BJP president Amit Shah hit out at him and other members of the alliance, calling them arrogant, but in their case the results do not belie their confidence.
Now that the verdict is out, it is high time for introspection within the BJP. Sushil Kumar Modi held a press conference on the fateful day of the election results, wherein despite his best efforts could not hide his resentment when asked by a reporter to elaborate upon the reasons for the BJP's loss. Like other BJP leaders and Sangh Parivar sympathisers, he attributed the alliance's victory to the dynamics of caste arithmetic and communal polarisation.
However, besides these two compelling factors, the outcome of this election should also be viewed from a third perspective: the arrogance of the BJP president. For one, Shah did not adequately handle the growing acrimony towards the party leadership from Shatrughan Sinha and RK Singh. Instead he let them continue with their rebellious attitude in order to make it a valid ground to teach them a lesson after the favourable verdict.
"He dispensed party tickets ... without looking into some of the raw facts and statistics of the constituencies of these states."
Clearly, the tables have now been turned. It appears obvious that Mr Shah has become more egotistical than ever after his successful stint as the in-charge of Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, possibly believing that he could win any state for his Sahab, Mr Modi. However, if one minutely analyses the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, it would not be hard to infer that Mr Shah has been wrongly credited for his electioneering in Uttar Pradesh. Had it not been for the charm of Mr Modi, Amit Shah would have never been able to manage such a victory in this state. It was only because the Narendra Modi wave had swept across the Hindi heartland that the BJP could secure a landslide majority in UP and Bihar.
Mr Shah's electioneering was as poor in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 as it was in the Bihar polls this year. He dispensed party tickets in both the elections, without looking into some of the raw facts and statistics of the constituencies of these states. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, there was much resentment in the party's ranks when he gave a BJP ticket to Virendra Singh "Mast", a prominent Thakur leader from Ballia, to contest from Bhadohi, a Brahmin-dominated constituency; similarly, he gave Mahendra Nath Pandey, a Brahmin leader from Ghazipur, a ticket to contest from Chandauli, the Thakur bastion of Purvanchal. The only reason why both of the two leaders won the election, along with many others in Uttar Pradesh, was the sweeping wave in favour of Narendra Modi dynamically altering the cast arithmetic of the region.
He knowingly committed the same errors in Bihar this time and was given a fitting reply, in absence of the Modi wave, by the people of Bihar. Mr Shah should refrain from granting party tickets to any Tom-Dick-Harry and expect the lame candidate to win with the backing of the charisma of Mr Modi, which it was clear had waned as far back as the Delhi elections. The state elections are contested on excessively local issues which are quite different from the ones raised in the parliamentary elections.
However, Mr Shah chose to disregard such "outdated" theories and gave the party ticket to Manoj Kumar Singh, ex-henchman of Mohd. Shahabuddin, while denying ticket to the sitting MLA Vikram Kunwar from Raghunathpur seat in Siwan district. Vikram Kunwar, a Rajput by caste, who is considered as one of few honest leaders of BJP in the state, told his story to the media, alleging that Amit Shah disregarded him because he was not personally known to him. Similarly, Prof Sukhada Pandey, a retired Principal of Magadh Mahila College of Patna University, and a Cabinet minister in the JD(U)-BJP government, was denied a ticket from her native Buxar seat for no convincing reason.
From the looks of it, Mr Shah chose to give party tickets to unscrupulous elements in this election, overturning the fortunes of dozens of committed BJP loyalists. I believe he should be severely taken to task by the party for misplacing his priorities so gravely.
It is high time for the BJP to recognise that the arrogant and iniquitous operations of Mr Shah have alienated many loyalists and damaged the BJP in regions where it had the potential to win with a decisive mandate. The BJP may win the upcoming Assam elections, because of the dwindling fortunes of the Congress all over the country and the absence of any major regional party in the state, but it certainly won't stand a chance in the 2017 UP elections with this kind of attitude.
"[T]he BJP appears to be blind to the tactical errors made by Shah and his reliance on Mr Modi's charisma rather than constructing a credible state leadership..."
The Samajwadi Party has been making every effort after the bitter loss in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to win back lost ground. The three flagship projects of the Akhilesh Yadav government --Agra-Lucknow Expressway, Lucknow Metro and IT City -- will be ready before the next elections. The government has also been coming up with many social welfare schemes and offering numerous jobs in various sectors. The recent reshuffling of the Cabinet was also done with the aim of changing the perception of the SP government in the state prior to the assembly elections.
Despite these developments, the BJP appears to be blind to the tactical errors made by Shah and his reliance on Mr Modi's charisma rather than constructing a credible state leadership in every state. Perhaps he fears that one among them may challenge the popularity and authority of Mr Modi at the national level in the times to come. An effort should be made by the BJP to reconcile with old loyalists, both in UP and Bihar, who were compelled to rebel due to the biased policies of Mr Shah, and look forward to contest the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh inclusively.
If the Grand Old Party of India, the Indian National Congress, can be pushed to the edges of the Parliament by the people of this country, no other political outfit is immune from the same fate in the world's largest democracy. If Mr Shah is given such a free hand in other assembly elections, it will not be long enough before other regional parties will reorient themselves and unite to pose as a consolidated threat in the 2019 parliamentary elections. In such a scenario and in the absence of the "Modi wave", Mr Shah might not even be able to drag the party to triple digits.
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