At the beginning of the Chhattisgarh campaign, at least two months before the November election, BJP president Amit Shah led with a battle cry — that the BJP must target a total of 65 seats. Ironic then, that it is the Congress that has breached that number in a landslide victory in the state. And the factors that led to these results are multiple, both at the state and national level.
Senior BJP leaders admitted Tuesday that the fundamental problem with their campaign was that the party never quite grasped the extent of the anti-incumbency mood.
They said that even though the leadership had grown wary closer to election day, there was still this sense that the BJP’s superior booth management and the Ajit Jogi-led alliance cutting into Congress vote share would help them cross the halfway mark.
“Simply put, the BJP never realised the crisis, so we never responded in kind. In Rajasthan, for example, we knew we were in trouble, so we pushed at the end, and though it has still turned out to be a Congress win, the margins are not the ones first imagined. Here, that never happened. We failed to read the room,” a senior leader said.
At the state level, what has hurt the BJP, especially in the plains — its usual strongholds — are perceived violations of promises made to farmers. Prominent in the 2013 campaign was the promise of a Rs 2,100 support price for paddy, and a Rs 300 paddy bonus. But while the support price was never achieved, the bonus was given only for three years out of five. Sources said the state BJP had even communicated to the central leadership that these issues, and that of a loan waiver were key, but there was no response to the aggressive Congress pitch to farmers. The BJP’s gambit of the Sanchar Kranti Yojana, of 50 lakh free mobile phones, also failed, mired by the issue of faulty phones and its relative unimportance as an issue as opposed to those of farmers or unemployment.
But while these may be state-level mistakes made by the Raman Singh administration, many believe that national factors also influenced the state elections. The price of diesel and petrol, for instance, was a constant refrain among people.
Within the BJP, there is much strain because of ticket distribution. While the clash within the Congress leadership was much publicised, party workers said senior BJP leaders also found it hard to work together.