BJP now a pan-India party: from Kashmir to Kerala, Gujarat to Assam

After a disastrous 2015 where it was electorally mauled first in Delhi and then Bihar, 2016 has brought much cheer for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The results are beyond BJP’s expectations — it has comprehensively won Assam and nearing the majority mark on its own, a first ever seat and over 11 per cent votes in Kerala, as many as half dozen seats and 10 per cent vote share in Bengal and to top it has the comfort of the return of a favourable government in Tamil Nadu.

The results will sweeten Modi government’s second anniversary celebrations, brighten hopes for the passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Constitution amendment in the Monsoon session and boost BJP’s preparations for the important Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls due by February 2017.

Most of all, the results are good news for the BJP in the context of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The results not only mark the further shrinking of the Congress footprint across India but also the BJP establishing itself as a pan-India party. With these elections, the BJP entered into some of its non-traditional areas — the northeast and south. It can now hope for additional seats in these areas to compensate for any losses that it might suffer in north India.

In the northeast, the BJP has built upon its unprecedented seven of 14 seats in Assam in Lok Sabha 2014. It now has its own or affiliated governments in three of the seven states. Apart from Assam, the BJP has a government, although not elected, in Arunachal Pradesh and is an alliance partner of the Nagaland Peoples’ Front government in Nagaland.

In the south, it has hopes of returning to power in Karnataka in the Assembly polls due in mid-2013 and now has a significant presence among the Ezhavas and Dalits in Kerala. While Telugu Desam Party, which runs the government in Andhra Pradesh, is an alliance partner of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti is also positively disposed towards the BJP.

The BJP had entered the fray in these elections with the ambition of winning Assam and improving its vote share in Kerala and Bengal. It has achieved all these goals. The icing on the cake is the return of J Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK in Tamil Nadu.

The challenge for the BJP in 2019 will be to somehow match its unprecedented performance of 2014. Party strategists are working on the assumption that it is likely the BJP might not be able to repeat its 2014 performance in Uttar Pradesh (where it won 71 of 80 seats) and Bihar (22 of 40 seats) — 93 of its 282 seats coming from these two states.

It will, therefore, need not only to compensate its potential losses from some of its non-traditional areas like the northeast and the south but also hope that potential post-2019 allies like Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party do not cede space to the Congress.

However, both Jayalalithaa and Banerjee can now justifiably give Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal competition in laying claim to the prime ministerial chair of a government comprising regional parties at the Centre in 2019.

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