a) Modi is a true Pan-Indian leader: the general elections propelled Modi from Gujarat chief minister into India’s neta number one; the state elections have reinforced his stature as a pan-Indian leader. There wasn’t a Modi tsunami as Amit Shah would like us to believe, but there is little doubt that the prime minister is rapidly becoming an Indira Gandhi-like leader who can deliver votes for his party well beyond its original support base. The win in Haryana and the single largest party position in Maharashtra could not have been achieved without the Modi brand.
b) The Congress is in denial: The Congress has not recovered from the battering it got in the general elections. Third place in Haryana and scraping through to third in Maharashtra suggests that the Congress is in serious decline and almost frozen in time. And yet, the party seems to believe that it will almost magically revive once the Modi wave subsides. Clearly, the party leadership and Rahul Gandhi in particular need to find a new ideas and energy to match the BJP, else it faces the real possibility of being reduced to a permanent loser.
c) Regional parties are down but not out: This election was a make or break one for the Shiv Sena, the first big challenge for the party after the death of Bal Thackeray. The party held on, just about, to fight another day. And yet, the Marathi Manoos card alone will not suffice to ensure growth in the future. That the MNS was reduced to just one seat is a telling reminder that regional chauvinism cant be based on goondaism or sharp soundbites; regional parties will have to become more inclusive to endure.
d) Amit Shah is a master election strategist: just two years ago, Shah was facing an extended jail term for his alleged role in fake encounter killings. Now, he is the man with the Midas touch. He has found a winning formula: Modi as star campaigner and an organisational machine that focusses on election micro-management. It may not always work (the by-elections last month were a sobering reality), but so long as the opposition is beset by a sense of defeatism, Shah’s “take no prisoners”approach (including the gamble of breaking with the Sena) will give the BJP a clear edge.
e) The Indian voter is driven by rising expectations: Haryana and Maharashtra are high growth, high income states. Yet, with rising incomes come rising expectations. The younger voter in particular is impatient with a traditional political culture that thrives on dynasty, patronage, cliques and corruption. He wants a share in the growth engine: jobs, incomes and opportunity. Parties will have to go beyond sharp slogans and deliver, else be prepared to be voted out.