Rivals stunned; win consolidates Modi's position as PM

Rivals stunned; win consolidates Modi's position as PM

“Modi’s strategy of targeting the poor and downtrodden, while keeping the middle class on board has worked brilliantly.”
— Opposition leader

 After the BJP’s spectacular win in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and a neck-to-neck fight in Manipur and Goa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consolidated his political position and put his party on a strong footing ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Any setback in UP would have meant a big blow to Modi’s standing and put several question marks on his policies, party leaders said.

Seen as a mid-term test of his government’s decisions, including the most controversial move to ban Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, which was a major issue in the campaign, the polls have shown that Modi not only retained his popularity, but also crafted a new image of being a pro-poor leader, according to BJP managers.

The results are set to strengthen his hands further and focus on delivery of several promises made during the just-concluded Assembly polls and 2014 parliamentary elections, Union ministers said.

They expect the prime minister to focus more on programmes that need a greater thrust to show tangible results on the ground and make a visible difference to the larger sections of the society — whether it is infrastructure, affordable housing, relief for farmers and incentives for small businesses.

The victory in UP overshadows the setback the BJP suffered in Bihar in 2015, where a grand alliance of the JD(U), RJD and Congress upset Modi. There are chances of fresh political realignments because of a strong churning that is likely to be unleashed in the Opposition parties, including the Congress and SP, BJP leaders said.

Even his critics have acknowledged that Modi’s win in UP has underscored the advent of a new politics of performance involving aspirational classes across different castes and communities that look for proven ability to deliver on promises. Several of Modi’s schemes, including providing electricity in villages and gas connections in rural homes, are seen as factors that enabled the BJP’s victory.

The Opposition will need to do more than mount a shrill critique and must find a leader who can match Modi’s skills in connecting with the masses, admit Congress leaders. Modi cannot be accused of being pro-rich anymore just as the Congress and other Left “secular” parties can no longer think that voters of the lower strata are always with them.

“Modi’s strategy of targeting the poor and downtrodden, while keeping the middle class on board has worked brilliantly,” an Opposition leader said.

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