New Delhi: The year 2018 came as a wake-up call for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Since 2014, when the party came to power with a huge mandate in the assembly elections, the BJP managed to put up a good show in all state elections thereafter.
Riding high on the ‘Modi wave’, the saffron party wrested power from the Congress in Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Its winning chariot went on to claim victories in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Jammu and Kashmir.
However, the saffron party’s push to its ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ campaign suffered a series of setbacks in 2018. This included the major shocker that the party faced in assembly polls in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
The Congress formed governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, signalling a newfound energy in the party ranks and energising opposition efforts to stop the BJP juggernaut before general elections next year.
Belying predictions of exit polls, the Congress won convincingly in Chhattisgarh, less so in Rajasthan, and scraped through with a wafer-thin lead in Madhya Pradesh.
In a sign of burgeoning opposition unity, Bahujan Samajwadi Party leader Mayawati extended support to the Congress in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, while the Samajawadi Party indicated that the party could join a grand alliance of opposition parties to take on the BJP in the 2019 polls.
The Congress emerged as the single-largest party in Rajasthan, winning 99 seats. It’s ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) won one seat for a total of 100 seats — the required number to form government.
The BJP got 73 seats, and the Bahujan Samaj Party won 6 seats. The CPI(M) got two seats, Independents won 13 and other parties got 6.
The Congress victory in Chhattisgarh ended the 15-year rule of the Raman Singh-led Bharatiya Janata Party government. It won 68 seats in the 90-member Assembly, far more than the 46 required to form the government, while the BJP got only 15 seats.
After a see-saw battle during vote count, Congress emerged as the single largest party in Madhya Pradesh with 114 seats, two short of a simple majority. The BJP, which had ruled the state for 15 years, got 109 seats.
The year started with the BJP losing the Alwar (Rajasthan), Ajmer (Rajasthan) and Uluberia (West Bengal) parliamentary seats in the bypolls to the Congress and the Trinamool Congress respectively.
The disappointment was, however, short-lived as in March, the BJP ended the Left Front’s 25-year rule in Tripura. It also became a junior partner in coalition governments in Meghalaya and Nagaland.
But the party faced another blow in March itself when it lost the Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur and Phulpur – the seats vacated by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya.
This came exactly a year after the BJP stormed to power by winning 312 out of 403 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections.
A couple of months later it also lost in UP’s Kairana. The bypolls in Uttar Pradesh saw the two arch-rivals – Mayawati’s BSP and Akhilesh Yadav’s SP – coming together only to upset the BJP.
It later lost two other parliamentary seats — Bhandara-Gondiya in Maharashtra and Nagalanad.
The series of setbacks continued when the BJP, despite emerging as the single largest party in the Karnataka Assembly elections in May this year, ailed to form the government.
Having learnt its lessons from Goa and Manipur, the Congress moved swiftly to join hands with the Janata Dal (Secular) and offered HD Kumaraswamy the chief ministerial post.
Kumaraswamy’s swearing ceremony turned into a show of strength by the anti-BJP parties. A battery of opposition leaders shared the dais, indicating towards a possible grand alliance in order to dethrone the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In June, the BJP ended its alliance with Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, citing the latter’s failure in dealing with the rise in militancy in the state.
Later, in November, the PDP, backed by the Congress and the National Conference – surprised the BJP when they came together to form the government. Governor Satya Pal Malik, however, didn’t agree to their move and dissolved the assembly.
On August 16, a day after India celebrated its 72nd Independence Day, BJP stalwart and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away. A beloved leader of the nation, Vajpayee took his last breathe in AIIMS, Delhi.