A spectre is haunting BJP: the Modi effect may be dented by the Kejriwal effect, spoiling BJP’s chances of leading a stable government after the 2014 election.
BJP has done well in the four state assembly elections, but Aam Aadmi Party has done even better. Starting from scratch, it has captured almost a third of the popular vote, and denied BJP a majority in Delhi.
AAP has already started organising for 2014 in 380 districts, more than half the country including all big towns and cities. If it replicates even a fraction of its Delhi achievement, it can win 20-40 seats, denying BJP a clear victory in the 2014 election.
We now have three possibilities for 2014. If BJP can win 200 seats, it can form a stable coalition, but that requires Modi to win back ground lost to AAP in Delhi.
The second possibility is a BJP with 150-160 seats, forming a ramshackle coalition that is unlikely to last 5 years. Yet another possibility is a Third Front regime supported from outside by BJP, unstable and shortlived.
The markets have soared on hopes of a Modi inspired sweep. They must now check their enthusiasm. The rise of AAP is not exactly good news for them: high priority will now be given to a Lokpal and crushing corruption, and this could lead to more arrests of businessmen and bureaucratic paralysis.
The Modi effect should have been sharpest in Delhi, where BJP has no tall leader or recent track record. Modi made a huge effort through rallies in Delhi, yet BJP vote share actually declined by two percentage points.
Nor did the Modi effect work in Chhattisgarh. In Rajasthan, the Modi effect can claim some credit for BJP’s unprecedented sweep. But in Madhya Pradesh, the credit clearly goes to Shivraj Singh Chouhan, not Modi.
Indeed, Chouhan now emerges as a possible PM. In 1998, Advani was the hard face of BJP while Vajpayee was the soft face, and the soft face alone could win over enough allies to form a government.
In 2014, the soft BJP face of Chouhan may be more attractive to allies than Modi’s hard face. Much depends on how much ground Modi can claw back in next five months. He will go on a blitz against corruption and misgovernance, trying to claim the ground that AAP has now occupied. His main hope is to encourage those who supported AAP in Delhi to switch to BJP in 2014.
This is possible: many voters in Delhi told pollsters they would vote for AAP in the state election and BJP in the general election.
However, Kejriwal hopes the Delhi semi-victory will inspire millions of disgruntled youth to switch from Modi to AAP. The battle against Rahul Gandhi is over: the man is finished for now. The big battle is now between Modi and Kejriwal.