Assembly polls: BJP's win signals the rising power of regional satraps

Even if Narendra Modi and Amit Shah pat themselves on the back about the assembly election results, they should heed the warning bells too

(From left): The trifecta of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Yogi Adityanath and Vasundhara Raje ought to make the BJP top leadership uneasy
(From left): The trifecta of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Yogi Adityanath and Vasundhara Raje ought to make the BJP top leadership uneasy

S Divakar

With assembly election results in four out of five states rapidly becoming clear, the duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah ought to take note of a few red flags.

In Madhya Pradesh, for instance, the BJP national leadership can no longer sideline chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, as it was trying to do even before elections were announced. The feeling among the party top brass about Chouhan being a 'spent force' is what sent Shah to state capital Bhopal again and again on the instructions of Modi, trying to create the impression that the leadership does not trust Chouhan and is preparing an alternative pitch. But the incumbent CM has pulled off what even state party workers could not have imagined until this morning.

Overall, the BJP leadership did the same in Rajasthan, where former CM Vasundhara Raje Scindia has been the face of the party for the last two decades. This time, the leadership tried its best to sideline her, though the BJP's victory in Rajasthan is not the same as it is in Madhya Pradesh. In MP, Chouhan has been chief minister for two decades, except for a year-and-a-half in between, while in Rajasthan, power has changed hands every five years.

Once again at the behest of PM Modi, however, Shah not only tried to sideline Vasundhara, but also create a situation where she would somehow lose the elections. At one time, it was even being speculated that if Vasundhara continued to be treated as she was, she might form a separate party to contest the elections.

Finally, it was only when the BJP leadership laid down arms in front of Vasundhara did the BJP come to power. Nonetheless, the next phase of the power struggle here is likely to be interesting, because Vasundhara's rise to the state's top post will continue to be hampered by the party leadership, and it remains to be seen how Modi-Shah deal with the formidable former CM's arrows.

Chhattisgarh needs to be looked at properly, too. Since last coming to power, the BJP leadership once again seemed to lay down arms, but former CM Raman Singh did not stop roaming the villages, more actively than any other BJP leader in the state.

In contrast, not only did the party leadership spread lies using the Mahadev app as a weapon, but also gave importance to Singh only at the last minute. That too after he politely pointed out to the leaders that even if they weren't betting on him, giving him importance could only benefit the party. Modi-Shah understood this very late.

There are other flies in the victory ointment too. Despite the BJP leadership's belief that it PM Modi's is the only face that can ensure electoral victory, the results of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have brought before them the truth that Modi is nothing without the regional satraps. He may be the party's biggest face, as he should as prime minister, but without the active support of major regional leaders, he cannot even think of doing anything good in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Away from the assembly results brouhaha, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath is once again emerging as the biggest thorn in Modi's path. That could be a reason why the 'weaken Yogi' campaign has resumed within the BJP itself. UP deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya's statements may not match the party line, but given he has Shah's blessings, Maurya seems to be putting on a show of not caring about Yogi.

The concern among the party's top leadership is that almost across the country, even lower-level cadre have come to believe that whenever Modi vacates the post of PM and the BJP is somehow in a position to come back to power, the post will go to Yogi. This is something that ought to make Modi uncomfortable. Hence, the trifecta of Yogi, Chouhan, and — even if she doesn't get the chief ministership — Vasundhara represents alarm bells for Modi-Shah's ekchhatri (single-umbrella) politics.

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