Watch | Assembly Elections: Communal Polarisation Alone Will Not Get BJP Victory

M.K. Venu, founding editor of The Wire, on assembly elections 2018.

The one big message for the BJP in these assembly elections is that unless you deliver basic development work on the ground, communal polarisation alone will not get you victories. You can do politics of polarisation, it’s a fact of life, it works, but it only works as an add-on to basic delivery on the developmental agenda. This is where the BJP faltered in the Hindi heartland states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and also Madhya Pradesh – to a lesser extent because in Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Chauhan did better than the other two states, so therefore, the defeat in Madhya Pradesh is not so stark.

But the one message, as I said, that cuts through most of these elections is that there is so much rural distress, farm distress, youth unemployment, and these issues were not taken very seriously by the BJP, especially by the Center. Demonetisation worsened the situation. We can see the second round effects of demonetisation in terms of unemployment, farmers getting lower price, lack of cash in mandis.

So now where do we go from here? What sort of impact will this have on 2019 elections? I believe that rural distress is a thing which will carry on till 2019. So, Mr Modi, PM Modi has a chance to make amends in the next 3-4 months. Now what can you do in the next 3-4 months? I don’t know because the momentum at the moment would be against the BJP.

Remember, the BJP got more than 90% of the seats in 2014 Lok Sabha elections from the 7-8 Hindi heartland states – also Gujarat, if you add Gujarat to it. Most of the seats came from these states. And if you are not able to address rural distress, farm distress, youth unemployment in these states by 2019 Lok Sabha, their tally will be reduced substantially and we are clearly staring at a coalition regime. We are back to coalition governments. Congress might improve its tally. Definitely it will be another phase of politics, back to coalition, that’s what I predict.