Skip to main content

Congress' electoral "success": BJP is hardly expected to be sitting on its haunches

By Anand K Sahay*
Suddenly, the expectation has been given birth in the minds of the people -- not just the political class -- that a credible challenge to the Modi-Shah BJP has sprouted. There is a sense of loosening up in the country, a feeling of normal breathing, a dispelling of the suffocation produced by overt and persistent majoritarian actions of Sangh parivar elements generated through their foul and violent methods which appeared to enjoy the indulgence of those who matter.
Indeed, when the BJP was expecting to steamroll the Congress, it went for a six over mid-wicket. This altered not just the political lie of the land but national political dynamics as well as we approach the Lok Sabha election.
What form the riposte of the opposition parties will assume in different states is all the lively speculation now. The conceptual confusions that attended the very mention of the prospect of multiple parties combining to challenge the supposed masters of the game have dissolved.
The ‘hesitations of history’ imposed on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi by the circumstances of his birth and by Narendra Modi’s unremitting demonising of Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, and Indira and Rajiv Gandhi -- magnified by leading media sections that praised even questionable moves of those in power -- appear to have melted away.
The current Congress leader has demonstrably shaken off his fetters. Observers now note Rahul Gandhi’s maturity, his gentleness (which stands out in such sharp contrast with the boorishness of many of his Sangh parivar opponents), and his soft humour. These set him apart from his adversaries who had made the spewing of venom against political opponents routine.
Gandhi has now even demonstrated that he is Prime Minister Modi’s equal in terms of what psephologists call “strike rate”. If the BJP won 55 seats where Modi campaigned in the recent elections, Gandhi’s tally was 50 -- not much to choose there. This hardly used to be the case earlier.
After providing evidence of grit on the campaign trail and political savvy in managing edgy Congress factions, the bane of the party especially at election time, the Congress president should forgo the appellation “chor” or thief when speaking of the self-appointed “chowkidar” -- the guard of the premises -- of the nation. More restrained language will do our democracy a world of good.
Stooping low to emulate the leading lights of the BJP was never recommended. After the Congress’s major wins in a head-to-head contest with the BJP, this is now not even necessary in order to impress the “shirtless”, who may incline to rough speech to show machismo- the path favoured by the Hindu nationalists in recent times as they worked to mobilise the “downstairs” of society.
While it is true that those in power today (and some others) had reviled Gandhi’s father in the same language, paying back in kind in such matters is not the civilised way, even if men like Donald Trump (and others) do this all the time. False delineations of words and actions of political opponents, a stock-in- trade of important ruling party politicians, is also a temptation best avoided.
It has become evident that the ruling party’s defeat in the recent state polls in three Hindi heartland states, which had played a vital part in the BJP’s famous win in the Parliament election of 2014, is attributable not so much to the functioning of the ruling party as to its leading demagogue and ideologue of the past five years, Prime Minister Modi.
More than the PM’s style of campaigning (galling though his reference to Sonia Gandhi as the “vidhwa” or the widow was), analysts of different shades are united in the view that rural distress was at the core of voter disenchantment. Allied to this crucial cause was the faltering unemployment data for a nearly five-year period, which was seen as Modi reneging on a key promise.
The crisis in agriculture and the dropping unemployment were both fed by the demonetisation of 2016, a policy that Modi had personally driven with single-minded devotion, cutting out all others in the political executive, and key advisors.
Thus, barring the gainfully employed sections that form the backbone of the urban middle class, practically all sections of society had begun to nurse a grievance against the economic policies of the Modi regime. This is a picture that was on view across Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Rajasthan.
Madhya Pradesh under Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s leadership appeared to resist the trend, but the psychological disequilibrium triggered in the lives of ordinary people by the policies of the Centre defined for Indians in a basic way the main motif of the recent Assembly elections.
Will the graph of the state elections be valid for the Lok Sabha poll? Aren’t issues debated at the Assembly level different from those raised in Lok Sabha elections? Analysis of polling data over time suggests that, generally, if the national election is held within about six months of Assembly polls, then the trend seen at the state level only intensifies in the Lok Sabha elections. And we saw in the recent elections that the key deciding factors were the Centre’s harmful policies, rather than those of the three state governments. Logically, this should continue to be valid in the Parliament election early next year.
Until recently, the RSS-BJP were seen as running the most fearsome election fighting machine in the world, which was at it round the clock, even when there were no elections. The polls in the Hindi-speaking states, which were the RSS-BJP’s special area of influence, have shown this to be a myth. The propaganda of invincibility was circulated by the RSS itself with the help of friendly sections of the media, some of whom even expanded this pedestrian hypothesis into a shaky theory in quickie books.
It was noteworthy in the Madhya Pradesh election that the BJP was bested by the Congress even in the state’s Malwa belt, where deep RSS influence has carried from even before independence. For the main opposition party, this reveals a favourable juncture. But there is nothing automatic in life or politics. 
Rahul Gandhi and his party have laid the groundwork. They need to show the skill and the wisdom to take forward the momentum. The BJP, the party in power, is hardly expected to be sitting on its haunches.
---
*Senior Delhi-based journalist and columnist. A version of this article first appeared in The Asian Age

Comments

TRENDING

ISKCON UK 'clarifies' after virus infects devotees, 5 die due to big temple meet

By Rajiv Shah
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), United Kingdom (UK), has admitted that at least 21 of its devotees were infected because of the spread of the coronavirus amongst the UK devotee community following the March 12 funeral and March 15 memorial of the Bhaktivedanta Manor temple president, in which about 1,000 people participated. Regretting that five of the devotees have passed away, the top Hindu religious in Britain body does not deny more may have been infected.

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Gujarat construction workers walk home as Rs 2,900 crore welfare fund lies unused

By Our Representative
Situated behind the Gujarat University, some of the families of the migrant construction workers from Dahod and Panchmahals districts of Gujarat, and a few from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, who had stayed put in make-shift shanties in Ahmedabad’s sprawling GMDC Ground, have begun a long journey, by foot, back to their home villages in the eastern tribal belt of Gujarat.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.