BJP is attributing the recent assembly elections victory to voters transcending the lines of caste and religion and voting for the agenda of development. But is it so simplistic? Can Indian voters ever rise above caste and religion? In the current scenario, it seems a bit far-fetched. Development is sure a catchy word these days and yes, a good perception has been created by the Modi government, even though work on the ground may not match the rhetoric.
Analysts have credited Amit Shah’s social engineering for the spectacular BJP victory. That seems more realistic. The careful targeting of particular castes and the coming together of non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav dalits in support of BJP swelled their existing vote bank of the so called forward castes and middle caste land owning farmers/traders etc. The Jats stayed with BJP, despite signs to the contrary. Less said the better about the relevance of minorities in these elections and the supposed myth of the Muslim vote bank. On top of that, the existing dispensations had nothing really concrete to project except Modi baiting. Amit Shah happily accepted the challenge to make the elections as a referendum on demonetization. During the period of demonetization and after 30th December, the Govt. and the party took enough efforts to make the demonetization exercise appear like a pro-poor, anti-corruption, anti-terror transformative move (which may be true to some extent). The economic benefits of the move are still to be seen or realized, but the party reaped rich political dividends due to it. And above all, Modi’s charisma is not only intact, but increasing day by day. His detractors within the party and without have bitten dust.
Charisma cannot be sustained for long without delivering real results. Mrs. Gandhi’s charisma waned slowly after the Bangladesh war and she could not remain in power for long after that. The “Garibi Hatao” slogan became mere words, not backed by real improvement on the ground. So, Modi must take care to match his thunderous speeches with supporting work on the ground.
As of now, it is going too good for the BJP. 2019 looks well within reach. A fragmented opposition is an added advantage. There is a call from various quarters to create a mahagathbandhan at the national level, ala the Bihar model. But there are serious doubts on this fructifying. We have seen the Janata experiment fail and the subsequent spawning of various versions of Janata Dals and Lok Dals and so on and their bitter rivalries. The ego of every small leader led to the formation of a new party. Each one is too self important to join hands with the next guy. Lalu and Nitish did bury their differences, but the cracks have often been seen by the discerning eye. The combined non-BJP vote in these elections was more that 50%. So these leaders cry hoarse about 50–60% people not voting for BJP. But can they sacrifice their personal interests and come together to oppose Modi? Can they bury their differences to “save” the country from the “communal” BJP? I don’t think this is going to happen ever. There is no common emotional or political rallying point against Modi, like the Emergency of 1975. So, it is Modi all the way at least till 2024. And those who still oppose Modi, better come to terms with this new India taking shape. And not only give time to, but support this new trend in Indian politics and governance.
The choice of new UP Chief Minister has again raised the hackles of the liberal crowd. I remember, the advent of Modi on the national stage was also met with similar apprehension three years ago. And Yogi has not left his Hindutva ideology to anyone’s imagination. He is quite frank about it. Modi was a bit careful in that sense, one must admit. However, so far Modi has done quite well and shown some pretence of inclusive governance. If he has not publicly chastised hardline Hindutva elements in the party, he has neither openly supported them. He has maintained an enigmatic silence. Can we at least expect the same from Yogi? Will the responsibilities of office mellow him down? Or is it the beginning of a hardline approach of BJP in future? Let us wait and watch.