BJP's huge mandate in the just concluded Lok Sabha polls has shaken up the political landscape. While many believed that the BJP-led NDA would return to government, the magnitude of victory has been stunning. It underlines the huge popularity that Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys across large parts of the country. The saffron surge has certainly become intimidating for opposition parties. That said, the second Modi wave or TsuNamo manifested precisely because this was a national election. And with visual media such as TV or social media dominant the polls were transformed into a presidential-style contest, at least in form. This is where Modi was perceived to be a peerless national leader.
However, the same formula could work in reverse in assembly elections, where the polls turn into a state-wide referendum on chief ministerial candidates. This provides an opening for opposition political parties. Odisha, which simultaneously held its assembly elections with the Lok Sabha polls, exemplifies this. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik's BJD swept the assembly, while BJP picked up seats in the Lok Sabha constituencies. This shows that voters can be sophisticated and distinguish between national and state polls. The latter are likely to be decided on separate criteria.
This is also why Congress, after winning state elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh last December, performed poorly in Lok Sabha polls in the same three states. Meanwhile, in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, superlative performances of YSRCP and DMK highlighted that the space for regional parties remains intact. Even in Bengal where BJP made huge inroads during this Lok Sabha election, one can't simply write off chief minister Mamata Banerjee and TMC in state polls due in 2021. Taken together, in India's federal scheme it is the states that deliver. Performance on the ground is judged more critically here.
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