UP-Bihar By-Polls (Part 2): 3 Takeaways for the BJP and A Warning

In the previous column, we discussed the 3 winners and 3 losers of the recent by-polls. Here, we will discuss the 3 takeaways for the BJP and a warning.

In the previous column and video, we discussed the 3 winners – Mayawati, RJD and Caste, and 3 losers – Nitish, Congress and BJP. In this column, we will discuss the 3 takeaways for the BJP – it needs 50% voteshare, which will not come via division, and so it needs a switch to prosperity. There is also a warning being sent by voters is in the form of a reminder to Narendra Modi of a promise he had made in the 2014 campaign – which he has forgotten, but voters have not.

3 Takeaways

BJP needs 50% Voteshare

During the 2014 elections, a few of us involved in the campaign would talk about the BJP needing to cross 40% vote-share in UP to win a large number of seats. It did just that. The game has now changed. The non-BJP parties face an existential challenge – form an alliance or perish.

The operating assumption for the BJP now has to be that it will face a single Opposition candidate in most of the seats it won in 2014. First past the post will not work if opposition acts in a concerted manner. This in turn means that the BJP now has to aim to win a majority of the votes cost – 50% or higher. BJP did this in exactly half (141) of the 282 seats it won in 2014.

This will not come via Division

To win 50% or more, the BJP will not be able to play on divisions based on caste, community or class. The playbook of the past will not provide a guide to the future. It also will not be able to simply make promises. It will now be judged based on its performance both at the Centre and in the states it controls. While Narendra Modi is its vote catcher, the novelty factor has worn off. Polarisation and splitting will not be as effective for BJP to cross the majority threshold in seats it hopes to win.

Need a switch to Prosperity

What the BJP will need to do is to make a switch to prosperity not just in its messaging but also in its actions. Prosperity is the key to a happy and growing nation. Prosperity is not about a gas cylinder, an electricity connection, a bank account, an insurance scheme or a loan waiver.

Prosperity is about giving people the freedom to choose for themselves what they want for a better life. It is about removing every barrier that prevents wealth creation. And dismantling the machine that has kept Indians poor for 70 years.

Prosperity can trump all electoral gimmicks of parties; it can beat Mandal and Mandir. India’s future elections will increasingly be fought on economic issues, with voters asking – “What’s in it for me?” Real and structural reforms in education, healthcare, labour, land, agriculture, bureaucracy, police, judiciary combined with privatisation, deregulation and devolution of powers to cities can truly transform India and make Indians prosperous.

Narendra Modi’s BJP still has the Lok Sabha majority to pull this off in the remainder of its term.

A Warning

Talk to people and ask them the one specific promise of Narendra Modi they remember from the 2014 campaign, and the inevitable answer is “₹15 lakh to every poor family.” This promise to them meant performance, prosperity, achhe din, vikas, end of corruption and a better tomorrow. No mayajaal or joomla talk can hide lack of real delivery and performance on the ground.

For people, the promise of ₹15 lakh was never a gimmick; it was the passport that would take them to a new life of freedom, choice and well-being. This has not happened. This is the warning voters have sounded repeatedly in elections in recent times.

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If there is one thing that Narendra Modi needs to focus on in his current term, it is this – how can he fulfil the spirit of the ₹15 lakh promise he made to Indians. By focusing on this and working like an entrepreneur heading a political startup, he can unleash an array of reforms that can crush India’s anti-prosperity machine. If Narendra Modi does not do it, we must unite and make it happen.

It can be done, and starting next week, I will show you, Modi and every aspirant for the job of India’s First Prosperity Prime Minister how that ₹15 lakh promise can be kept and how it can transform your life.