Though it lost three crucial states, BJP strategists do not accept it as tactical mistake to play their hardcore Hindutva agenda, writes MUDIT MATHUR

Despite setback in three crucial cow belt states in the recently held assembly elections, the BJP strategists do not accept it as tactical mistake to play their hardcore Hindutva agenda. The impact of hectic campaigning by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s in these states proved to be a blessing in disguise for the BJP to give a neck-to-neck fight, despite heavy anti-incumbency factor working against its regional leadership. BJP got overall 50 per cent success wherever saffron clad poll star Yogi campaigned. His campaigning improved BJP tally.

Yogi was the star campaigner, considered one of the forceful hardline campaigners for the party, addressed more than 67-70 rallies over the past two months in poll bound four states- Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Chhattisgarh. The central leadership of party is busy in reading the mandate and its fallout on 2019 general elections. The performance of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh was not as bad as his debacle was attributed to anti-incumbency factor as he fought tooth and nail on each and every seat. Now BJP has been compelled to relook the policies and programmes of Modi government. 

Yogi’s campaign was most effective in Madhya Pradesh where BJP won 15 out of the 17 seats where he had campaigned. Madhya Pradesh, led by three-time Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, also turned out to be the only state where Bharatiya Janata Party gave a tough fight to Congress. In a nail biting contest that went on until the wee hours of Wednesday, BJP remained only five seats behind Congress while recording a higher vote per centage. Congress emerged victorious winning 114 seats with just 40.9 per cent vote share in the state whereas BJP stood defeated despite winning 109 seats securing 41 per cent votes. The BJP sources attribute 1.4 per cent loss of votes that opted NOTA.

In Rajasthan, where Yogi addressed most of the rallies, BJP was victorious in 11 of the 22 seats. The vote sharing of BJP was 38.8 whereas Congress won 99 seats with vote share of just 39.3 per cent. BJP had to face anger against its chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia who became very unpopular in the public due to her autocratic style of functioning as compared to Shivraj Singh or Raman Singh.

The campaigning route of Yogi Adityanath in Rajasthan was designed after a well-researched input where his hardcore Hindutva image could benefit prospects of the party. It showed mixed response. Yogi’s style of polarizing even fetched dividends in Muslim dominated Ajmer Sharif where BJP won north and south Ajmer seats besides adjoining Hindu pilgrimage Pushkar and Jaitaran seats. His controversial utterances drew public bashing but he got credit of winning difficult seats for the party including Ambar, Udaypur, Malvi, Nagaur, Churu, Alwar Urban and Ramganj Mandi despite heavy anti-incumbency factor.

Party sources revealed that Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh had sought Adityanath’s blessings by touching his feet before filing his nomination papers and kicking off his election campaign in anticipation of a comeback, as he is also the head priest of Gorakhpur-based muth of Nath community who has considerable following in the state. Yogi’s campaign, led by several controversial statements failed to do much for his party in Chhattisgarh and Telangana where harping on Hindutva, construction of the Ram temple in and changing names of cities could not muster the support of voters.

Party insiders are busy in interpreting micro factors for their debacle and feel threatened with the possibility of all the secular forces coming together to give united fight. Had BSP joined hands with Congress in these elections the results could wiped out BJP in these states. Opposition unity could reverse the future prospects of BJP in 2019 general elections.