1. Bullying tactics don't work everywhere
The AAP's sweep has broken the myth of the BJP's invincibility under the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo. It seems that Modi and Shah know only one way to win elections: bulldozing opponents. Their tactics are akin to a college bully who uses various tricks to intimidate opponents. The BJP tried it all in Delhi - engineering defections in the AAP, carrying out a vitriolic campaign against Arvind Kejriwal and unleashing a lavish ad campaign. This worked in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, states where the Congress was in power, on its own or with the help of an alliance. But faced with a more feisty opposition like the AAP and a popular leader like Arvind Kejriwal, the Modi-Shah bulldozer broke down. This has an important lesson for the BJP as it gears up to face Assembly elections in Bihar later this year and West Bengal next year. Unlike the Congress in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee are no pushovers.
2. Communal polarisation can't guarantee victory
Communal polarisation coupled with a development agenda worked wonders for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. But as AAP was seen as the agent of change in Delhi, the BJP's communal agenda yielded no dividends. Consider the verdict in the riot hit Assembly seat of Trilokpuri. The AAP candidate Raju Dhingan won by a huge margin of more than 39,000 votes, an increase of 21,000 from the 2013 elections. He was up against BJP's Kiran Vaidya, whose late husband Sunil Vaidya was accused of instigating riots in Trilokpuri last year. Clearly, the AAP won support from both Hindus and Muslims and there was no consolidation of Hindu votes behind the BJP. Another seat where communal politics has come a cropper is Bawan, where pro-Hindutva groups tried to block the Muharram procession last year. Here the AAP's Ved Prakash trumped sitting BJP MLA Gugan Singh by more than 50,000 votes. Singh is alleged to have made speeches against the Muharram procession in a Mahapanchayat in Bawana.
3. No one wants a venom-spewing prime minister
This election wasn't a referendum on Narendra Modi's leadership, but the BJP made it one. "Chale Modi ke saath" was the party's slogan and the prime minister asked the people of Delhi to vote in his name. Modi was the chief campaigner for the party as he addressed a large number of rallies in Delhi. From calling pollsters "bazaaru" to telling Kejriwal to join the Naxals, he was at his most vicious. Even when targeted at a discredited Congress, such attacks are subject to diminishing returns. And when such barbs are aimed at an opponent like Kejriwal, they proved to be counter-productive as he cleverly used Modi's attacks to project himself as the underdog.
4. You can't ignore state leaders
BJP's Delhi leaders like Dr Harsh Vardhan, Jagdish Mukhi, Vijender Gupta, Vijay Goel and Satish Upadhyay might not inspire much confidence as potential chief ministerial candidates. But they have enough clouts to spoil someone else's party. So when Modi and Shah decided to paradrop Kiran Bedi as the CM candidate in Delhi, it was bound to cause much heartburn in the Delhi BJP. State BJP unit chief Upadhyay, who had been investing heavily in putting AAP on the mat, was dropped like a hot potato after Kejriwal alleged that he had links with power distribution companies. He wasn't even given a ticket. The results do seem to indicate that a section of the Delhi unit was working against Bedi. What else can explain her shocking defeat from a so-called safe seat like Krishna Nagar? Even party veteran Mukhi lost from Janakpuri. Of course heads will roll in the Delhi BJP, perhaps beginning with Upadhyay and Delhi prabhari Prabhat Jha, but Modi and Shah cannot escape responsibility for this debacle.