The BJP should go for introspection and take lessons from its disappointing performance in the recently held  by-polls.  It’s necessary mainly because the by-poll results have sent out a clear message that its success can’t be determined solely riding on the charisma of Narendra Modi. The BJP might be expecting victory in Haryana and Maharashtra where Assembly elections are scheduled to be held soon but the saffron party needs to work on its strategy from a whole new perspective. The way BJP performed in the Lok Sabha elections under Modi’s leadership gave out an impression that the party has made quite a hold over the voters. However, the by-poll outcomes in Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and even in Gujarat served a severe blow to this very conception of people. The party is not reading much into the by-poll results saying that regional factors had its own role to play. There might an element of truth behind this but it cannot deny the significance of Haryana and Maharashtra Assembly polls. The nation’s political mood can be gauged to a considerable extent through these polls.

After being appointed BJP president, Amit Shah did not shy away from unveiling his dream of making India Congress free. His activeness towards this direction gives a hint that he is taking every election quite seriously but the disastrous results in the recently held by-polls in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat have made the party sit down and start everything afresh. The BJP had routed out almost every Opposition party in Uttar Pradesh during Lok Sabha elections. However, it could not hold onto its own seats during the recently concluded by-elections. If the scheme of things of present situation is seen from closer quarters, it’s quite different from the one which developed during the Lok Sabha elections. The saffron party was kind of overtly motivated to dethrone then UPA government and storm to power at the Centre and Narendra Modi along with his party colleagues left no stone unturned to make that happen. It was only due to the tireless efforts put in by the party which catapulted it to get majority in the political crucial states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and the results were beyond expectations. Things have changed a bit now. Neither is Modi now in a position to invest time in campaigning nor does the saffron party has any other leader who can lead the campaign trail with same intensity to keep the mojo intact. The by-polls in Uttar Pradesh stand testimony of sorts to this very fact as no BJP heavyweight came for campaigning.

The BJP needs to introspect its performance in Rajasthan apart from Uttar Pradesh as just few months back during the fag-end of 2013, it got a whooping majority in the Assembly elections propelling Vasundhara Raje to the helm of affairs again. The good show was repeated during the general elections as well. However, this time around, during the by-polls, the BJP lost three seats to Congress. The credit behind this result can be given to a considerable extent to youth leader Sachin Pilot, who is slogging in hard to rejuvenate Congress in the state.  A similar story lies in store for BJP in Gujarat as well where it has been seen that Chief Minister Anandiben Patel could not establish a firm grip on the government and party like her predecessor Narendra Modi did. As Amit Shah is leading BJP, he is not devoting much time in Gujarat. It could be pretty possible that the party paid for its messy candidate selection procedure and its move to keep big names out of poll campaign also did not pay off. Somewhere down the line, the party needs to shape up its political strategies from a whole new perspective. During by-elections, the BJP harped on the issue of ‘Love Jihad’ and tried to play the politics of polarization but this strategy fell flat on the ground. The BJP now needs to understand this fact that the way Yogi Adityanath made Love Jihad an issue during the by-polls was completely uncalled for. The party tasted huge success in the Lok Sabha polls mainly since it contested on development plank instead of riding on any issue which could lead to polarization. Though the BJP tried to make up for the wrong game-plan adopted by Adityanath, it was way too late. It’s important for the BJP to ensure that no small or big leader, even the alliance partners never come up with any such statement which could give out an impression that it’s not serious regarding social harmony.

The BJP, which is trying to regain its lost ground in the Uttar Pradesh, gave a stunning performance in the Lok Sabha elections but it should have realized that it attained success exclusively due to Modi’s charisma and popularity. Uttar Pradesh is still a big-time challenge for the BJP. And this challenge is more serious mainly since neither the party has strong regional leader nor it has any well-woven strategy in place. In fact, the reality is that the party is still dealing with the issues related to internal tiffs and miffs and lack of co-ordination among the leaders in the state. The scenario is kind of similar in Gujarat and Rajasthan as well. The party had to face the beating of difference between the leaders in both these states. It’s natural for a political party to have difference in opinions but this should not escalate to such a level that it starts rusting the party’s poll prospects. The BJP needs to look into this issue that how the leaders’ self ego started soaring above party and whether the party is looking to sail through just with the assistance of Modi’s dynamic personality.

Going by the expressions of BJP leaders, it seems that they are not serious about the disappointing performance in the by-polls. If the BJP does not bring any change in its functioning, it will prove disastrous for the party and might also come off as a blot to Modi’s image.  There is a limited significance in this very view of BJP that by-elections are not a yardstick to gauge the mood of nation or states. Undoubtedly, it’s like that but at the same time, it should not be forgotten that every elections leaves behind a trail of lesson. Defeat implies that somewhere down the line, there were shortcomings. The stupendous victory attained by the party in the general elections needs to be taken seriously. The saffron party will have to understand that in order to succeed in polls, those issues need to be touched upon, which are straightaway associated with the people or influences them. There can be no other option other than development, good governance and and clean politics.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on September 21, 2014 translated by the English editorial. The author is the Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)