UP election victory was not just about capturing the largest and the most complex state in the country. The win consolidated BJP like never before, and analysts were quick to react, saying 2019 seems like a cake walk. Taking UP smoothened a lot of things but primarily it made Amit Shah train sights on few unexplored yet lucrative territories.
A few states down south and the big couple in form of Odisha and West Bengal have no or low saffron presence. Some states have the potential to push BJP as the major opposition in near future and some offer a formidable vote share waiting to be translated into seats and power.
In this article, we are going to analyze three states Odisha, West Bengal and Kerala where the the saffron party has no or low prominence as Amit Shah is gearing up to make the most of it politically in 2019.
BJP in Odisha :
Navin Patnaik seemed unassailable in his turf until two prong situations ensured his forte is breached. Firstly, Odisha civic polls have decimated Congress and reduced BJD’s clout. 851 seats of Odisha had gone to polls and BJP stamped its authority in 306 seats, ten times its tally in the last election. Looking at the performance, BJP here could do better as compared to its 2014 tally where it could manage only one seat.
Secondly, the party could increase its tally owing to not all being well inside BJD which is showing signs of defections. Sauvé and articulate, Jay Panda is harbouring inclinations towards BJP and Patnaik can’t fire to make him a martyr. This could very well sabotage BJD’s applecart and BJP can at least hope to become the principal opposition in Odisha, dislodging Congress. With vote share and seats expected to increase, 2019 is up for grabs and offers a good prospect for the BJP to register better numbers. The BJP national executive on April 15th is in Bhubaneshwar and speculations are rife about an impending BJP win in the next assembly polls. Bhadrak district in Odisha is facing a riot against the majority and the state govt has been negligent of such situations. Also, Maoists and other elements like missionaries have irked the majority greatly. Adding this part into the much-stretched anti-incumbency against Patnaik, a BJP victory here is not an exaggeration.
BJP in West Bengal :
An RSS backed Ram Navmi celebrations on a grand scale is the snapshot of political churning currently underway in West Bengal. The state is harbouring UP like religious polarization at the behest of Mamata and is becoming increasingly triangular like Odisha with murmurs of BJP replacing the Left as the principal opposition here. Minority appeasement is rampant here and this state with porous borders offers one of the highest number of Lok Sabha seats.
West Bengal is Amit Shah’s chief project, after UP was won. Placating the minorities results into a counter polarization and the Left parties seem unlikely to fill the gaps Mamata Banerjee is going to leave. The urge to ban 125 saffron schools that didn’t get the necessary media coverage however was a subtle sign of things that are going to be transformed on the ground. BJP did manage to win a couple of Lok Sabha seats in 2014 but slumped to defeat in the subsequent assembly polls.
Like UP, Bengal too may be ready to be saffron yet unlike Lucknow, BJP has never managed to taste victory in Kolkata. An erstwhile Left bastion, the state communist cadre is reportedly declining and the RSS led one is mounting filling significantly at the grass root levels. Mamata Banerjee is a victim of what Nitish Kumar had once become. Too much of a emphasis on pushing himself into central politics which effectively loosened screws at the state level.
Kumar in the quest to position himself as the PM candidate, broke ties with BJP. He then went ahead to join RJD and now Nitish Kumar seems quite weakened in Patna with a belligerent Lalu Yadav making life difficult for his friend turned foe turned friend. Mamata similarly tried to portray herself as a firebrand leader opposing PM Modi over demonetization and other policies but she is losing grip over issues in her own state. With Sarada Scam and Narada sting case, a cornered Mamata will be cornered further. BJP on the other hand needs to find a face like Yogi here and leave the rest for the imminent reverse expected polarization. BJP can surely rise and become the principal opposition, at the very least. With two more years to go, Amit Shah focusing on the state and with BJP hoping to increase vote shares further, BJP does look in a promising position.
BJP in Kerala:
This southern communist stronghold rests has two very interesting aspects about it – the thunderous tussle going on between the RSS and the communists and the tacit partnership of Congress and the Left to make sure BJP doesn’t make a dent here.
It was a defeat of sorts for the mighty LDF and UDF as the NDA opened their account in Kerala in the Assembly elections. The BJP secured an alliance with Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (representing the Ezhava community), Janathipathya Rashtriya Sabha (led by tribal leader CK Janu), Kerala Congress (PC Thomas faction) and JSS (Rajan Babu). BJP candidate O Rajagopal did the unthinkable by winning from Nemom. Having made inroads, the BJP is all set to pose a tougher challenge to the LDF in the future and is bent on occupying the opposition space. BJP had its vote share increased over time but that didn’t convert into seats.
RSS is pitted in an ideological battle against LDF UDF combine. Nevertheless, after the jinx was broken in the form of O Rajagopal, the state is becoming seemingly conducive to saffron.
In the 2016 polls, while the Congress’s vote share dwindled to 23.7 per cent, Bhartiya Janata Party jumped to over 15 per cent. Moreover, the BJP grabbed one seat in Kerala but came second on seven seats. This trend may push the Congress from the opposition benches and may install BJP in its place.
The other aspect is the floundering Left front led by P Vijayan. Its response to the Jishnu case or unceremonious shunting of vigilance head Jacob Thomas and even the handling of its transport Minister involved allegedly in a sex scandal together have highlighted the deep arrogance on the part of the govt. It will be an ideal launchpad for the BJP. We have seen how in other states posturing leaders like Akhilesh were shown the door by the electorate.
A weakening Congress and the haughtiness of the Left front together is a good opportunity for the party to strike gold in Kerala.
In all the three states we discussed, there is a common factor that spells advantage saffron. All three are somewhere affected by communal dimensions, these states are pining for better governance and development (which they have lacked for years) and lastly, they have been exploited by the regional ruling class for decades.