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Mainstream, VOL52, No. 22, May 24, 2014

Behind Modi-led BJP’s Spectacular Performance

Friday 23 May 2014, by SC


Almost a week has passed since the results of the 16th Lok Sabha elections came out causing a veritable political earthquake in secular democratic India. It was a massive anti-Congress wave, an inevitable fallout of outgoing PM Manmohan Singh’s disastrous economic policies, that was capitalised to the hilt by the principal Opposition party in Parliament, the BJP, or rather by its prime ministerial aspirant, Narendra Modi, who must be credited with having consequently choreographed his party’s spectacular success without parallel at the hustings, winning as many as 282 seats (and the NDA it led getting 336 seats) whereas the Congress had to suffer its most ignominious defeat in post-indepen-dence India (having managed to secure a paltry 44 in the 543-member Lower House of Parliament, and the combination it headed, the UPA’s 59).

The poll outcome is bound to be analysed threadbare for quite sometime now that it is clear that the sweep and scale of the BJP’s landslide victory (it is the only non-Congress party to have ever recorded absolute majority on its own in the Lok Sabha) and the Congress’ humiliating defeat were essentially due to the fragmentation of the secular—anti- or non-BJP—votes. In a sense it is quite bizarre that the nation would now be ruled by a party (the BJP) which has managed to garner a mere 31 per cent votes across the country—the lowest vote-share till today by any party that has won a majority of seats in Parliament’s Lower House—whereas the Congress with a 19.3 per cent vote-share (more than what the second largest party, the BJP, had bagged in 2009, that is, 18.8 per cent) coud get only 44 seats. What is more striking is the performence of the BSP. The party had 20 seats from UP in Parliament in 2009; this time it failed to win a single seat in the Lok Sabha. And yet not only did it collect 7.22 lakh votes more than in 2009, it increased its vote-share in 46 seats in the State including 12 it had won last time. Not only that. It ranks third in terms of vote-share (4.1 per cent) and it came second in 34 of the 80 seats in the State. These figures cannot possibly be ignored. But since the first-past-the-post system gives primacy to the seats bagged by any party, its performance can be regarded as dismal though in reality it is not so.

The BJP is naturally in an upbeat mood following its incredible victory (exemplified by its success in as many as 73 of the 80 seats in UP). This seemingly unrivalled achievement has been at the root of the smooth manner in which Modi was able to get his successor as the Gujarat CM—Anandiben Patel—elected to the post without any hitch even if there were other claimants for the office of the head of the State Government (after all, Anandiben was handpicked by Modi himself). At the other end, the Congress is crestfallen to such an extent that for the first time some persons within the organisation are mustering courage and strength to speak up against Rahul Gandhi’s advisers if not Rahul as a political leader; yet the offers of Sonia and Rahul to relinquish their posts of President and Vice-President of the party were instantly rejected by members of the Congress Working Committee that met on May 19 for stocktaking after the electoral rout. Interestingly, Rahul is reported to have told the CWC: “I headed this campaign, it is my responsibility... I should set an example of accountability and be the first to quit.” But this offer and that of Sonia were dismissed by party loyalists who said the party would disintegrate if the Gandhi family left and a member observed that Sonia’s resignation would only help realise Modi’s dream of a “Congress-free India”. This has evoked derision in sections of the media, and rightly so. The Left leaders remaining in their respective posts with a casual ‘business-as-usual’ attitude too has been mocked at by the media in general since such a behaviour comes soon after their complete debacle at the hustings. But then the Left leaders—not the Left parties or their ideology—are barely taken seriously these days since their views do not matter much in today’s scenario and they have, by their actions and deeds, largely turned themselves into subjects of ridicule.

It is in this backdrop that JD(U) leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s decision to quit office taking moral responsibility for the party’s debacle in the polls (it won two seats as against the BJP-led alliance’s 30 out of 40 seats in Bihar) has been widely acclaimed. That he eventually did not bow to his colleagues’ pressure not to quit has elevated his stature in the State and people have come to realise that in politics there are still some for whom ideology and principles take precedence over petty, selfish interests of power and pelf. And his appointment of a Mahadalit leader, Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was the SC/ST Welfare Minister under Nitish, as the next CM of the State has been hailed as a masterstroke when the BJP is going all out to dislodge the JD(U) Ministry. In this setting the RJD’s announcement of backing the JD(U) Govern-ment during the confidence vote in the State Assembly assumes considerable significance as the first concrete step towards secular unity in the face of the Hindutva upsurge following Modi’s phenomenal rise to power which has sent shock waves among the minorities at large.

A self-proclaimed chaiwallah assuming the office of the PM in South Block (he is to be sworn-in on Monday, May 26, in a grand ceremony at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan for which leaders of our neighbouring states in the SAARC have been invited—doubtless a welcome initiative on the part of the PM-designate for which he merits kudos) is definitely noteworthy. But is he an ordinary chaiwallah bereft of any close association with the RSS? And would his storming into the PMO through the democratic process have been possible without the generous funding of his campaign overdrive by the country’s leading corporates? These questions cannot be overlooked in any discussion intended to dissect the reasons behind the Modi-led BJP’s spectacular performance in the elections to the 16th Lok Sabha.

May 22 S.C.