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Mainstream, VOL LX No 13, New Delhi, March 19, 2022

BJP is not invincible | Faraz Ahmad

Friday 18 March 2022, by Faraz Ahmad

Contrary to the invincibility of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) being projected by the mainstream media, Hindutva and communal polarisation being its magic mantra, the 2022 election results demonstrate how a little advance preparation and strategizing by the Opposition could easily turn the tables on the Hindutva brigade. And therefore this could well be a signal for the Opposition parties to prepare for the main 2024 national battle without losing heart and time.

Imagine in this situation Jayant in alliance with Akhilesh, defeated Hindutva show boys Sangeet Som, Suresh Rana and Sanjeev Balyan’s confidant Umesh Malik to RLD’s Muslim candidate also ensured SP candidate Atul Pradhan’s victory against BJP’s Pradeep Chaudhry in Sadabad, Hathras. This was unimaginable for the BJP till very recently.

In fact 11 sitting ministers of Yogi Adityanath lost to the SP and its alliance partners, including some of the BJP citadels. First foremost loser was Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya who lost in his home turf Sirathu, in Allahabad vicinity, to Pallavi Patel the elder sister of Union Minister Anupriya Patel on the Apna Dal (Sonelal) ticket, an ally of the SP.

Sugarcane minister and Hindutva icon since the Muzaffarnagar communal carnage, Suresh Rana lost to Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Muslim candidate Ashraf Ali Khan in Shamli. Also, Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar lost to Ataur Rehman of SP in Baheri seat of Bareilly. Rajendra Pratap Singh, alias Moti Singh was defeated by SP’s Ram Singh in Patti in Pratapgarh district; Chandrika Prasad Upadhyay lost to Anil Kumar in Chitrakoot; Anand Swaroop Shukla lost to Jai Prakash Anchal in Bariya of Ballia district.

Additionally, UP Sports minister Upendra Tiwari lost the Phephna seat again in Ballia to Sangram Singh of SP. Lakhan Singh Rajput was defeated Pradeep Kumar Yadav in Dibiyapur in Auriaiya district. Education minister Satish Chandra Dwivedi lost to Mata Prasad Pande of SP in Itawah seat of Jaswantnagar; Sangeeta Balwant was defeated by Jai Kishan of Samajwadi Party and finally Ranvendra Singh Dhunni lost to Usha Maurya of SP in Husaingunj of Fatehpur district.

The non-embedded media was regularly showing how the BJP MLAs and ministers were unpopular with the people for never turning up in their constituency after their victory and were therefore finding it difficult to enter back to seek votes. These defeats of a whole lot of BJP ministers cutting across castes and regions, disprove the media claims of the popularity of BJP among the people at large.

Also, BJP won 7 seats with a difference of 200 votes; 23 with a difference of 500 votes; 49 with a difference of 1000 votes and 86 with a difference of 2000 votes. The presence of Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlise Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) candidates’ presence seems to have ensured BJP victory on many of these seats.

However it is evident that had the Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav not laid in his lair almost till the election bugle was blown, and was seen to be moving among the people throughout the series of crises including the pandemic and like Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) president Jayant Chaudhary had publicly made common cause with the agitating farmers, the anti-BJP voter may have endeared to him with greater enthusiasm and they could have even swept the first phase. Also ihad Akhilesh been on the move throughout, the three non-Yadav Other Backward Caste (OBC) leaders/ministers like Swami Prasad Maurya, Dharam Singh Saini and Dara Singh Chauhan in the government of Yogi Adityanath who were fed up with the chief minister’s blatant ‘Thakurwad’, might have made up their mind well in time to leave the BJP and prepared their core caste constituency to vote against the BJP. But the Samajwadi tempo built only around the time when the Election Commission announced the poll schedule, leaving very little time for these leaders to prevail upon their followers to follow suit as well.

Once out in the field, Akhilesh no doubt acted with tremendous foresight and stitched up the best alliances taking along, important OBC and MBC leaders which accounted for three-fold jump in the seats he won against the BJP. Such enthusiastic response to his rallies and public meetings demonstrated, no doubt a desire of the people for a change. But the core constituencies which voted the BJP to power in 2017, remained largely unmoved. Add to that the BJP government’s ability to manipulate the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) which was noted by the EC as it suspended certain officers indulging in moving around machines from strong rooms in crucial constituencies. This when the SP workers and supporters sat on a 24-hour vigil throughout one month from the first day of polling—10 February to March 10.

