Beyond the Verdict

Emboldened by emphatic win in four out of five states that went to polls recently, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to have heaved an audible sigh of relief as anti-incumbency factor didn’t work. And Modi continued to attract media attention as he organised a massive road show in his home state Gujarat after the election results were out. Whether this ludicrous show business will influence the assembly elections due in the BJP-ruled states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh at the end of the year is open to question. In truth Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh too would go to polls over the next two years. Panic has gripped Congress and the entire opposition camp because state assembly elections are being treated as dress rehearsal for the coming Parliamentary Polls in 2024. For one thing caste factor and disunited opposition made it easy for the BJP to sweep the assembly polls, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Uttarakhand. The year-long farmers’ agitation had very little impact on the outcome of assembly polls though Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP—Aam Admi Party—won handsomely in Punjab defeating Congress. In north India, particularly in Uttar Pradesh caste equation continues to dominate electoral politics. It doesn’t matter whether parties represent the ‘upper castes’ or ‘lower castes’. All rely on caste loyalty to win elections or lose them. As per a post-poll survey report 89 percent Brahmins had voted for BJP, then 87 percent Rajputs and 83 percent Vaishyas preferred Yogi Adityanath. Despite their some grievances with the Yogi government 6 percent more Brahmins voted for the BJP in 2022. No doubt Modi’s party succeeded in polarising and consolidating upper caste votes. Not quite surprisingly caste played no less an important role in Goa than it did in other states. Nearly half (49 percent) of the Hindu upper caste community in Goa reportedly voted for the BJP. Communal and Casteist mobilisation which is the mainstay of BJP in any polls worked well for them.

For one thing, why Mayawati’s casteist outfit Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) failed to mobilise the most oppressed section of society speaks volumes about the limits of caste politics. She is now blaming it on the Muslims for not voting her party. This blaming game won’t help her much in the coming days. Her constituency of Dalits is a divided entity today. What is needed is a vibrant alternative programme for the socially and economically disadvantaged. Mere revolving around the reservation syndrome won’t do. And pronouncing the name of Babasaheb Ambedkar every now and then is unlikely to change the ground reality. BJP is ‘wise’ enough to appropriate Ambedkar to consolidate its Dalit vote bank.

The most notable message of five-state assembly polls is ‘the decline of Congress seems irreversible’. The way they have lost Punjab to a regional party illustrates among other things that it has nothing to offer to the voters. While discussing the poll setbacks in the Congress Working Committee they failed to identify the real cause behind their rout. Politically they are so bankrupt that they have no option but to depend on the Gandhi dynasty dangerously for sheer survival. They cannot fight the BJP because the Modis are actually implementing the Congress-scripted neo-liberal policies as per the demand of the corporates with religious zeal. Rahul Gandhi’s murmur against Modi’s misdeeds is too feeble to be taken seriously by the masses. No meaningful agitation against jobless growth because it was initiated by the Congress itself. They no longer talk about demonetisation that has virtually marginalised the people living on the margins beyond recognition. Multi-nationals have come in a big way to dislodge small traders in retail market while forcing a large number of low-paid workers engaged in informal sector to wander in wilderness. Congress cannot fight its own economic agenda and as a result BJP’s slogan of Congress-free India is gaining ground.

In the absence of any viable alternative people always find the easiest way of choosing their rulers, rather oppressors, through vote. Unless the anti-BJP opposition parties come out unitedly with a common minimum programme addressing all sections of the aggrieved it will be next to impossible to remove the BJP from the seat of power despite their aggressive exercises of obnoxious Hindutva ideology.

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Vol 54, No. 39, March 27 - April 2, 2022