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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 9 - 10, February 25 & March 4, 2023

Assembly polls: Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo call resonated | Faraz Ahmad

Saturday 25 February 2023, by Faraz Ahmad


The media trumpets notwithstanding, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has nothing much to celebrate the March 3 results of three north eastern states and a couple of bye elections in other states.

The media is only crying hoarse over the Congress losses in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland, implying that Rahul Gandhi’s over 4000 kilometres Padyatra (walk) across 12 states against hate campaign of the BJP or the expose of Adani stock market scam of humungous proportions spread globally, mae no difference to people’s pro-Modi, pro-saffronisation mood.

But that is just half the truth. For one, almost all the north-eastern states have, for decades, been mere occupied territories of the Indian states, with abnormally large posse of armed forces stationed there to administer these sparsely populated vassal states, with an iron hand. Therefore over the years we have seen mostly retired army or police officers as Governors or Lt Governors behaving like Viceroys of the ruling party at the Centre and therefore , whichever party rules at the Centre also gets its proxies elected as the rulers of most of these states. To the extent that when the Samata Party led by George Fernandes was in Atal Bihari led NDA government in 1999-2004 it managed to foist its candidate Radhabinod Koijam as the chief minister in Manipur.

And yet it is evident that had it not been for the third force TIPRA splitting the tribal vote bank, the BJP might not even have scraped through after ruling the state for five years. TIPRA leader Pradyot Manikya Deb Barman has served the BJP same way in this election as Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlise Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) did in Mithilanchal in the Bihar Assembly elections of 2020. The complaints to the Election Commission about Central officials and forces aiding the ruling BJP vidsibly fell on deaf years and why not? These forces are directly under the command and control of the Election Commission whose pro BJP bias, the less said the better after the Supreme Court itself has implicitly put its stamp of disapproval over the expected objectivity of this crucial institution.

In our present-day world the lynching and burning alive of two Haryana boys Junaid and Nasir by so-called Cow vigilantes, with a colluding Haryana police force on Haryana-Rajasthan border travelled fast enough to Meghalaya and Nagaland as well. In Meghalaya, with a predominant Christian population, the state BJP president Ernst Mawire had to clarify that not only does he consume beef regularly but cows like pigs are taken to the slaughter house every day. Despite that, the BJP slyly took a back seat. But soon as the results came, rushed to join the NPP led government through the backdoor. In Nagaland the BJP-led Union government has been negotiating with Isaac Muivah led separatist Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland, comprising the Naga Christian para military group, to join the mainstream. But perhaps on account of BJP’s real communal face, the group has still not come around. In fact the Baptist Church warned the people of Nagaland against the BJP’s communal agenda. Yet the BJP in alliance with the Nationalist Democratic People’s Party (NDPP) defeated the Naga People’s Front (NPF). Naturally then, the Sanghi digital media outfit Swarajyamag gloated how the “Church veto had no impact in Nagaland and Meghalaya”.

Be that as it may, the general trend in most bye elections has been retention of the seats already won, specially if the party re-contesting a seat in by-polls also happens to rule the state, like the BJP in Maharashtra or the Trinamul Congress in Bengal. In Maharashtra the Congress won a surprising victory in Pune district’s Kasba Peth where the women stated on camera that they voted the Congress to defeat the divisive communal politics of the BJP. It is also apparent that the other Pune seat of Chinchwad too the BJP might not have succeeded in retaining against the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) but for a Udhav Shiv Sena fellow Rahul Kalate jumping in and dividing the anti BJP vote. This was the first election after the BJP coup last year of splitting the Shiv Sena and bringing down the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of SS, Congress and NCP of Sharad Pawar through apparent corruption, deceit and collusion of the then Governor of Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshiyari. And evidently the Maharashtrians don’t seem to have taken kindly to the Fadnavis-Shinde coup. Pune was once the citadel of the Congress party. But since Suresh Kalmadi was jailed and expelled from the Congress party, it had become a BJP fortress. In sofar as that it showed some impact for sure of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Padyatra.

The other significant victory for the Congress party was in Bengal where Congress nominee Byron Biswas defeated convincingly Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress candidate. This victory of the Congress in a predominantly Muslim dominated constituency is akin to what happened not so long ago in the Municipal elections in Delhi, where all the nine Congress candidates won from Muslim dominated areas. While the communal bias of the Modi led BJP government is self-evident not just vis a vis the Muslims, but in respect of Christians as well when the BJP goons vandalised a book stall against free distribution of Bible at the World Book Fair, 2023 currently underway at Modi’s rebuilt Pragati Maidan of Delhi. Even the Sikhs are not free from BJP’s communal assaults, though much less in intensity. But public lynching is restricted only for Muslims be it on the pretext of ‘Goraksha’ or ‘Love Jihad’ and therefore Muslims are most concerned about seeing the back of the BJP. So whoever they see committed and capable of fighting the BJP honestly, they naturally gravitate towards the same force. Kejriwal benefitted from it in the first week of February 2020 assembly elections. But within days when the Sanghi brigade with a collusive Delhi Police force singled out and killed and lynched Muslims, Kejriwal was nowhere in sight to stand by them. Instead he did not even defend his party corporators and leaders falsely implicated by the Delhi Police to teach the Muslims a lesson for holding a peaceful protest dharnas against the CAA-NRC assault by MoSha government.

Similarly the Muslims of Bengal have been observing the antiques of Mamata Banerjee whom the Congress and Left voters voted overwhelmingly in the 2021 assembly polls only to defeat the BJP. But since then, perhaps on account of numerous cases of corruption slapped against her party men including her close relatives, Mamata seems to have come under pressure and does not appear as sincere and committed to fight the BJP as say Rahul Gandhi demonstrated through his Bharat Jodo Yatra.

It is of course too early and these are merely stray straws in the wind, but these two Congress victories I personally would credit to Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra.

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