On the other hand the Congress party led by Priyanka Gandhi focussed too much on UP, little realising that without a core vote, however hard she worked, there was no scope for the Congress to capture UP notwithstanding the catchy slogan “Ladki hoon, lad sakti hoon’. Again had she had discreet or open understanding with Akhilesh, her score card might have been far better.

Instead had she and Rahul concentrated with full attention more on Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa, they wouldn’t have had to experience such loss of face. Again as the results proved, their decision to replace an ageing Maharaj Amarinder Singh of Patiala was totally justified and I would say even the choice of a Dalit Charanjit Singh Channi to lead the party to the elections was correct. But for one, this should have been taken much in advance and the new entrant and a bit of trouble maker Navjot Singh Sidhu should have been asked to sit out and wait for a while. Third, anyone from Punjab would tell you that Punjab’s Sikh-Hindu population ratio is 60:40. And Hindus have traditionally been Congress voters. So is the case with the Dalits (both Sikh and Hindu Dalits).

Till this round of elections Punjab politics has been dominated by Jat Sikhs and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) or Akali Dal led for decades now by the 94-year-old Parkash Singh Badal, the face of Akali Dal, who too lost, probably for the first time in his entire political career. When the Akali Dal aligned with the BJP it managed to get some Hindu votes. Once or twice in alliance with the BSP it managed to partially dent the Dalit vote too. Similarly in alliance with the Akali Dal, the BJP could appeal to the urban Hindus of Punjab that it stood some chance at the hustings and therefore without the Akali support the BJP is zilch in Punjab. So no surprise that it scored a big Zero even in alliance with Amarinder. In fact it dragged down the Maharaja as well. Without the BJP Amarinder might have won at least his own seat. Anyway the point is that had the Congress not humiliated and jettisoned its Hindu leaders Sunil Jakhar, Manish Tewari and Ashwani Kumar, it wouldn’t have faced such a humiliating defeat. It is for the Congress leadership to foresee it then and amend the situation immediately now.

Soon enough the elections to Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh are on the horizon and there are factional problems in these two states too, the only ones where the Congress now rules. If the Congress does not set its house in order in these two states without losing time, Amit Shah’s plans of making a Congress-mukt Bharat may not be in the realm of a mere fantasy. For instance Sachin Pilot may not be strong enough to overthrow chief minister Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, but without his active and enthusiastic participation, the chances of BJP returning to power in 2023 look very likely. Same is true of Chhatisgarh too.

As for Behen Mayawati, she has proved to be most distrustful, evidently directing her committed voter towards the BJP. Both the BJP and the SP gained from the disillusionment of the Dalits with Mayawati’s disinclination to confront the BJP all these years since the 2009 general elections. But because of her visible tilt towards the BJP, the major share was cornered by the BJP. Those continuing to perceive Akhilesh as a Yadav chieftain turned to the BJP. Some politically conscious and aware of BJP’s Manuwadi designs, preferred the SP. Now that Behenji has lost it, it is for Akhilesh to work hard to win over the Dalits, disabusing their minds of the fear of Yadavs and OBCs and project a visible Dalit leader from his party. Wonder where leaders like Ramji Lal Suman have disappeared or eclipsed? Perhaps getting Chandra Shekhar Azad to his side may help Akhilesh win over the Dalits. Imagine BJP winning Hathras even when the parents of that hapless victim of gangrape and brutal murder allegedly by the Thakurs of her village, remain ostracised and fearful of Thakurs. Behenji paid not a single visit to the poor family, leave alone offering them any solace or protection. Nor did Akhilesh. Only Jayant and Rahul made the effort. That’s why Amit Shah expressed his admiration for her and she in turn expressed her gratitude. One thing the Opposition leaders ought to learn from Amit Shah as some analyst pointed out. Even before these election results were out, Amit Shah was in Agartala with Tripura chief minister planning and strategizing for Tripura polls. The Opposition leaders too have to move with the same speed without wasting a minute. But can we actually shake them up, at least now?

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