Assembly Elections 2017: What will March 11 mean for BJP and Congress?

Shubham Ghosh
Narendra Modi

Just like May 16, 2014, when Narendra Modi and his team BJP had created history and marked the beginning of a new era in Indian politics, March 11, 2017, will also be a big date for Prime Minister Modi and his party. The results of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, along with four other states, will be out on this day.

Conversely, March 11 will also determine the future of the Congress, a party which has only been sliding down since their victory in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. The party had very few electoral successes in the last eight years and if the results in the country's most crucial political state also go against it on Saturday, it could mean the end of the road for Rahul Gandhi, if not the Congress.

A BJP win in UP will confirm Narendra Modi's place in history

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The saffron party had a remarkable turnaround in the national politics after two consecutive defeats in the Lok Sabha election (2004 and 2009), thanks to the phenomenal rise of Modi. It may have been a media-manufactured victory, as many say, or genuine, the fact that Modi is the best thing to have happened for the BJP and Sangh Parivaar in the recent years cannot be denied. Since his hat-trick of wins in Gujarat in 2012, Modi has only risen through the ranks in the BJP and in the annals of the nation's political history, smashing to smithereens any force that tried to come in his way.

True, there were a couple of blots in Delhi and Bihar, but those were more because of the BJP's strategic errors. Now, if the election results of March 11 (specifically Uttar Pradesh) go in favour of the BJP, Modi's stature may even surpass that of the late leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Besides, the position of Amit Shah as the president of the BJP will get powerful more than ever. The Modi-Shah duo will eclipse the famed pair of the BJP's Vikas Purush and Louha Purush, namely, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani, respectively.

The saffron party will gain a massive momentum in the run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha polls

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Besides the top two leaders, the party itself will also gain a massive momentum in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The upcoming challenges in states like Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Karnataka will look easy if the BJP comes out with flying colours in the latest elections. Punjab could be a concern but being the second partner in the government, the BJP perhaps has less worry than Shiromani Akali Dal in that state.

A good show in UP would also mean that the country has supported Modi's controversial decisions like demonetisation, and that will be reason enough to leave the Opposition, already a fragmented one, discouraged. The likes of Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi will have to burn a lot of midnight oil to even chalk out a strategy to contain Modi in the next general elections.

If the BJP fails to do well, Modi's authority will come under serious challenge

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However, on the contrary, if the BJP fumbles in these elections, the Modi phenomenon could face a serious challenge. It will, of course, be a loss of face for the prime minister who perhaps knows it best and thus did not budge from polarising in the final stages of the campaigning. It could also send across the message that the sweep of UP (71 out of 80 seats) in the Lok Sabha elections was more of a fluke.

It could also widen rifts in the National Democratic Alliance, with angry allies like the Shiv Sena using the occasion to belittle Modi's leadership. Similarly, the old guards in the BJP who have been sidelined as 'margdarshaks' (one who shows the way), will also use the opportunity to target Modi and his associates. The RSS will also raise its hood. All in all, the Parivar could be in disarray in no time, making the path to 2019 uneven.

For Congress, even a draw is a big feat now

The Congress, on the other hand, has more worry than high hopes. Even if it does well (we cannot really say if it wins) in UP, it will only give Rahul Gandhi another day to live. But if it is decimated even in company of the Samajwadi Party, then that will virtually be the end of Rahul Gandhi's prospects as the Congress's future leader.

rahul gandhi

It would be an irony of sorts, for Rahul's only electoral success so far had come in the same UP during the 2009 Lok Sabha election (the Congress had received 21 out of 80 seats that year, finishing second after the SP with 23 seats).

Another shocking result could mean the end of the road for Rahul Gandhi

A loss will also mean that the Congress is no more reliable even as an alliance partner (it was proved in West Bengal last year as well), further reducing its electoral prospects for future challenges. No party will be ready to forge a tie-up with the party, at least as long as Rahul is at its helm. And it could see the official entry of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as the Congress boss, replacing the ailing president Sonia Gandhi and the struggling vice president Rahul.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra

Punjab could be a hope for the Congress but the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party and the Grand-Old Party's own factionalism could mar the possibilities of a smooth sail. Uttarakhand could also have things going in favour of the Congress but that could be more because of the BJP's negative ploy to unsettle the Harish Rawat government than any positive leadership by Rahul Gandhi. As far as the 2019 Lok Sabha election is concerned, a debacle in UP could push the Congress into oblivion, from where it will find making a comeback too tough, even under the leadership of Priyanka.

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