Posted on | March 15, 2012 | 10 Comments
The recent State Assembly elections have been described by the media as the semifinal to the run up of 2014 parliamentary elections. The toughest war turfs were Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Election results in Manipur, Uttarakhand and Goa proved earlier expectations of easy run for the Congress and tough fight in Uttarakhand and Goa. The final run indicated total meltdown of Congress in Goa and expected second position for BJP; that too because of the Khanduri factor. Congress played a high stake game in Punjab claiming win in above 70 assembly seats. Despite expectation of anti-incumbency adverse fall out, charges of corruption and alleged maladministration the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and BJP coalition made surprisingly big impact. Congress headed by Capt. Amrinder Singh was humiliated.
Congress had pitched very high in Uttar Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi, the projected future prime minister of India and scion of Nehru-Feroze Jahangir Ghandy (Indira had started using Gandhi instead of Parsi family name of Feroze Ghandy) jumped into the fray with the mission of trouncing BSP from power and restoring Congress roots in the state. His efforts were strengthened by Priyanka Vadra, Sonia Ghandy and rags to riches son-in-law Robert Vadra. Scores of Congress luminaries-Khurshid Alam, Digvijay Singh (in charge UP affairs), Kapil Sibal, Rita Bahuguna, Jaiswal etc carried out hectic campaign. Rahul Ghandy was projected as the star campaigner. Uttar Pradesh was selected as the catapult that was likely to throw up Rahul to the ornate chair of Prime Minister of India. Some Congress leaders had even started counting days for the exit of Manmohan and coronation of Rahul Ghandy at midnight. Nobody could understand why the midnight coronation! Some interpreters expressed that Rahul was likely to imitate his forbearer Nehru by declaring second independence of India at the stroke of midnight. Whatever the gimmick might be the raw factor remains that Rahul has been swept away by voter rejection. Overnight he has become irrelevant in electoral politics and the corona of the crown has disappeared.
Let us have a look at the final results in the semifinal race for 2014 parliamentary election:
It is amply clear that both the national parties Congress and BJP received serious drubbing in Uttar Pradesh election. That scandal ridden, corrupt and whimsical BSP headed by mercurial Mayawati had lost credibility and her own reputation hanged in balance under the boots of the CBI was known to all political observers. Congress went full thrust against Mayawati, attacking her jugular, blaming her abetting with acts of murderers, rapists, and looters. She took very belated action against corrupt ministers and MLAs. The allegation that she frittered away state exchequer to install her own idol, that of Kansi Ram and innumerable elephants; the symbol of her party BSP could not be credibly refuted. Her involvement/complicity in land acquisition of the farmers, acts of rape and murder by police had alienated several sections of Dalits and farmers.
Mayawati’s caste equalization policy to incorporate the dominant Brahmins, Thakurs and other OBC castes in party had also alienated the Dalits. In the name of broadening her political sway Mayawati alienated the OBC castes and large section of Dalits and Muslims.
The BJP was uncertain what for it was campaigning in Uttar Pradesh. The party did not repeat the Mandir slogan fearing its empty fuel tank. Surprisingly the Vishwa Hindu Parishad , Bajrang Dal, Bajrang Mahila Vahini etc remained aloof from BJP campaign efforts. The RSS cadres also remained aloof. In some cases they leaned towards SP. The star campaigners like Gadkari (no image in people), Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitly, L. K. Advani and other state-level leaders failed to carry the voters with them. The BJP opposed Congress’ minority reservation issue and other concessions given to them by the UPA II government. They carried out negative campaign against BSP, SP and Congress. However, the national leaders failed to campaign for the own party. They failed to rally even marginal Muslim support, snatch away OBC votes from Congress and SP and even could not convince the upper caste Hindu votes. BJP campaigned on Negative issues, by passing Positivism expected from a national party.
It must be added that UP leaders of the BJP were faction ridden. They behaved like marginal local satraps and exhausted their time and spirit in fighting, dragging and drowning their perceived competitors. Local satrapism was another important cause of debacle of the party. The BJP campaign had failed to arouse Hindutwa fervor. They even lost the Ayodhya seat. BJP had no connectivity with the Dalits, despite Uma Bharti being projected as the star campaigner. Local UP leaders had criticized her prominence in UP as an outsider. This inner bickering sabotaged the party. The Brahmin and Thakur cores of BJP vote bank did not accept Uma as their leader. There was near- disconnect between the local units of the party and the voters. As mentioned earlier the RSS remained more or less silent spectators. The party organization had totally collapsed. The BJP and the RSS might do some kathan, chintan and manthan to analyze if an imageless, lackluster and avoirdupois personality can successfully lead the party. Nobody can prevent BJP from committing suicide; but many wish that it should emerge as the viable national alternative.
