BJP president Amit Shah set the tone for victory celebrations by asserting that the party is two steps closer to its aim of creating a “Congress-mukt Bharat”. Indeed, the BJP has done well to establish a strong base for itself in Assam, open account in Kerala and increase vote share in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
In the two years since 2014 when Narendra Modi came to power, Congress had its own government in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand Kerala, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Manipur. The party also had a stake – as alliance partner – in Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.
In May 2016 the Congress is left with only Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur Meghalaya, Mizoram and Puducherry. The party is also part of the ruling alliance in Bihar.
In terms of percentage of the population, only around 7 per cent of India's population is ruled by the Congress now. When Bihar is included in the calculation then the figure goes up to 15.58%.
In contrast, the BJP directly rules over 35.6% and when the NDA ruled states are included then the percentage stands at 43.1%.
That's where the real equation comes into play. A huge chunk – 41% of the population – is ruled by standalone regional parties that owe allegiance neither to the NDA nor to the UPA.
Big states with huge populations like Uttar Pradesh (16.5%), West Bengal (7.5%), Tamil Nadu (6.0%) and smaller but important states like Odisha (3.47%), Telangana (3.0%), Kerala (2.8%), Delhi (3.38%), Tripura (0.30%), Nagaland (0.16%) and Sikkim (0.05%).
Most of these states are impregnable fortresses of regional satraps, or at least, they are the dominant political force there.
Also, amid all the celebrations, it would augur well for the BJP to not forget that it was beaten convincingly by such regional parties in Bihar and Delhi in recent times.
The equation is simple: The BJP does well when it is pitted against the Congress and falters when faced with the power of regional parties.
And, the party must realise that the goal post has changed.
Modi will not face his biggest challenge from the Congress in 2019. The big fight between the BJP and a united force of regional parties and the Left – with the possibility of Congress offering support from outside.