Atal Bihari Vajpayee had said the road to Delhi was via Lucknow. Eight years later, Narendra Modi has stormed into Delhi via Varanasi.
Sweeping Uttar Pradesh with 71 of the 80 seats, Modi has breached the fanaticism of caste politics resurrecting the BJP in the state with a record victory which went far beyond expectations of even Amit Shah, his close aide and architect of the UP revival plan.
As the Modi deluge, chanting development and good governance swept across the state, it wiped out the BSP completely, reduced Congress to just 2 seats and left the ruling SP with a tally of five in mostly four-cornered contests across the state.
Shah himself had predicted that Mayawati's BSP would come second in UP, where the Dalit vote was devoted to her. A BJP leader from the state said the tally shows that not only OBCs and upper castes, but even Dalits had voted for BJP along with Jats.
"50 to 55," Shah had said two days ago. On Friday, after the results came out, he said the BJP had managed to reduce Congress to its dynastic strongholds.
If Modi's development mantra helped the party in the impoverished eastern UP, in western UP, polarised after the Muzaffarnagar riots, the saffron party benefitted from a divided Muslim vote.
In an election cutting across caste, class and candidate, all the BJP's senior leaders including Rajnath Singh, Kalraj Mishra and Murli Manohar Joshi emerged victorious.
The protagonist of the revival in UP of a party, which had declined from over 30% in 1990s to 15% in 2012, Shah turned the tide for BJP in the caste-ridden and economically backward state, where the party had been reduced to a marginal status. From 58 in 1998, the BJP's score in the state had reduced to 26 in 1990 and 10 in 2009.
When Shah, the 50-year-old BJP general secretary, began his mission last year to recapture the BJP's clout in Uttar Pradesh after being given charge of UP, the "outsider" was rattled by the complexities of its caste equations.
He took off on a quiet familiarisation tour across the state, breaking bread sometimes in a villager's home or holding street corner meetings with party workers or just listening to people's grouses. Refusing to talk to the media till he completed this exercise, Shah strategised with precision. It was his idea that Modi should fight from Varanasi, hoping it would help in fighting the BJP in the Hindi belt, particularly Poorvanchal, where the party had been weak. Modi has won Varanasi by.... Defeating AAP's Arvind Kejriwal and Congress' Ajai Rai.
By the time Shah was half-way through the exercise, he had the political caste arithmetic in each constituency on the tips of his fingers. In a carefully crafted tactic, the BJP, which aligned with Kurmi dominated Apna Dal, fielded 25 OBCs, 17 Scheduled Castes, 16 Brahmins and 14 Rajputs.
Shah has now set his eyes on the next battle in the state — the 2017 assembly polls. He is confident that the Lok Sabha polls have laid the foundation for the state elections. The last time the BJP won UP in assembly election was in 1991.
With the tide turning against the SP just two years after UP brought it to power in the 2012 assembly elections under the leadership of Akhilesh Yadav, the BJP had the advantage anti-incumbency against all its three opponents as well as AAP, whose leader had quit as Delhi chief minister in 49 days.
Bharatiya Jana Sangh (Earlier name of BJP)
1952: In the first Lok Sabha elections, won 3 seats
1967: Held political office for the first time, but as part of a coalition government with Swatantrata Party and socialists
1977: After the Emergency, was part of coalition government with the Socialist Party, Congress (O) and Bharatiya Lok Dal. Vajpayee appointed minister of external affairs under Moraji Desai.
1980: The Janata Party bagged only 31 seats
2) Bharatiya Janata party
1984: Won two Lok Sabha seats
1989: 85 Lok Sabha seats, crucial support to the ruling National Front under VP Singh's rule.
1991: Fresh elections after Ayodhya Rath Yatra. Secure 120 seats in the Lok Sabha and majority in UP State Assembly.
1996: Bagged 161 seats to form a short-lived government; Vajpayee at the helm.
1998: Coalition NDA government with BJP in majority. BJP contributed with 182 seats.
1999: Record highest tally of 183; NDA government.
2004: Vajpayee calls for early elections; suffers defeat at the hands of Congress and allies. Party bags 38 seats.
2009: Bag a low 116 seats; win first state election in Karnataka.
2014: Record high of 284 (so far) seats. Poised to form NDA-led government.