From the beginning of the campaign it transpired Rahul Ghandy charged at the UP war situation like Don Quixote de La Mancha and his team of Shanco Panzas. He toured all over the state emphasizing reservation and better deals to the Muslims, attacking Mayawati personally, and disparaging the SP and BJP. Rahul and his backroom analysts failed to identify the real enemy in the electoral battle. Even the Ansari (weaver) community was not impressed by largesse ceded to them by the UPA II government and announcement of better MNREGA scheme for the state. Kutil Kapil Sibal and Congress’ OBC face Sam Pitroda propagated several statics to impress the electorate. Wish Congress leaders understood that Pitroda, a billionaire NRI, is better known as an in-house whiz kid and not actually accepted as an icon of the OBC community of India. He could not relate to Yadav, Kurmi, Koiri etc OBC groups in UP. His main qualification is: a friend of Rajiv Gandhi, who had introduced computer in India for common use and innovation in telecommunications. Between 1985 and 2011 computer science has infected human society like knowledge virus particles. Communication has taken quantum jump. Sam may be useful to Ghandy household, but not for the nation and obviously not a vote catcher.
Congress targeted BSP as the main foe. Some senior ministers and leaders even responsively talked about tagging on SP as a junior partner in the government making efforts. 24 Akbar road computers had conceded SP only 80 seats; 140 for itself. They presumed: majority Muslim votes would come to the party, as Congress and some its ministers (K. Alam etc) touted higher reservation for Muslims. Congress’ minorityism had not impressed the Muslim voters. The intelligence apparatus of the government and expensive studies carried out by the party had advocated nearly 55% Muslim support to the Congress. What they did not probe was Mulayam’s intimate contacts with the maulana community, religious schools in UP and special institutions like Deoband, Barelvis, Firangi Mahallis and Muslim Personal Law Board etc. It had become clear after the first phase of poll that Muslims were committed to vote for SP. They did not trust Congress for alleged failure to implement the Sachhar Commission Report and other promises extended by the Congress. Muslims, considered as block voters of Congress turned away to the SP.
Rahul Ghandy, Sonia Ghandy and Priyanka Vadra failed to understand that the government decision of taking away 4.50% OBC reservation quota and shifting the same to Dalit Muslims would boomerang. The OBC community classes and castes recognized by the State and Central governments include certain Muslim professional classes and castes. This administrative decision adopted on the eve of the election alienated certain tiers of the OBC classes. The Yadavs, Koiris , Kurmis etc were perceived as higher-classes of OBCs, to be differentiated from Telis, Nais, Badais, Mallahas, Julahas etc. The so-called higher classes among the OBC made strenuous efforts to swing away from the Congress kitty to SP kitty. The Ghandhys, Digvijay, Khurshid, Kapil, Pitroda and other MBA/IIT backroom boys of Rahul had no inkling of the ground shift.
All these factors left Congress and BJP as marginal players. Several other factors like upper-caste pandering by Mayawati, her failure to protect interests of the Dalits, severe allegations of corruption, lack of personal integrity and haughtiness had alienated Dalit votes of the BSP. Mayawati failed to garner Muslim support as well.
The arithmetic of election was poised in favor of Samajwadi Party from the very beginning. What transformed the SP campaign penetrative was meticulously planned action by young SP leader Akhilesh. Like Rahul Ghandy he did not fly high. His grassroots approach mobilized the party workers like army of ants. The amazing part of the SP game plan was directed at mobilization of the booth committees. They managed to bring their voters to the booth. Both Congress and BJP failed in this crucial aspect of game plan. Certain observers commented that even floating RSS workers helped the SP. In several places observers noticed BJP booth in charges “selling” the booth to SP. Party supporters were absent and their job was done by SP duplicates. BJP should make on ground investigation to understand how many booths were “sold” by their booth in charges. That might give some idea to the devastating erosion that the party suffered. In last one decade BJP managed to lose support of nearly 35% of committed voters. BJP should try to understand as to why the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and other fronts of the Parivar stood idle like the army of Mir Zaffar. BJP supports have genuine concern about efficacy of the president Gadkari and other small time party satraps. Kathan, Manthan and Chintan go on, but no butter is churned out from the minds of the old fogies.
UP election has brought out a new trend in Indian political scene. Marginalization of the two major national parties is palpably visible. Old tricks of Congress- divide & rule, segmenting and sub-segmenting the castes, pandering to minority have failed. BJP’s Hindutwa slogan suffered serious erosion. It has failed to connect with major castes, religious communities and failed to erase the stamp of “communal and non-secular” party assigned to it by the so-called secular parties. All other parties in India are hyped as “secular” except the BJP. It is depicted as anti-Muslim. Even the BJP does not point out that by accepting the constitutional safeguards provided to the minorities the BJP has suo moto accepted the principle of India being a multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-racial country. Hindu rhetoric is not likely to work in near future.
It is not only the BJP or RSS which cause communal riots. Communal riots are an Indian reality dating back to 1714 (Ahmedabad- readers may like to read my book: Battle Ground India-Prognosis of Hindu-Muslim Exclusivism). There are recorded proofs that Congress, RJD, SP and other parties were equally responsible for communal riots. Communal riots do not originate, normally, from religious differences. It mainly originated from economic, commercial and other reasons. Unfortunately, Congress and the Left had succeeded in branding the Hindus as communal. BJP is not the only Hindu organization. There are Hindus in all parties. All of them, sometime or other get involve in rioting. How will BJP wash out this stigma? The Party has to introspect. It has to clear the situation to common Indians. Congress’, Communist’s, TMC’s, SP’s, RJD’s minorityism is communal in nature. This requires explaining to the people. BJP has done very little in this direction.
