Eclipse In The Bjp Moon… But No Reason For Congress Or Sp To Rejoice
Politics is all ulta-pulta after the verdict in the recent by-elections on 31 Assembly seats spread over in nine states. Apart from the huge setback to the Bhartatiya Janata Party (BJP)—losing 13 of 23 it had—that continued the streak of losing seats it had won earlier in by-elections in Uttarakhand and Bihar, the beleaguered Samajwadi Party and the Congress in a comatose state recorded amazing gains—an admirable comeback trail. Worse BJP’s vote share slid down even in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Mulayam Singh proved again to be a wily political player and managed to make voters forget all about nearly 240 riots in the state administered by his son, Akhilesh Yadav. Not only he took advantage of BSP’s non-participation in the by-polls but also managed to shed the image of SP as a party for Muslims. Azam Khan was missing doing the campaign.
And what did the BJP state leadership do—the personal touch of Amit Shah during the Lok Sabha election was missing, no morale-boosting exhortations to workers were done, there was no meticulous planning of contacting voters and persuading them to go to the polling booths, there were slip-ups in the selection of candidates. Recommendations by the BJP MPs, who vacated seats, were completely ignored resulting in their non-cooperation.
The BJP’s another nearly-fatal handicap was the lack of a face to represent it. This was a major factor. The election, it appears, was conducted haphazardly. But for Yadav, it was a matter of do or die.
The state BJP leaders forgot there was no Modi wave. The work began by him at the Centre was not translated into some relief for the aam aadmi. Even the report that inflation dipped to a five-year low, because of food and fuel prices going down, came a day too late.
Riding the Modi bandwagon on which he swept through Uttar Pradesh, 11 Bharatiya Janata Party and allied MLAs from the state got elected to the Lok Sabha. But just after a little over three months, only three of those 11 seats could be retained by the BJP; on the other eight, the Samajwadi Party won. One of the Assembly seats the NDA lost in UP was Rohaniya, which falls under the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat that the Prime Minister won with a huge majority.
A similar tale of tragedy for the BJP in Rajasthan resulted in three out of four seats wrested by the Congress. While, party sources blame Vasundhara Raje of being authoritarian, reports are that Sachin Pilot took a leaf out of Amit Shah and managed the election exactly like him. He deputed 10 workers for each polling booth and the selection of candidates was done carefully. The BJP not only lost three seats but its vote share also went down drastically.
The loss in Gujarat is simply shocking. Modi exhorted people to make India Congress mukt. Ironically, the same Congress slithered in. This is a matter of worry.
The most important question to be pondered over is that just four months ago the BJP registered a record-breaking victory in the parliamentary elections by promising development, change, corruption-free administration and a moratorium on communal and sectarian difference. A huge groundswell of support for Narendra Modi sent him sailing into the Lok Sabha with the BJP securing for the first time, single-party majority.
Coalition governments’ era was over, BJP was in the seat of power, Congress a rump with 44 MPs, the two Yadavs were almost wiped out. Only three regional parties, Mamata’s TMC, Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK and Patnaik’s BJD survived.
Politics seemed to have gone into a placid state, at least for some time. But this by-election has resuscitated both the Congress and Samajwadi Party. And that means a possible start of politicking. But whether these two parties can from here rise from virtual ashes or remain a one-time wonder. Much would now depend on how the BJP tries to get over its losing streak.
At present, the BJP has taken a beating it would have never imagined, particularly the big reverses in Uttar Pradesh, where it did extremely well in the May general elections and is looking forward to come to power in the next round of Assembly elections in 2017. In fact, it has surrendered considerable ground in two other prestigious states, Rajasthan, which it had won back from the Congress in the 2013 Assembly polls, and Gujarat, which has been a BJP fortress for years.
What Modi’s man of the match, Amit Shah, one wonders, was doing. Did he, after becoming president of the party believe that elections were not part of his responsibility?
He never, at least as far as one knows, visited the constituencies going to election. Or did he brief the state units?
How come polarisation was sought by making hate—speeches, most virulence was based on love jihad—and the successful mantra of change and development innovated by Modi was all but forgotten. Obviously, the tried and tested campaign formula was not considered relevant. While many local factors/issues of the respective constituencies may have influenced the electoral outcome, it is true that at least in UP, the party did make a mistake by jumping off the development platform.
The neglect at the state level was compounded by the irresponsible attitude at central leadership level.
The immediate outcome would be some murmuring by the Old Guard, Shatrughan Sinha has already said something about not using the seniors.
But as far as the elation over the belief that Modi wave has waned, it is rather facile. In the general elections, it was Modi versus the rest, people voted for Modi, and not, repeat not the BJP. Naturally there can be no Modi wave if he is not involved in the elections.
The BJP and the Old Guard have to understand that they are irrelevant. The setback could not have been pre-empted by the Old Guard. The organisation and functioning of the state units have to be streamlined so as to become effective election fighting machinery.
And if Modi between his foreign visits takes interest, the BJP could look forward to better days.
The Haryana and Maharashtra verdicts would decide what’s next for the Congress. If it loses both, one can say bye to Gandhi Congress. In any case, the recent party successes have been without any help from the Family. The Congressmen are very aware of this. And also of the fact that the Family campaigned vigorously, the Party lost badly in Lok Sabha elections. And as far as the Samajwadi Party is concerned, its threat is limited to the state. In the general elections, it lost badly because Modi could polarise with Dalits and OBCs in the block favouring him. In the by-election they went back to their old voting pattern. This means Modi has to take interest along with Shah to rejuvenate and reorganise state units of the BJP. And nurture state heads like in the old Congress days.
As one source close to the top leaders in the BJP said, “The reverses have strengthened Modiji. BJP is nothing if he does not lead it.” Hope the Old Guard has its hearing aids plugged in their ears.
If there is nothing to rejoice in the BJP camp—except for the party’s entry into the West Bengal’s 294-member assembly, for the first time—there is nothing for the Congress or Samajwadi Party to rejoice. Such aberrations and hiccups do happen, but rarely.
By Vijay Dutt