“From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Kutch to Kamrup, the BJP has arrived as a pan-Indian party,” said BJP president Amit Shah, uncharacteristically wreathed in smiles and ready to indulge questions by the media after the party posted a historic win in Assam, and made inroads in Kerala.
“This [ingress into the North East, West Bengal and Kerala] is a strong foundation for 2019, on which our cadre will build a strong edifice,” he said.
Apart from gaining power in Assam, the party won its first seat in the Kerala Assembly, polled 15 per cent of the vote in the State along with its ally the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), improved on its 2011 Assembly position in West Bengal by winning three seats and polling 10.7 per cent of the vote, winning important by-elections in Gujarat and Jharkhand.
While he spoke of the 2019 general elections, for Mr. Shah, this performance could go a long way in ameliorating the erosion of his electoral mojo after the defeats in Delhi and Bihar last year, and give him and his party a morale boost ahead of the hard slog of Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh next year.
He declared the victories an endorsement of the policies of the Narendra Modi government of the last two years, despite the fact that the Assam election had Mr Modi largely in the background while local faces were in the forefront of the campaign. It was also a message, he said, “to those who have been practising obstructionist politics within Parliament to distract from the agenda of development followed by the Modi government.”
The barb was aimed at the Congress and the Left that have been aggressive in taking on the government in Parliament, especially the Rajya Sabha where the treasury is short of numbers.
Refuses to wish V.S. In fact, while wishing Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee on their electoral triumphs, Mr. Shah skipped wishing the Left Democratic Front (LDF) for its sweep in Kerala.
“The way the Left has encouraged a culture of political violence against our cadre, I cannot congratulate them,” he said. Mr Modi however, wished LDF’s nonagenarian leader V.S. Achuthanandan for the victory.
The psychological effect of the defeat in Bihar and the banding together of Opposition forces around Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumr and Thursday’s redemption in Assam was reflected in Union Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s words as well. “The victory today demonstrates how preliminary and premature were the steps to project someone (Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar) as an alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. There is no vacancy for the present and for a long time to come,” he said. “Congress’ shrinkage is the biggest question mark on efforts to launch such a campaign,” he told The Hindu .