But it could give Prime Minister Narendra Modi the resolve to crack the whip on the fringe elements within the Sangh Parivar, including some of his MPs, who have kept his government in the news for reasons not remotely connected with his promise of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ (together with all, development for all).
The BJP’s alliance partners such as Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and All Jharkhand Students Union are likely to exert more pressure on the lead party in the aftermath of its defeat in Delhi. It is likely that this defeat and the need to win in Bihar will make the BJP accommodate demands of its allies – Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Loktantrik Party – in the coming Bihar Assembly elections in October.
Similarly, the party might have to concede more to potential alliance partners in Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. The elections in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Puducherry and Kerala are due by mid-2016, and the BJP hopes to make inroads in some of these states. It had half-a-dozen allies in Tamil Nadu in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The defeat can potentially give Modi a stronger hand in dealing with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates. The much-touted RSS mobilisation of voters in Delhi didn’t materialise into votes for BJP candidates in Delhi.
This could help Modi recalibrate the internal discourse in the party, rein in such elements as party MP Sakshi Maharaj who had wanted all Hindu women to give birth to four children each or minister Niranjan Jyoti who called all Sangh Parivar opponents “illegitimate”, while outfits like Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) busied themselves in launching a divisive ‘ghar wapsi’ campaign. There were also communal riots in parts of Delhi like Trilokpuri and attacks on churches in the weeks and months before the elections. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Raju Dhingan from Trilokpuri defeated the BJP candidate by a margin of 30,000 votes. The BJP candidate lost by a whopping 50,000 votes in the Seemapuri constituency. A church was vandalised in the area in December.
Senior party leader and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said BJP failed to gauge the mood, and that it would go into the reasons for the “overwhelming defeat”. Prasad, however, advised the Congress to look into how AAP took away its entire vote base. “The Congress needs to introspect,” he said.
An immediate byproduct of the defeat could be the party having to review its ambitious membership drive. BJP President Amit Shah launched the drive in November with the objective of transforming the party from a cadre-based to a mass-based party, and the largest political party on the planet. A fortnight ago, the BJP claimed to have crossed the 50-million mark.
In Delhi, the BJP received slightly over 32 per cent of the nearly 10 million votes cast. It bagged 2.9 million votes. The BJP claims to have about two million members in the city state.