Can regional satraps fight Modi juggernaut?
Results to five State Assembly elections are out.
Results to five State Assembly elections are out. Contrary to the expectations of the anti-BJP parties, the electoral trends indicate that there is a rightward shift at least in the north and parts of eastern India.
The question to be pondered is whether Indian politics is undergoing a change from the present status of a caste, communal and family rule? Have people lost faith in Congress? Is it time for people like Tikait and Co to keep their tractor in garage?
Will leaders like Mamata Banerjee who failed to make a mark in Goa and could not help Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav in winning seats in western UP and leaders like Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao who has been meeting leaders like Tikait, Uddhav Thackeray, Deve Gowda, Mamata Banerjee, Hemant Soren etc and has been thundering at public meetings that the country needs Telangana type of governance at national level be able to move in the direction of dumping BJP in Bay of Bengal?
Whether one may agree or not, the fact is that the BJP had made considerable strides in provinces where it had negligible presence so far. In contrast, the grand old party, Congress which had ruled the country for over five decades continues to believe in committing hara-kiri.
The party still has no ideological clarity and is directionless. Its leaders refuse to give up hypocrisy. They still talk about morals and responsibility. Did they lose elections because of their high moral values and BJP won because of low moral values? Did they not decide to shift their candidates to resorts even before Goa results were announced and was that an example of high moral values? Congress has become a party which refuses to accept reality. No effort is being made to muster up any kind of organisational muscle.
The sad part is that despite repeated failures and getting decimated in every election, Sonia Gandhi, the current and the longest serving Congress president, is desperate to make Rahul do well politically. In any other democracy, it would mean a time to bid goodbye to politics but there is no such indication from her. It would be pertinent to recall what the Nationalist Party veteran leader Sharad Pawar said. He likened the Congress party to indolent zamindars (land owners) who still talk about land that they had frittered away with their incompetence.
The regional parties have shown spurts of energy and intent to hold on to their territories against an expanding BJP, but they wanted to follow the beaten track and unite all those leaders mostly septuagenarians who failed in running coalition governments in the past.
These leaders who want to form an anti-BJP front forget that politics of north India are different from south and western parts of the country. Some of them pinned their hopes on AAP and Arvind Kejriwal. But the way AAP has progressed from New Delhi to Punjab and made its mark in Goa has come as a shock for the old and tired horses who wanted to gallop to power.
Opposition failed to smell the coffee
One should admit that despite SP not being able to garner the required percentage of votes and falling short of the 40 per cent vote share to come to power, it had put up a real fight and the UP elections became BJP versus SP. They succeeded in winning over 100 seats in the Assembly as against 47 in 2017.
AAP however smelled the coffee and succeeded in protecting itself from joining hands with the so called anti BJP parties. It has scripted its own political route map and has decided to foray into other parts of the country including Telangana on its own so that it can soon fill the vacuum of a national opposition created due to exit of Congress party.
What do the results indicate?
Analysts may go deep into which caste went in favour of which party. But the question to be looked at is what exactly do the results convey? The first and foremost is that BJP would now focus on southern States more so Telangana to begin with. As TRS has burnt its boat in terms of its friendly relations with BJP and as the State Congress party continues to be grope in darkness, the BJP which has some presence in the State at least in the urban areas would now chalk out an action plan to penetrate deep into rural areas.
The RSS too has started the exercise to expand its activities in rural belt of the T State. The master strategist of BJP, Amit Shah is slated to visit Hyderabad in April. He is likely to give clear road map for the saffron party to take on the ruling TRS.
At the national level, these elections also have given an indication that in future if BJP and Modi decide to follow the tradition of retiring those above 70 from active politics, then Yogi Adityanath could be the next best leader to succeed Modi.
Time to change political strategies
The campaign in UP and Punjab has given a new direction and has a lesson for the regional satraps who still feel that that electoral campaign on the lines of caste, community and religion can rain votes for them. UP elections should come as an eye opener for such parties. People in UP have showed signs of fatigue against the entrenched political system which has been following politics of hatred to win polls by exploiting the fault lines of the society.
Both Modi and AAP followed a new template. They kept their campaign focused on developmental issues. AAP hammered into the minds of the people about what they propose to do. AAP did not promise the sky. Education and Health were the two important promises it made. At the same time, they projected themselves as anti-establishment. They did not use cuss words against opponents or Modi. They had single point campaign agenda, their plans for development.
Narendra Modi, to a certain extent, campaigned on similar lines and emphasised on the need to do away with family parties and chanted the mantra of 'Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas Sab ka Vishwas' vociferously.
Repose faith in cadre
These elections have thrown up another lesson for the leaders of regional parties. It has highlighted the point that it is important for a leader to have faith in his rank and file. Believe in your cadre and there would be no need for so-called political strategists. The cadre should be with the people and the leadership should give due credence to the feedback they get from them however unpalatable it may sound. That would help in formulating correct strategies. Unfortunately, the new trend in many States has been to hire strategists and sideline the party leaders and workers who have now become party's cheer boys and girls.
The fear among the strategists has already begun. They now argue that 'Battle for India' will be fought in 2024 when Lok Sabha elections will take place. State elections cannot be indicators. The BJP is trying to create a frenzy to establish a decisive psychological advantage over the Opposition. People, they say should not fall for this "false" narrative.
This nervousness has some meaning because neither the BJP nor AAP had hired any strategists but both had shown tremendous results. They have taught a lesson, believe in yourself and your team.
In all the five States where elections were held, majority of voters moved away from caste, community and religion based politics and want their elected representative to address development concerns without amplifying the ground-level caste and community conflicts. This change of mood is now visible at least in the North.
Another interesting aspect particularly in UP elections was that people rejected the offer of freebies like free laptops etc., made by Akhilesh Yadav. They voted for development and did not fall prey to the allurements which has become a dirty habit in most of the States more so in South. It is time voters down south also decide not to accept freebies.
Similarly, the regional parties need to rebrand themselves as inclusive and development-oriented parties. The politics of social justice also needs re-imagination. Political parties should understand that pitching of OBCs and Dalits against 'upper caste' groups in the electoral field could be counterproductive in all future elections.
The opposition parties should re-invent themselves and devise a definitive electoral strategy. The BJP, SP and AAP have started a new trend. It remains to be seen whether other opposition parties will emulate it and find a new and more relatable political language or not. Politics is a dynamic situation. If regional parties do not adopt themselves to changes, they may have to go the Congress way which is not good for democracy.