A supporter’s analysis of Bihar results
First Delhi and then in Bihar, election results have thrown the biggest challenge to the BJP since Modi became its driving force. The high-energy election campaign that worked for Amit Shah and Modi in recent times failed to yield similar results in both Delhi and Bihar. Modi is, however, known for converting challenges into opportunities; infusing hopes during adverse circumstances; transforming despair and despondency into hope; injecting energy into the dejected; turning adversaries into admirers; and successfully reversing the opposition strategies to his own advantage. I am sure, his admirers, including myself, are feeling dejected for Bihar Election results, but not for him.
Statistically, the strategy of Shah and Modi has worked even during these elections very well in retaining their loyal voters. They have been successfully maintaining the vote-shares despite going through these trying circumstances. The extremely “intolerant” opposition of the BJP, and especially Modi, has provided enough reasons to keep BJP supporters on their edges, completely alert and active. Due to all of this, votes in favour of the BJP could never decrease significantly even in these landslide results. This is also the reason that even in these elections, feedbacks received by the leaders were identical to those when the BJP reported landslide victories.
So, where did they go wrong? There are many theories about this even within the BJP: the RSS trying to cut Modi to size; Advani supporters engineering these debacles; Modi’s diminishing popularity or his supporters getting disillusioned – but none of these would be able to explain how he has been able to retain the voters to be with him. These results, not surprisingly, give an opportunity to all those within the BJP to vent out their frustrations even on those issues that can only remotely be considered as one of the reasons for the loss. Besides this, BJP has been “fortunate” enough that even their adversaries do not shy away from advising Modi to “correct” himself. After all, they must have never gone through such a fear of extinction as they might have felt this time whenever this government displayed any success potentials.
In my analysis, more than the problems within, it is that the BJP lost these elections only because their aggressive style of campaigning forced its opposition to unite. The BJP must realise that in the present circumstances, they are bound to lose against a united Opposition. Statistically, if votes were shared between AAP and Congress in Delhi elections, or if Nitish and Lalu were not united in Bihar, the BJP would have swept these elections with the same share of votes. In fact one of the prime reasons of the success of Modi in the general elections of 2014 has been that his opposition never believed that Modi will ever be able to cross the mark. It can never be denied that in 2014 elections, historically, the BJP got the highest number of seats with smallest percentage share of votes only because the opposition never felt any reason to get united. Even in Gujarat, only in the last Assembly elections, the BJP was in a position of taking on a united opposition.
Now, to turn the tide in their favour, BJP needs to convince their voters that they can deliver what they promise. Once the voters are convinced, only then as per the Gujarat model, even a united opposition would fail to make any impact. Till then, instead of following the recent short-term impact style of campaigns, the BJP needs to work on twin long term strategies. Firstly, they must direct their aggression to display enough examples and hints that they would be able to deliver what they promise; and secondly, they must try to identify potential local leaders having clean images and help them build their images on issues of common interest following a long-term plan. A loss in Bihar has saved the BJP from raising the expectations of the voters further that would have burdened the leadership unnecessarily. And just as Modi had controlled the lunatic elements present on his side during his Gujarat tenure, he must stop everyone from interacting with media who would keep him engaged in explanations and other damage-control exercises that derail him from his single and winning plank of development.
(The author is an Associate Professor at Delhi University. Views expressed are strictly personal)