- NL Sena
Despite addressing 32 public rallies in the poll-bound states, Modi could not swing the fortunes of the BJP.
As the results of the just-concluded state Assembly elections play out in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, one thing is certain. The people of the heartland have speared the heart of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS-BJP combine. People have rejected the Sangh’s divisive, hate-filled election campaign unleashed by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
In these three states, the BJP is in a direct contest with the Congress. The winds of change—albeit gentle—should soar the spirits of the latter which, under its president Rahul Gandhi, was desperately looking for a significant victory to not only consolidate its position but also to establish itself as a critical player for the general election.
As for the southern state of Telangana, which also went to polls, incumbent chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao of the TRS, has punched a knockout at his main rival, the Congress-TDP combine, to race ahead with a resounding majority of 88 seats out of a total of 119 seats, even surpassing his earlier total of 63 seats in 2014, leaving his rival with barely 21 seats, and the BJP getting only one seat so far.
Voters seem in fatigue with Modi’s speeches about himself–from being a chaiwallah to kaamdar vs naamdar (workers vs dynast). If not talking about himself, then Modi was talking about jibes at his mother and father. The PM’s constant harangue against the Nehru-Gandhi family in all his public rallies rather than talking about his state governments’ achievements and welfare schemes, seems to have left the electorate cold.
It is not just Rahul Gandhi’s public display of his religiosity that has unnerved the RSS-BJP and its affiliates. It is the realisation that Hindutva and its hateful, divisive and communal politics cannot get votes, as the five elections have just revealed. And the message was delivered hard and fast, by the voters, to no one other than the Hindutva icon, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. To the horror of Yogi and his Hindutva honchos, the BJP has barely managed to get 26 seats in the heartland, where he held rallies in 68 rallies—Rajasthan (26), Chhattisgarh (23), Madhya Pradesh (17)—and Telangana (8). In Chhattisgarh, Yogi’s impact was so dismal that despite spitting communal fire, the BJP is barely grasping at eight of those seats.
The heartland has restored faith that the country is not divided into two Indias–north and south. Also, Yogi’s anti-Muslim jibes, saying a BJP victory will send MIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi fleeing to Pakistan and that Hyderabad will be renamed Bhagyanagar, has exposed the hollowness of Hindutva and its majoritarian ideology. It has to be seen if the RSS and its Hindutva affiliates go slow on the Ayodhya-Ram temple movement, which has been unleashed in the country today.
In Chhattisgarh, for over two years, the BJP and its followers have been campaigning against “urban naxals” as traitors and murderers, several leading activists who have been championing tribal rights and working for their upliftment, have been rounded up and thrown into prison for conspiring to murder Modi, and for promoting violence and brutality. BJP sympathisers began tweeting early in the day how the Congress victory is going to bring back Naxalism terror to the state. More significantly, the Congress which refused to give in to BSP’s Mayawati handed over six seats to her (the BSP had just one seat in the last poll) and to her alliance partner, former Congressman Ajit Jogi. The Congress needs neither parties to form the government as it has an absolute majority.
So, what are the big takeaways from the election results in the five states? One, the Congress has been as fortunate as the BJP to wrest states that have been deluged by huge anti-incumbency waves, just like the BJP did in Maharashtra, Haryana, and Assam. The timing of the victories in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, MP, could not have come at a better time for Rahul Gandhi, in the run-up to 2019 general election. The Amit Shah-Modi Jadu Jodi (magic duo) and their large election machine of big bucks, big data and mega teams, are vulnerable to electoral betrayal, disappointments, and anger. However, it must be conceded that Shah’s election machine gives the party the extra mile when the going is good, and cushions the party’s electoral losses, as Rajasthan and MP reveal.
Hindutva machismo and its murderous, divisive campaigns also fail in the face of unemployment, agrarian distress, hunger and poverty. But can Modi’s development mantra of 2014, which jettisoned him to the prime minister’s chair with a sensational, brute majority, work for him in 2019, as voters feel increasingly betrayed and let down, calling him out for his false promises and pledges?