Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at BJP headquarters in New Delhi Image Credit: AFP

The by-election results in India have one singular message — saffron in the shades of Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath still command huge political capital specially when contesting against weakening regional leaders like Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party.

Commanding regional satraps like Navin Patnaik and K Chandrashekhar Rao are holding out against the BJP but barely, as the BJP grows in to new political territory Odisha and Telangana.

Uddhav Thackeray and his band of Shiv Sena finally have some reason to smile as the Andheri (east) results show that the all important cadre — the Shiv Sainik in Mumbai is still with Team Thackeray.

As the key Brihanmumbai (BMC) elections approaches Team Thackeray and the alliance between Thackeray Sena, NCP and the Congress is intact and ready for a fight. The BMC has a budget of ₹ 40 thousand crore.

On paper the Bihar alliance (Mahagatbandhan) between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav looks like an unbeatable caste combination. And, Kumar had ejected the BJP out of the government equation by jettisoning their alliance.

Yet the BJP cleverly using what is universally described as its “B” team, Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM, won a seat and sent a message that it still remains relevant in Bihar politics.

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Image Credit: ANI/AFP

A resurgent BJP

So the big takeaway as we enter election season in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh is a resurgent BJP. And, dear readers of SWAT ANALYSIS your columnist has not simply forgotten to mention the Congress party, what do I write again and again for a party that repeatedly draws a big blank at the hustings.

So the by-election results are Bjp — 4, TRS — 1, Uddhav Sena, 1, RJD, 1, Congress, 0. The political implications of BJP resurgent is a fillip to Brand Modi and equally Brand Yogi Adityanath.

You may not remember the name of the Gujarat Chief Minister but, for the BJP which has ruled Gujarat for the past 27 years it is Modi in the fray and not Bhupendra Patel, the CM.

Which is perhaps why the Morbi bridge collapse in which 135 people died and the owner of Oreva — the company in charge of refurbishment — is still not arrested has not made the expected negative electoral impact in Gujarat.

BJP under Modi and Shah has been converted in to a battle ready election fighting machine which gives no quarter to any opponent. Hence the frequent attacks on AAP, which is debuting in the Gujarat election.

Says a senior Congress leader, “Gujarat used to be a bi-polar state in which the Congress had a forty per cent vote share. Who knows if Shah is using the AAP as a “vote katua” (vote cutter) in Gujarat to decimate the Congress”.

The crafty use of a “B” team in difficult elections has been perfected by the BJP. While Kejriwal and Owaisi hotly deny such allegations, a mistrust persists which is why they are still not allowed in to the united opposition by the Congress which is bitter about losing Delhi to AAP.

Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cheer
Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cheer as they wait to hear Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a campaign rally Image Credit: AFP

Special purpose election vehicle

The by-election results also indicate that for BJP, which used to be a cadre based party, is now a special purpose election vehicle (SPEV) for brand Modi, which now is considerably bigger than brand BJP.

The party uses Modi’s name in every single election and in acknowledgement of this, Modi on the campaign trial tells voters to press the button for Modi.

Brand Yogi Adityanath also has similar resonance in Uttar Pradesh — the country’s most important political state with 80 Lok Sabha seats.

What the dwarfed BJP showcases is the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy morphing in to a presidential type system where personality is more important than the party.

Regional satraps like Patnaik and KCR who have also benefited from a prez-style contest will now have to deal with the BJP projecting Modi as their rival.

While they still have a outsize presence in their states, they will now have to factor in brand Modi.

As far as the Congress is concerned, it is grappling with its existential dilemma but is still putting up a good fight in Himachal Pradesh. Watch this space.