With the BJP wresting power from the 25-year-old CPI(M) government in Tripura, once an impregnable citadel of the Left Front, and likely to form the government with its ally the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party in Nagaland, the saffron party now stands to control 21 of the 29 states.
Presently, the Congress remains in power in just four states: Punjab, Karnataka, Meghalaya and Mizoram. However, this figure could be altered as the fate of Congress hangs in the balance in Meghalaya, where NPP has given a stiff competition to the grand old party.
This is the first time in the history of Indian politics that a party (BJP-led NDA) has gained control in as many states. 24 years ago, the Congress had remained at the helm of affairs in 18 states. Since BJP stormed to power in May 2014, Narendra Modi has led the saffron party to major state election victories, thereby, expanding the party’s base. For the BJP, the back-to-back victory is a reaffirmation of Narendra Modi’s 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign slogan of Congress-free India.
The latest victories also come on the heels of retaining power for the sixth straight term in Gujarat and snatching Himachal Pradesh from the Congress two months ago. Under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, the Congress suffered its first losses in Gujarat and Himachal, though the grand-old-party produced a resurgent performance in Modi’s citadel in Gujarat. In all previous elections, Rahul led the poll campaign but it was then Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her lieutenant Ahmed Patel who managed the show.
Ever since BJP came to power at the Centre, it has wrested power from Congress in states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Assam, Manipur. Congress suffered its worst loss in Maharashtra, where it reigned supreme for over 15 years. The saffron party also trounced Akhilesh Yadav’s government in India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh.
However, the BJP failed to make inroads in other three major state elections in West Bengal, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. It also suffered setbacks in Delhi and Bihar ever since Modi and Amit Shah spearheaded the charge of the BJP, but the challengers, however, were Arvind Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar and not the Congress. Subsequently, the BJP joined forces with regional party leader Nitish Kumar, paving way for JD(U)-BJP alliance in Bihar last year.
Buoyed by Tripura and Nagaland results, BJP has now shifted its focus towards poll-bound Karnataka, where elections are due in April/May. The Modi-led BJP is showing no signs of abating in terms of grabbing power in remaining states as party chief addressing a press conference made it clear that the BJP’s golden era will arrive only when it will form governments in Odisha, West Bengal and Kerala.