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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 40, September 27, 2014

UP By-elections are a Lesson for BJP

Sunday 28 September 2014

by Vivek Kumar Srivastava

The recent by-elections are a reminder to the BJP that all is not well with it. The honeymoon period being enjoyed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is finally over. The defeats in these by-elections are in a series. From Uttarakhand to Bihar to Uttar Pradesh and other States show that the BJP has failed to maintain the fund of goodwill the people generated during the Lok Sabha elections.

The by-elections in UP are important as a case study to understand the shift in the voters’ loyalty. The elections in UP were managed by the BJP with an approach of heightening the sentiments of the people. Yogi Adityanath in fact destroyed the credibility of the BJP among the educated Hindu class. His utterances also helped the Muslim votes to consolidate as a reaction. For many, he emerged as a key figure in the expression of the BJP ideology. The other BJP State leaders were put in the background. He was presented as the leader of the election campaign of the BJP in the State but his appearance did the same damage which was caused by the politics of appeasement and low-quality speeches with personal attacks by the Congress leaders during the last parliamentary elections.

The mistake was compounded by the analysis by the BJP policy-makers that Amit Shah was the main instrument of ensuring the extraordinary tally of seats for the BJP in the Lok sabha elections. It is a great mistake on the part of the BJP think-tanks that this view has been accepted that he was responsible for the BJP’s spectacular victory in UP. That happened because of the Modi wave, produced due to the multiple follies of the ruling UPA at the Centre. Amit Shah only helped to channelise that wave in the right direction by controlling the city leaders who were silenced effectively. This albeit helped the BJP to prevent the infighting. The by-elections saw the decline of Amit Shah. He must realise that politics of polarisation is to be minimised if the BJP wants to regain power in the State.

The overturn in the fortunes of the SP is also astonishing. This is a well-planned affair. In fact after the rout in the last parliamentary elections, the Akhilesh Yadav Government went into a pensive mood. His government took certain important decisions. He is now more focused on the infrastructure development project. Metro is a dream project for which assessment in major cities is underway. Those schemes have been discontinued which did not bring any substantial results. The Samajwadi Pension Yojana has been launched with much focus on the downtrodden citizens. This scheme has attracted the attention of the poor people. The scenario for the SP is that it is in a mood for change. Governance has been re-emphasised by the top leaders, including Mulayam Singh who after the loss in the parliamentary elections, has taken note of this fact and given more emphasis on good governance. The vote-bank of Muslims for the SP remains intact due to the government’s political and policy-based inclination towards the community to provide them all possible help and facilities. The only need for the party will be to manage this inclination so that it is not converted into appeasement as happened with the Congress in the last elections; otherwise the same fate awaits the SP in the next legislative elections which are not too for away.

There is also a message for the Congress: that it needs to nurture its local network in the State. The Congress has given a thought towards the cadre-based establishment of the party organi-sation, an impressive idea which was voiced by Mohan Dharia about four decades back. The Congress’ revival is much dependent upon this structure. The party has become completely fossilised with no new thinking at least in the State. This needs to be changed. Another major mistake which the party has committed in the past is to cooperate with regional parties in State politics. This has restricted the growth of the party. It will have to learn that individual existence is necessary to remain relevant in State politics. National parties lose more when they align with regional parties in the States. The Congress’ decline in UP and Tamil Nadu proves this. If it collaborates with the SP or others, it will lose its relevance in the minds of the voters. The patriarch of the party in the state, Narayan Dutt Tiwari, in the halycon days of the Congress in the 1980s, had warned Rajiv Gandhi on this score when the latter had given a thought to it.

The BSP too seems to be in disarray. It is yet to discard its self-imposed thought that its vote-share is intact. It believes that no party can take away its vote-share. This is a folly of the modern-day political parties in the developing countries that they believe that they have the sole right on their own vote-banks. They perhaps forget that the new generation of voters is in abundance everywhere in the country. The new segment of voters is more decisive, less ideologically committed and more pragmatic in taking the decisions when the issue of casting of votes comes. The Congress also lived with this mindset for a long period of time and finally was woken up by the harsh reality. The BSP too needs to rethink about its performance in the State.

The astonishing point in this respect is that the BJP too seems to have fallen prey to this psyche. The BJP had thought that the Lok Sabha magic of Modi will continue and polarisation of the vote strategy will help the boat to sail but the results have sent a serious message to it that Modi’s influence is on wane. If it has to succeed in the next election in the State, it needs to reconfigurate its policies and programmes. In this respect two events have dented the image of Modi in the State albeit a little. His reluctance to speak in favour of the UPSC Hindi medium students who had confronted the UPSC on the issue of the CSAT papers in Civil Services examination disenchanted many. Most of the Hindi medium students had come from UP but they received no support from him in this matter.

The other issue relates to Narendra Modi’s interaction with students and speech on the Teacher’s Day when teachers and the middle class took it as a propaganda. Students thought that their day of respecting their teacher was shortened. It also caused problems to many parents as the time of the speech did not favour them. These developments have remained unrecognised but have dented his image in small measure.

Though he still enjoys the support of a large section of the society, his decline has been set in motion. The losses of the BJP in the by-elections do not suggest that it has fully lost on the political front because by-elections are never a real manifestation of the dynamics of national politics but in UP, like in other States, these show that the BJP is not on the right track. It needs to rethink its plans for the State. The SP has learnt from its mistakes. The BJP too will have to do so.

Dr Vivek Kumar Srivastava is the Vice-Chairman, CSSP, Kanpur. He can be contacted at vpy1000@yahoo.co.in