Many firsts of historic Assembly Elections 2022 and what they mean for Indian politics

The BJP’s staying power comes from a well-defined ideology, clear chain of command, unity of purpose, and relentless, quiet work even in places that never seemed would embrace it

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a campaigb meeting in Punjab. AP

The verdict of Assembly elections 2022 has many firsts.

The BJP’s convincing win in Uttar Pradesh under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is the first in 37 years that a political party is winning for the second consecutive time in the state. This is despite three waves of COVID-19. It is also after a gritty and violent round of farm protests at Lakhimpur Kheri and a widely beamed caste conflict in Hathras. At the time of writing this, the BJP was ahead at both places.

It is also for the first time after Uttarakhand got statehood that a political party is forming the government twice in a row. This is despite three chief ministers being changed in about a year and the Congress apparently retaining a strong base in the state. The Congress made things a little easier by insisting that its star candidate in the state, Harish Rawat, focus on Punjab instead of solely on his backyard.

This is the first time in Goa that a party has formed the government three consecutive times while completing two full terms without disruption. This used to be unthinkable just two decades ago. The BJP has returned to power in spite of the death and absence of its tallest contemporary icon from the state, Manohar Parrikar, and speculations of an uninspiring term of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.

There are encouraging firsts for the BJP in Manipur as well. It is well on its way to forming the government without any partner. This is in a state with 41.3% Christians on last count, who are the dominant voting bloc in the hills, unlike the Hindu Meitei-dominated plains. Much credit goes to the RSS and its affiliates like the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which works among tribals, and Sangh-backed educational institutions.

The BJP has never been a prominent player in Punjab and this time was no different. But the firsts in the state in these elections will have profound ramifications in the nation’s Opposition politics like no other.

This is for the first time in Punjab’s history that a political party is winning with so many seats. It might end up with the highest tally since the bifurcation of the state. In 1992, the Congress had 87 seats. The AAP is likely to cross that mark. It will also be the third party at this moment to have governments in two or more states.

What do all these firsts mean?

They point to a fast-changing landscape of national politics. The BJP is without a doubt a party which has its presence coast to coast, border to border. It not just comes to power, but stays in power for years. Unlike the Congress which has vanished from states like UP, Bihar, Bengal, Telangana and Odisha which it once ruled.

The BJP’s staying power comes from a well-defined ideology, clear chain of command, unity of purpose, and relentless, quiet work even in places that never seemed would embrace it.

Second, the Congress is in an existential crisis. It rules with a majority in just two states today, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

The Opposition space now has Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, and K Chandrashekhar Rao as leadership claimants. Rebels within the party are baying for the Nehru-Gandhi family’s unquestioned dominance. Its humiliation in all of the five states does not portend well.

But knowing the Dynasty, which views the party as a family-owned kirana shop, it will not introspect or take accountability. Its days in power may well be over, but its sense of entitlement isn’t.

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