Besides erosion suffered by the national parties another trend “rise of regional forces” has started taking shape. The days of monolithic Congress ruling the waves have gone; the BJP appeared as a sudden surge. The religion based surge has abated. Congress is gradually fading away to memory and BJP is yet to find out which rope they want to hold to return to political limelight. That politics in India is gradually, but surely transcending caste, class, Jati and Varna is palpably visible. However, it may take ages for the Indians to jump out of the Blackhole of millennium old social garbages. The voters are more conscious about corruption, economic progress, employment and greater connectivity between urban and rural growth. To some extent the Muslim voters have started maturing. They do not line up like flock of sheep behind the Congress, perceiving as the messiah of the minorities. These are positive developments. Political power is now more related to good governance. People are not moved by the name of Gandhi or Ghandy.
Another distinct contour is emerging out of the rejection of Congress and BJP in UP elections. Rise of the regional parties has brightened the prospect of emergence of a third front or “federated united front” in the Centre. The previous concept of Congress leading UPA I, UPA II and possibly innumerable UPAs has become redundant. In a possible midterm election to the parliament or in 2014 elections there is hardly any possibility of Congress bagging 205 seats. BJP’s 116 may marginally improve. But the parties like SP, BSP, JD-U, BJD, TMC, AIADMK, Left Front, Shiv Sena and NCP are likely to increase their kitty considerably. Under both the scenarios (midterm poll or 2014 poll) Congress does not have even the outside chance of leading another UPA. The new UPA may be headed by a regional leader (Say Jayalalitha, Nitish Kumar or Mamata) with Congress as a supporting faction.
Let us have look at the possible line up:
JD (U), 20 MPs: Nitish Kumar faces no serious challenge from RJD and towers over partner BJP. He did well in the last Lok Sabha elections and is confident of doing better. Hopes to be a PM candidate if BJP fails to get the numbers
TMC, 19 MPs: Mamata is working for a non-Congress, non-BJP pressure group. Wishes to stay in UPA but wants to translate her political domination of Bengal into a larger number of LS seats. She will prefer midterm poll.
BJP, 114 MPs: Not fully ready because of its poor showing in UP and fear of backlash in Karnataka. Serious corrective actions in MP and Karnatak are on the anvil. But feels it can ride current anti-Cong mood and take a shot at power in Centre
SP, 22 MPs: After the big win in UP, Mulayam would want leverage at Centre. Feels SP can grab a lion’s share of UP’s 80 Lok Sabha seats
BJD, 14 MPs: Naveen Patnaik’s main adversary Cong suffers credibility deficit and Naveen may want to cash the opportunity by going in for early polls
Shiv Sena, 11 MPs: Hurting due to Raj Thackeray’s rebellion, but wins in municipal elections have bolstered its confidence. May bank on Cong’s incumbency for better show in urban areas
AIADMK, 9 MPs: Jayalalithaa routed DMK in 2011 and hopes to increase her LS tally in an early poll, before anti-incumbency kicks in. Also keen to have a say at Centre
NCP, 9 MPs: Sharad Pawar is open to other alignments if Cong fails to muster numbers. He can fancy his chances in an early election
TDP, 6 MPs: Chandrababu Naidu would like to challenge Cong at its weakest because of Jagan Reddy’s revolt, hoping that this time he will exploit Cong’s double incumbency
Akali Dal, 4 MPs: With Cong defeated and demoralized, Akalis stand to gain if polls are held now rather than later by when the euphoria over its comeback may ebb
JD(S), 3 MPs: Deve Gowda feels BJP’s problems with Yeddyurappa and alliance with Cong may make him a power player in Karnataka. But he may not act independently of the Congress.
JMM, 2 MPs: Running a stable coalition with BJP, JMM may go along with the saffron outfit
TRS, 2 MPs: Early poll suits its statehood demand. In coalition with BJP or TDP it can boost its numbers and make stronger pitch for Telangana
AGP, Haryana Janhit Cong & YSR Cong, 1 MP each: These regional outfits reckon that they can improve their tally in an early poll.
There is visible reluctance of the Left combine to go for midterm poll. They realize that Mamata is still popular amongst the masses. They prefer to wait her credibility to wane and reorganize their own demoralized party cadres.
However, the arrogant, dictatorial functioning and trampling on the rims of federalism by the Congress is likely to be contained. It is busy in wooing Mulayam and cementing bonds with SP. While Mulayam may be lured to accept an important cabinet post (Defense) and two more junior minister’s post, Mamata is not likely to lower her guard. For Mulayam it may be a strategic step towards consolidating his position in Delhi. He has been a longtime Congress collaborator. The scenario may become clear soon, as Sonia Ghandy and her emissaries are busy running between Delhi and Lucknow. Most political analysts think the Swan Song of the Ghandy family has started. We shall wait for the requiem.