Reverse Swing

It is an anti-climax. Only a week earlier the saffronites were celebrating their emphatic wins in three north-eastern states including the left bastion of Tripura. And now they are mourning their sad demise in the strong saffron base of Uttar Pradesh. No doubt by-poll results delivered a massive jolt to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as it was humiliated in the parliamentary constituencies of Gorakhpur and Phulpur by the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance. The BJP leaders never thought even for a moment that the alliance otherwise mocked as ‘chalk and cheese’ would work. But much to their dismay it worked and worked wonder. Not that a few by-poll verdicts point towards the shape of things to come. But the very trend shown by some recently held by-polls in some states seems to have sent shivers down the spines of BJP strategists. What ultimately matters in electoral outcome in the cowbelt is the caste factor. The consolidation of OBC-DALIT-MUSLIM votes reportedly powered the victory for SP in Gorakhpur—the all important constituency of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

The BJP had swept Uttar Pradesh during the 2014 general elections winning 71 seats including Gorakhpur and Phulpur, out of 80. The party had also registered a resounding victory in the 2017 assembly polls in the state and racked up over 320 seats. Incidentally Gorakhpur represented by CM Yogi Adityanath for five successive terms. For the saffron camp it is more than humiliation to lose Gorakhpur. Adityanath, however, downplayed the bypoll results, hopefully to boost morale of his partymen while refusing to admit the defeat as a referendum.

Amidst this changing electoral equation in Uttar Pradesh, Congress looks jubilant. But they have nothing to cheer about—the defeat of BJP in UP and Bihar cannot be translated into win for Congress elsewhere in the country. Congress candidates lost deposits in both Gorakhpur and Phulpur constituencies and also came a cropper in Bhabua (Bihar) assembly by-poll (the only one that BJP won). A candidate's election deposit is confiscated if he or she gets less than 10 percent of the votes polled.

For one thing the saffron party's patently communal call for ''Hindu Unity' has not cut much ice in UP and Bihar by-polls despite the deployment of huge money and muscle power. The reasons are clear enough. Intensified oppression of Dalits and upper caste arrogance that borders on perversion, coupled with continuous mismanagement of public affairs, have forced Mayawati to come to terms with the Smajwadi Party because she feared that a BJP victory would be instrumental in unleashing a fresh wave of repression on her vote base. Whether she can resist the political and ideological onslaught of Rashtriyaswayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) in the coming days by burying her opportunistic past is a big question. That the neo-fascist and fragile nature of RSS is getting increasingly exposed even in the hindi heartland where politics of hate as pursued by RSS has reached alarming proportions.

In truth the by-poll results in Bihar are no less striking, although the defeat of the JDU-BJP combine in Araria has surprised many. This only shows that Nitish Kumar's somersault has actually backfired. The plan of RSS to impose their fascist hegemony all over the country has definitely received a setback though resisting RSS fascism requires much more than some electoral victories here and there. A continuous nationwide campaign against this fascism that parades itself in the name of 'nationalism' and 'patriotism' is the need of the hour and election provides good platform to fight the obnoxious politics of the saffron camp.

Congress hopes somewhat against hope that they will be able to lead an anti-BJP front in the coming 2019 parliamentary polls. Well, they may not be that lucky. Regional satraps may not like their over-all dominance. Given the present state of affairs they have very little sway over these regional outfits. Whether they like it or not the dynastic party is swiftly drifting towards irrelevance.

Strangely enough, Congress is not seriously opposing BJP at political and ideological level. Even during electioneering their anti-BJP tirade doesn't cross the border of economic management or mismanagement. Serious opposition to BJP is coming from some regional outfits. Congress with its precarious organisational existence in a number of states, as the by-poll results show, may not have the commanding power to club together regional parties under one umbrella and head an anti-BJP coalition. It is simple arithmetic that an alliance of all anti-BJP forces can easily halt the saffron march. Given parliamentary culture in India regional and casteist groups are unlikely to get united against a common enemy.

Gone are the days of bi-polarity. Today's world is a multi-polar entity. So is India. They have long been trying to make it a two-alliance reality without much success. Unless the Congress party cedes space to regional parties no concrete anti-BJP front will emerge, albeit Modi magic is clearly on the wane.

Vol. 50, No.38, Mar 25 - 31, 2018