For the BJP, its foundation day celebrations today are perhaps the happiest in the last 37 years of its existence. Besides ruling at the Centre with an absolute majority, it is in power in 17 of the 29 states. Just last month it won Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state, with a historic three-fourths majority.
Out of the 17 states where BJP is in power, it has chief ministers in 13 states. In the remaining four – Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim – BJP is a junior partner with allies having the chief minister.
Despite this position, which surely is enviable for the opposition parties, the road ahead for the largest party of the world is not a bed of roses, if it is not full of thorns. The party has several challenges to meet both on the electoral and developmental fronts.
1. WINNING THE VIRGIN STATES
BJP has never ever won elections in seven states – Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and West Bengal. Though the party has made inroads into most of these states, it may not be sure of winning all of them in the next Assembly elections, whenever they are due. For instance in Kerala and West Bengal or even Tamil Nadu, the party may have to wait for at least two elections before it forms its government in these states, either on its own or in alliance with a regional party.
2. VICTORY IN FORTHCOMING ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
By 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Assembly polls would be held in 15 states. BJP would have the arduous task of retaining the eight states (Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Rajasthan and Sikkim) which are under its wings or win the remaining Opposition-ruled seven states (Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Odisha, Telangana and Tripura).
3. MAJORITY IN RAJYA SABHA
In the 245-seat Upper House, BJP has 56 members. Along with its alliance partners, it has 77 members, way short of the magic figure of 123. Along with its alliance partners, BJP would be in a position to reach anywhere near the majority mark only after 2020. This would remain a major handicap for the party to fulfill some of its promises like enforcing laws like Uniform Civil Code and revocation of Article 370 in regard to Jammu and Kashmir.
4. 2019 LOK SABHA ELECTIONS
BJP won 282 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 elections. The BJP-led NDA bagged a whopping 336 seats. In Uttar Pradesh alone, which has the maximum 80 seats, BJP was victorious on 71 seats. It would be a major challenge for the party and its alliance to repeat or better its performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
To a large extent, BJP's electoral success depends on the progress it makes on the development front. The party would need to register a high growth rate. However, maintaining a high growth rate particularly after the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act from the scheduled July 1 would be onerous task for it. In whichever country GST has been implemented, the general experience has been that it leads to inflation for a couple of years. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections would be held by the time prices would settle down and normalise in the country. The BJP will have a tough time countering the Opposition attack over inflation.
Despite the Narendra Modi government on the verge of completing three years in power, job creation still remains a far cry. Instead of more job opportunities people lost employment after demonetisation. Skill development has yet to show any tangible results. Growing unemployment would lead to dissatisfaction among the masses, particularly the youth. The Modi government needs to tackle job growth on a priority basis.
7. PRICE RISE
The BJP-led NDA government cannot claim to have kept inflation under control. Prices even of some essential items are high. Housing, education and health continue to be costly for the middle and lower classes. Until and unless these are lowered, there would be discontentment among these classes.
8. LAW AND ORDER
This is one area where the BJP governments at the Centre and in the states leave much to be desired. Law and order in Delhi, which comes under the Union Home ministry, has still not shown semblance of improvement from the days of Nirbhaya tragedy in December 2012. The BJP-ruled states are witnessing bouts of violence against Dalits and Muslims in the name of cow vigilantism. These two sections of the society are demanding reassurance from the government for their security. Cases of violence against women also remain high. They too need the government's support in order to feel safe.
Though no major case of graft has come into light against the Modi government in these three-odd years, corruption at the lower levels is still rampant. Money is still changing hands in the governments departments. BJP is yet to fulfill its election promise of bringing back black money stashed in banks abroad.
10. EMOTIVE ISSUES
BJP needs to handle emotive issues quite deftly so that the atmosphere of the country does not get vitiated. Be it the issue of Ram Temple at Ayodhya or triple talaq, the ruling party has to move ahead with caution while trying to fulfill its promises made in the 2014 Lok Sabha election manifesto. The country cannot afford to build a Ram Temple at Ayodhya or ban triple talaq at the cost of losing communal harmony. Instead of being seen as a catalyst, the party may have to depend upon the directives of the Supreme Court to settle all the disputes related to emotive issues.
BJP has travelled a long distance since it was founded on this day 37 years ago. But it still faces some major challenges to be considered an inclusive party with a pan-India presence. Its action in the future and the course it charts for itself will decide its fate.