New Delhi, May 25: The BJP believes todays triumph in Karnataka is a pointer to a general-election leap.
Chief Rajnath Singh declared that his party had already become the frontrunner for the next Lok Sabha elections.
The partys Prime Minister-in-waiting, L.K. Advani, sounded just as upbeat. The geographical expansion of the BJP and the shrinkage of the Congress almost all over the country shows the shape of things to come in the run-up to the parliamentary elections (due next year).
The partys central leadership had battled dissension and ideological confusion, but todays win appeared to have galvanised the ranks.
Rivals had often cited the partys absence in the south and lack of support among Muslims to question the BJPs credentials as a national party. Today, one of the hurdles appeared to have been overcome, with Advani saying the Karnataka result was a turning point in the partys expansion.
BJP leaders pointed out that the historic entry in the south had been made in the post-Vajpayee era, bringing into focus the partys organisational strength and proving the leaderships strategy-making skills and resilience.
The victory, party sources said, also showed the BJP could fill the space vacated by the Congress as a centrist party: it won in both rural and urban areas, getting votes from all sections.
Victories in 34 reserved seats signalled that the BJP had made inroads into the Congresss traditional tribal-Dalit base.
Unlike in other states, the BJP has not been seen as an urban middle-class party in Karnataka, primarily because its main leader, B.S. Yeddyurappa, is a farmer. At the same time, its urban strength appeared intact, with the party cornering most of the city seats.
Many in the BJP also feel the central leaderships acceptance of strong regional leaders paid off.
Unlike the Congress, we dont believe in cutting local leaders down to size. We gave Yeddyurappa full freedom. We firmly told his rival, Ananth Kumar, this is not his chance and he fell in line. The strings in the Congress were pulled from Delhi and the party saw total chaos, said a BJP leader who had campaigned in the state.
So confident was the party of success that it had prepared the backdrop for the post-victory media conference a day in advance.
We knew the high voter turnout was a message from the electorate that the state was itching to go beyond Deve Gowdas blackmail. We had never feared a frac-tured mandate as the betrayal plank and price rise issue had really clicked for us, the leader added.
Some in the BJP feel the victory will help it draw smaller parties as allies, like in the 1999 general elections. It will also embolden the party to step up the offensive against the jittery Congress-led UPA regime in Delhi, sources said.
Advani suggested it would be foolish to attribute victory to local factors alone. The Congress would be indulging in self-delusion if it thought the people of Karnataka were influenced only by local factors. The UPAs utter failure to control prices, its compromising policy on terrorism and its insensitivity to the plight of farmers have angered people all over the country.
The BJP leader said he saw a repeat of the watershed 1989 election, when the party had bagged 86 seats, up from two in 1984.
Rajnath argued that the BJP had become the first party to create a base larger than the Congresss. We have full-fledged governments in seven states and five in coalition. This makes us the biggest political party in the country.