Opinion: "Modi Ki Guarantee" Is The BJP's Warranty

The BJP's triumph and the Congress's inability to hold its ground in the heartland marked the state election results. The BJP looks poised for a hat trick in 2024. Narendra Modi may well equal Jawaharlal Nehru's record of three successive general election wins. BJP leaders have begun chanting "Abki baar, 400 paar (next time, 400 plus seats)", hoping that Rajiv Gandhi's record of 414 seats in 1984 will be surpassed.

The Congress's Telangana revival notwithstanding, it will have to contend with the sarcasm of its INDIA alliance partners when they converge at Mallikarjun Kharge's home on Wednesday. The Trinamool Congress jibe at what it calls the Congress's "zamindari attitude" and Nitish Kumar's swipe about Congress "arrogance" have set the tone for an awkward meeting.

Akhilesh Yadav is unlikely to let go of Kamal Nath's "Akhilesh-Wakhilesh" sarcasm when the Samajwadi Party sought a seat sharing deal with the Congress in Madhya Pradesh. Though NCP leader Sharad Pawar sounded optimistic about Wednesday, the Congress hope that the outcome of the state polls or "semi-final to 2024" would place it in the driver's seat has bombed.

On Wednesday, there is a wedding in Mamata Banerjee's family in Darjeeling. Apparently, while picking a date for the INDIA meeting, the Congress did not consult its alliance partners. The party may stand with Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra when the Ethics panel tables its report in parliament in the cash for query row, but coordinating meeting dates with allies is apparently something the party does not do.

Speaking in Rajya Sabha earlier this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, "Ek akela kitno par bhari (One alone can take on so many)". Sunday's outcome underscored the theme. Modi described the mandate as the defeat of the politics of dynasty and appeasement. Tossing aside the Congress' campaign for a caste census, the PM reiterated, it is "class and not caste" that unites. He identifies women, youth, farmers and the poor, cutting across caste lines, as the four "castes", emphasising that OBCs are part of each of the categories.

There is no religious rhetoric; with its Hindutva baseline intact, the BJP is now targeting welfare and governance beyond religiosity.

"Modi ki guarantee" - the term was first used by the Prime Minister while inaugurating the Bharat Mandapam in Delhi on July 26 - has emerged as the BJP's warranty.

The victory celebration at the BJP national headquarters was symbolic. A banner on the stage from where BJP chief Jagat Prakash Nadda and Modi addressed workers declared in boldface: "Sapne nahin, haqeeqat bante hain; tabhi toh sab Modi ko chahte hain (Not just dreams, he shapes reality. That is why everyone wants Modi)".

The event was symbolic in a way. It was held at the new extension building of the BJP headquarters at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg (the road, formerly Rouse Avenue, was renamed in the 1970s when BJP's precursor Jana Sangh ruled the local administration of Delhi). The BJP built its new office after 2014 and now is expanding it.

Right next door stands the unfinished structure of an office the Congress started building much earlier. (In the Rajiv Gandhi era, the Congress, with the active cooperation of Larsen & Toubro, then controlled by Ambanis, had built the magnificent Jawahar Bhavan next to the parliament complex to house its offices. It was handed over to the family-controlled Rajiv Gandhi Foundation). The Congress is struggling to set its house in order while the BJP expands. Resources are not a constraint. Decisiveness and coherence are sorely lacking in India's oldest party.

All is not lost for the Congress though. Its victory in Telangana has made the BJP's bid for a "Congress mukt Bharat (Congress-free India)" a distant dream. After Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, the victory in Telangana has given the beleaguered party a reason to smile.

While the BJP's majority in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh is comfortable, the margin of victory in Telangana saw the Congress rush to the Governor in Hyderabad to stake its claim to power on Sunday night.

Many of the victorious Congress MLAs in Telangana defected from K Chandrasekhar Rao or KCR's Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS). Apparently, there are concerns within the Congress about the durability of its slender majority, which compelled the party to rush to Raj Bhavan. The Congress's Telangana chief A Revanth Reddy - tipped to be Chief Minister - began his career in the BJP-linked Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). He traversed to the Congress via Telugu Desam Party and BRS (then Telangana Rashtra Samithi). Given the fragility of the Telangana polity, where party loyalties keep shifting, the Congress leadership decided not to take chances.

A day prior to Sunday's counting of votes, the Congress, emboldened by the exit polls and media projections, announced state observers for all four states, to oversee post-poll government-making. Of these, only the team assigned to Hyderabad (headed by Karnataka's DK Shiva Kumar, who has the ability and wherewithal to handle political fragility) has any work to do. The other teams may now oversee the election of Leaders of Opposition in Jaipur, Raipur and Bhopal. The BJP is yet to name observers for post-poll exercise.

While the Congress won the trophy in Telangana, the Man of the Match belongs to the BJP - Katipally Venkata Ramana Reddy. He has been dubbed the double giant killer after defeating both incumbent Chief Minister KCR (BRS) and chief ministerial probable Revanth Reddy (Congress) at Kamareddy. (KCR and Revanth Reddy won their second seats). The BJP finished third in this southern state. However its vote percentage has doubled from seven in 2018 (one seat) to 14 (eight seats).

The biggest takeaway from Telangana, apart from the Congress's surge, is the eclipse of a regional party. Does the Telangana result have a message for the future in other states where national parties have been on the back foot?

By sending MPs to contest as MLAs, the BJP perhaps initiated a "Kamraj Plan" - the Congress strategy of 1963 to revamp the organisation.

The Congress, on the other hand, saw the intransigence of Ashok Gehlot while candidates were chosen in Rajasthan and the stubbornness of Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh, which even resulted in an INDIA rally in Bhopal being called off weeks after it was announced with fanfare when the alliance last met in Mumbai in September.

A rejuvenated BJP will take on a confused INDIA alliance. The December 3 results may be a blessing in disguise for INDIA parties who were never comfortable with accepting Congress as the dominant partner. Despite its defeat, the Congress will remain the Gandhi family's fiefdom.

In 1980, when OBC politics, which has lately emerged as Rahul Gandhi's leitmotif, was at its peak, the Congress had countered, "Na jaat par na paat par, Indiraji ki baat par, mohar lagegi haath par (Not on caste, but on Indira Gandhi's word, the Congress will win votes)".

"Modi ki guarantee" is a slogan against castiest politics, perhaps in a similar vein. From "Modi hai toh mumkin hai", the BJP has moved on to "Modi hai toh guarantee hai" as its battlecry for 2024.

Last week, when a book to commemorate Mallikarjun Kharge's 50 years in legislative politics was launched by Sonia Gandhi, there was an undercurrent that suggested that Kharge is the face against Modi for 2024. Be that as it may, the battle lines for 2024 seem decisively skewed in favour of the BJP.

(Shubhabrata Bhattacharya is a retired Editor and a public affairs commentator)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author