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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 39, September 20, 2014

Electorate’s Rebuff to Communal Extremism

Monday 22 September 2014, by SC


The results of the just-concluded State Assembly by-elections have rattled the BJP. Of the 29 seats that went to polls, the BJP won 12, SP eight, Congress seven and others four. But what was most significant, the ruling party at the Centre lost 13 of the 23 seats it held in UP, Rajasthan and Gojarat, the three States (besides Madhya Pradesh and Bihar) which had enabled it to win an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha polls last May. As The Times of India correctly pointed out, it was a “stunning jolt” to the BJP having been routed in UP (winning only three of the 11 seats where voting took place) and Rajasthan (where it could register a solitary win in the four seats that went to the polls). Of course, it was able to retain its hold over Gujarat but here too the Congress snatched three of the nine seats where voting took place). Even in West Bengal, where it was able to enter the State Assembly for the first time after 15 years by winning one seat, its margin of victory in the relevent constituency came down heavily from 27,000 votes in the Lok Sabha elections to just 1586 this time (whereas the TMC won in the other seat by over 14,000 votes, while the Left candidates forfeited their security deposits in both the seats). Only in Assam was its margin of victory most convincing in the only seat it won; and even if it had to share honours with the Congress and AUDF (all three won a seat each) its percentage of votes (34.4) was higher than that of both the Congress (33.7) and AUDF (27.9).

In the 11 seats in UP, the BJP’s reversals were most striking. The hate propaganda, manifest in venomous attacks on minorities and the infamous concept of ‘love-jehad’, spearheaded by the party’s star campaigner Yogi Adityanath, literally backfired—or else it could not have won just three seats. There was yet another point: this time the secular votes did not split with the BSP opting out of the race just as the Congress also did not contest.

In Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje’s non- or mis-governance has boomeranged while young and dynamic Congress MP Sachin Pilot’s strenuous campaign at the grassroots has paid off.

Communal polarisation has failed to click in the Hindi heartland. In fact the efforts towards that end on the part of the BJP led to consolidation of the Muslim votes behind the force most capable of defeating it. Now in the polls for the State Assemblies due in a few months’ time, the BJP has decided to project Modi’s image rather than rely on the party’s local campaigners whose extremist approach alienated the voters. Amit Shah’s ‘magic’ could not work this time. But the most eqestion is: did the communal extremism of Shah and Adityanath not enjoy Modi’s patronage? So the media, which is playing up the PM’s ‘development’ plank, needs to take a hard look at Modi’s politics.

Overall, however, the electorate has rebuffed communal extremism. That indeed is a heartening develpment for which the secular democratic forces must be complimented, Nevertheless there is no question of their resting on their oars and lowering their guard. For the problems for them are bound to mount in the days ahead.

September 18 S.C.