Bharatiya Janata Party’s resounding victory in the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections is remarkable by any standards. Save for 1977 when the newly formed Janata Party comprising of all non-Congress political parties routed Indira Gandhi led Congress party and won 352 of the 425 seats in UP Assembly. Even the first UP assembly polls in independent India, in 1957 did not give such a sweep to the charismatic national leader Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru where the Congress got only 286.
In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi riding the anti-Sikh wave, because of his mother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination did come somewhere close to the latest BJP tally winning 309 seats but still short by three since the BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke many records winning 312 seats in the UP assembly.
One can only call it remarkable because no other description fits this spectacular achievement. But like many other political analysts it bewilders me as well. We all witnessed hundreds and thousands of workers in factories in and around Delhi retrenched and going back home to UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and from wherever they came, because of the impact of demonetisation. The hectic construction activity came to a sudden halt in my neighbourhood in Faridabad since Diwali last year, first stopped by National Green Tribunal (NGT) on account of pollution and then hit by demonetisation because the labour contractors had no money to pay cash to their daily wagers. In Khari Baoli the biggest grain market in Delhi the loaders were left with no work and left for homes. Majority came from UP villages. But then Modi told them that he has taken this extraordinary step to hit the rich, to pauperise those hiding their 500 and 1000 currency notes in their pillows and mattresses. Never mind that there was no visible evidence of this. But it seems people happily believed all this.
The whole sale dealer in Azadpur Sabzi Mandi was crying and had no money to pay the farmer who came with onion, tomato, potato, cauliflower and peas produce and the farmer left the produce on his doorstep without getting paid a paisa. Next he stopped digging out the potato, or worse spread it out on the road outside his house and let people take it away for free. Yet most of it was lying rotting there. Not to talk of the increasing number of suicides of farmers, the farmer seemed unperturbed by all this and apparently went and voted Modi!
A friend said that by early December Modi sensed that cashless ATMs may turn the middle class against him and therefore he saw to it that the ATMs in Luckow and maybe some other important towns like Allahabad and Agra were regularly replenished with cash. But the poor man who lost his job and went back to his village, did he have an ATM card to avail of the ATM facility. I doubt very much.
The construction contractor close to my house in Faridabad palmed off all his cash of 500 and 1000 notes to the workers whose wages he had not paid for six months, within days of Modi’s demonetization announcement on November 8. My maid who worked there got Rs 8000 back wages in banned 500 and 1000 notes and stood for close to a week in bank queues holding her little baby in her arms, every day to exchange her old notes and even received couple of injuries in the pushing and jostling she faced day after day.
My other maid in Gulmohar Park had sold her village land in Budayun for Rs 8 lakh to buy a house somewhere in and around Delhi to bring up her children giving them education. She had kept all that money in cash. She was hysterical the moment Modi issue his Sultani Firman. For Modi it was all black money. Does it make sense for her and her relatives to go out and vote Modi? But it seems they did? Why and how?
The Jats of western UP were so angry with Modi and the BJP that they had put out posters, Hamari bhool, Kamal ka phool (Our mistake the lotus) lotus being the BJP election symbol. There was an agitation going on in their vicinity and the Jats of Haryana sitting on a dharna said they had sworn to teach Modi a lesson. Instead Modi seemed to have taught them a lesson or two.
Someone said at some places outgoing UP chief minister and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi were chased away. But then so was BJP president Amit Shah in Agra and even Modi when he had to abandon a public meeting in Barabanki. The Prime Minister’s helicopter hovered over the venue and then returned to Delhi pretending to be affected by bad weather hiding the fact that there were virtually no crowds to attend his public meeting.
In Varanasi he stayed back for three days deployed his 23 top ministers after BJP/RSS workers told journalists that only Modi’s presence may save the party other wise people are too angry. Modi held two road shows in his home constituency, visited all the important temples and made a big show of feeding a cow at Gadhwaghat asharam. But Akhilesh-Rahul Gandhi road show was evidently far more impressive. Yet Modi’s show made an impact while Rahul-Akhilesh drew a blank. And the people of Benares forgot Modi’s hollow promises of cleaning the sacred Ganga river and turning the holy city of Benares into Kyoto.
So what is it that worked for Modi? Evidently he succeeded in communally polarising the election and uniting the Hindus across caste divide on issue like it Kabristan versus Shamshan, and Ramzan versus Diwali. In that frenzy nobody seemed to be bothered about the vehement denials by Akhilesh. Modi’s magic was working or so they said.
And strangely they claimed that even the Muslims voted for Modi. Now does it stand to any reason that on the one hand Modi succeeded in sharpening the communal divide to an extent that the voter forgot all his woes and went and voted Modi to naturally go and fix the bloody Musalman and on the other, the Musalmans also went and voted for Modi? But in this season of absurdity, anything goes.
We have some woman with a Muslim name standing up and claiming that Muslim women voted for Modi because of triple talaq issue. Much as many of us detest the horrible triple talaq tradition prevalent among certain sections of Muslims and rightly so, did any of us think of going and supporting Modi for this? Nonsense.
By Faraz Ahmad