Of all the political narratives the BJP will have to deal with in the run up to the parliamentary polls, the most striking one would be – can ‘Narendra Modi’ as a brand equity work in three important states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha.
In terms of image, Mr Modi seems to have come a full circle. Post-Pulwama and government’s actions against terror camps in Pakistan and firm hand handling of separatists in Jammu and Kashmir, many in BJP see it is the return if the ‘vintage Modi’.
“In 2002 after post-Godhra riots and terrorists attack at Gandhinagar’s Akshardham temple, the BJP campaigners led by Arun Jaitley and George Fernandes had pushed the line if Modi does not return to power, Gujarat will not be safe. Today also, the country is heading for a poll where everyone is looking for a strong Prime Minister,” a BJP leader said here.
But how much it would help in faction-ridden Uttar Pradesh and also two eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha remains to be seen.
BJP sources admitted that ‘radical nationalism’ can hardly be best of political cards in two eastern states.
Apparently, BJP’s scheme of things for a decisive battle in Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal and also Odisha is well reflected in the poll schedule announced by the Election Commission.
“The challenges in West Bengal and Odisha are identical, we have to win as many seats – all new ones. But in Uttar Pradesh we have to retain our grip, The task of repeating 2014 performance – 71 seats on our own and two for ally Apna Dal would be difficult,” a party leader confessed.
The poll strategists too understand this well. According to BJP sources, in rest of India things should be more or less status quo vis-a-vis what was the broad picture five years back.
We may not do as bad as we did in assembly elections in Chhattisgarh and our performance will be good in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan as well. The Pulwama attack, Indian Air Force aerial strike meaning ‘emotion’ packaged as nationalism will motivate voters towards BJP in these states. But the challenge is in UP,” the source said as the alliance between Samajwadi Party and BSP and Congress pitching in Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have made the game more of a puzzle in country’s most populous state.