Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo have steam-rolled the Opposition once again, particularly the Congress. With the Assembly poll results in Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand going largely in their favour, the year 2014 has ended on as sweet a note for the Bharatiya Janata Party as it started.
At the same time the results also showcase the fact that the BJP led by its most popular leader Narendra Modi and its master strategist Amit Shah has got in the habit of creating history and consolidating in states after states. While the BJP created history by becoming the first party in three decades to get a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha polls in May, it also created history by becoming the single largest party in Maharashtra and came to power for the first time in Haryana.
And now the saffron party has again created a record of sorts in Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand. Following is an overview of how things panned out in the two states and what was the voting pattern like.
Jammu and Kashmir:
The Muslim-dominated state was always going to be a challenge for the BJP. But what made the contest interesting was the fact that it more than made a fight of it. When the party announced its 'Mission 44', not many believed that that it would become a reality.
However, to emerge as the second largest party in J&K after the PDP and get 25 seats in 87-member Assembly is a no mean feat, even though all its seats came from the Jammu region. For the BJP, PM Modi and Amit Shah, the Valley was on top of their agenda and a challenge of sorts which they took head on.
Modi wasted no time in rushing to the J&K after it was devastated by floods, spent his Diwali there and held rallies in areas where the BJP virtually had no presence. Apart from Modi, almost all top national-level party leaders campaigned in the state and in order not to alienate the locals, dropped the mention of Article 370 and focussed on local issues. At the same time they carried out an unprecedented media campaign with BJP flags, hoardings and so on dotting towns and villages in the north and south of Kashmir.
Thus, to have won 25 seats in the state and increase its tally from nine in 2002 and eleven in 2008 Assembly polls is significant – even if the BJP does not come together with the PDP to form government in J&K, it will be the main Opposition for the first time in the state. It is also interesting that the BJP has emerged the largest party in terms of vote share in J&K securing 23 percent votes, with PDP coming second with 22.7 percent, National Conference getting 20.8 percent and the Congress recording 18 percent of votes.
However, the BJP could have done better in the Kashmir region, where it did not win a single seat, had it not got confused between its campaign in the Jammu region and the Valley. BJP candidates talked of a Hindu as the CM of J&K for the first time in its history and mainly focussed on five seats in Kashmir that had a significant voter population of migrant Kashmiri Pandits.
Also, the BJP had no big face in the state and as usual depended on Modi to get votes for them. And it can be safely said that one of the big reasons for the BJP to have done well in Jammu has been the Modi factor with media reports saying that people there walked for hours to hear him. Nonetheless, the results clearly shows that as far as the Kashmir Valley is concerned, the people are yet to trust the BJP and Modi.
On the other hand, the National Conference paid a huge price for anti-incumbency and its so-called disconnect with the people and winning only 15 seats. Outgoing Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also appears to have lost out due to the inadequate relief and rehabilitation after the recent devastating floods. To have lost his own seat in Sonawar speaks volumes about the kind of public anger that was directed at him. And the biggest gainer of it all is Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which has emerged as the single-largest party in the state, though it must be disappointed at not being able to get a majority on its own.
As far as the Congress is concerned, it won only twelve seats in J&K and more than needs to pull up its socks. Maybe, the results, both for the Congress and the NC could have been different if they had not parted ways before the polls. Acknowledging the results, Shah said that India was becoming 'Congress-mukth Bharat' in states after states. It's difficult not to agree with him.
The results in Jharkhand were no better for the Congress and its allies, the RJD and the JD(U). Whereas the Congress won six seats in the tribal-dominated state, its allies failed to open their account. Thus, the coming together of these parties to fight the so-called communal forces clearly did not work and they will have to think of other options to stop the BJP juggernaut in Bihar next year even though the political arithmetic in both the states is very different.
But for the BJP, the results in Jharkhand have been more than satisfying. Even though it has ruled the state by sharing power with other parties in the past, this is the first time that the party has got a majority along with its ally, the All Jharkhand Students Union, by bagging 42 seats. Modi and other BJP leaders, who had promised to start mining projects in the state, had stressed that to have the same party in power at both the Centre and in the state would help kick-start the much needed development process. Now is the time to walk the talk.
The good-showing in Jharkhand also stems from the fact that Modi and Shah were able to curb the internal dissent and the factionalism that the BJP was faced with in the state and made them rally together to fight the Opposition. This is also the first time that the voters of Jharkhand, which has seen nine coalition governments since it was formed in 2000, have given majority to one party.
For the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha too, the elections in Jharkhand have been a forgettable one, even though it has come second winning 19 seats, with outgoing Chief Minister Hemant Soren losing from Dumka. Though the JMM is still a force to reckon with in the state, the party has been associated with corruption and is seen not doing enough for the tribals. Also, maybe in Jharkhand too the results could have been different if the 475-days-old grand alliance of JMM and Congress had not ended, apparently due to a difference in the seat-sharing arrangement.
On a slightly different note, the electorate in Jammu and Kashmir need to be applauded for turning out in huge numbers to vote and not heeding the call of the separatists to boycott elections. Same about the electorate of Jharkhand who voted in large numbers beating the fear of Maoists.
One can sum it up by saying that whether it was these Assembly elections or the ones starting with the General Elections in May, the people have mainly voted for two things – first, for change and second, they have shown faith in the agenda of development and good governance of Narendra Modi. So, while it will be interesting to see how long the winning streak of the BJP will continue, it will also be interesting to see what new ideas the Opposition can come up with to counter the steamroller of Modi-Shah and the BJP in the year 2015.