It was a day of fluctuating emotions at the BJP’s national headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg. In the morning, as early trends in the Karnataka election results pointed to a close contest between the BJP and the Congress, party spokespersons appeared cautious as they spoke to news channels from within pandals put up in the backyard. Outside the pandal, there was little activity. But after 10 am, as trends showed the BJP to be ahead of the Congress, the spokespersons, sensing a majority win, started praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah for the party’s “success”.
Out came chairs draped in saffron cloth, cut-outs of Modi and Shah, halogen lights, loudspeakers and carpets — by afternoon, the front porch of the party office was all set for celebrations. Outside, party workers burst fire crackers, danced to drum beats and played with colours, forcing office-hour traffic to slow down to a crawl. Policemen were seen appealing in vain to BJP workers to clear the road.
With Modi and Shah expected to arrive at the party office by 1 pm, Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar, Nirmala Sitharaman, Jitendra Singh, Vijay Goel, Shiv Pratap Shukla and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, besides other senior party leaders, began arriving at the party headquarters.
But as it became clear that the BJP would fall short of the magic number and that the Congress had announced its support for the Janata Dal(S), the drum beats fell silent and a large number of workers started walking out of the party office. “I don’t think the PM will come. Let’s leave,” a BJP worker was heard telling others.
But a few workers hung around till evening and security personnel of Delhi Police stayed alert. A Special Protection Group team, which came to the party office in the afternoon expecting the PM to arrive, also left some hours later.
Around 7 pm, Shah reached the party office, where he was welcomed by party workers and leaders. By 7.30 pm, Modi reached too.
The mood at BJP’s office at Malleswaram in Bengaluru followed the same trajectory of celebration and then dejection. On Tuesday morning, as the party appeared to steal a decisive march over the Congress and the JD(S), party workers chanting “Modi, Modi, Modi” danced to drum beats. “This is a message to the Congress that they should not try to divide Hindus. And that if Hindus are united, the BJP will never lose,” said Chandrashekhar, a property consultant and RSS worker. “It’s time now for Siddaramaiah to go to jail. And we will make sure that happens,” he said.
Santosh, an RSS worker from Kartal village in Mysore, credited the Sangh Parivar cadre’s persistence for BJP’s improved performance in the Old Mysore region. “We went to each house three or four times. But the final momentum came from PM Narendra’s Modi rallies in last week. I am 100 per cent sure that people voted for him, more than B S Yeddyurappa,” he said.
Exuberance spilled over to anger in the crowd against the Congress, but also against actor Prakash Raj, who had led a sustained campaign against the BJP. “Where is Prakash Raj? He did not even dare cast his vote. We won’t let him enter Karnataka. And if he does, he will be killed,” roared Chandrashekar, as other workers cheered. But as the party tally settled down in the early 100s, and refused to move up, the drums fell silent. Workers stood in front of the large TV screen, watching silently, as senior BJP leaders huddled inside.