BJP’s struggle against regional players continues

Survey results show the BJP gained from projecting Sarbanada Sonowal (left) as CM candidate. (Source: AP)

Of the 16 states that went to Assembly polls after BJP’s 2014 win, the party faced a non-Congress opposition in 11 states, and except J&K it performed badly in all these elections.

While it fared well in states where it faced Congress as the main rival, its attempts to get the better of regional parties, like the JD(U)-RJD combine in Bihar, AAP in Delhi, AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and TMC in West Bengal, have failed. On its own, the BJP managed to form government in only four out of these 16 states — Maharashtra, Haryana, Assam and Jharkhand. In all these states, its principal opposition was the Congress.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed Thursday’s Assembly poll results as “extremely encouraging” for the BJP. But while the party did register a remarkable win in Assam and made inroads in Kerala, its stature before regional chieftains, like in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, is still nothing to boast of. Even in Andhra Pradesh, it is only a junior ally of the TDP with only four seats in the 175-member Assembly against the TDP’s 102.

Despite leading in several Assembly segments during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP failed to build on the advantage in Assembly elections.

In Odisha, where state and Lok Sabha polls were conducted simultaneously, BJP led in 20 Assembly segments but got only 10 Assembly seats. During Lok Sabha polls, BJP got 22 seats in Bihar, while its allies LJP and RLSP getting six and three seats, respectively. BJP and allies that time were leading in 172 of the state’s 243 Assembly segments. A year later, the BJP managed just 53 seats and the LJP got two as the RJD-JD(U) grand alliance registered a spectacular win.

It was a similar story for the saffron party in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, Assembly poll results for which were declared Thursday. In West Bengal it had won two Lok Sabha seats, while leading in 24 Assembly segments. Today, it won just three Assembly seats. The party had won one Lok Sabha seat in Tamil Nadu in 2014, a victory that saw it lead in seven Assembly segments. However, Thursday it failed to open its account as the AIADMK returned to power in the Assembly.

Except Jharkhand, in states like Rajasthan, MP, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Assam have seen the BJP snatch power from the Congress.

There are only isolated instances, like in UP where it overcame the Janata Dal at the height of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, where the BJP has defeated a single regional party to wrest power.

Even among the major state elections due early next year, both UP and Punjab have formidable regional forces. While the BJP is a partner in the incumbent Akali government in Punjab, it seeks to upset established regional parties in UP. But its past record against regional players clearly underlines the challenge it faces.