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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 23 New Delhi May 25, 2019

Hyper-Nationalism Records Victory

Sunday 26 May 2019

COMMENTARY

The BJP/NDA alliance has stormed back to power with flying colours, belying all the expectations of a fragmented Opposition to be within striking distance of power. Undoubtedly, Pulwama and Balakot were effectively exploited by Narendra Modi in the penultimate stage of the election campaign to whip up hyper-nationalism to a pitch where all inconvenient issues for the NDA Government—unemployment, loss of jobs, farmers’ distress, rural indebtedness, demonetisation, GST and Rafale—became of secondary importance to the electorate.

There are two other factors which have to be taken serious note of. First, there is no denying the fact that the highly polarising propaganda carried on by the BJP and other organisations of the Sangh Parivar during the past five years has been successful to a great extent. The “otherisation” of the Muslims has been most manifest in the Hindi belt. The “soft Hindutva” line pursued by the Congress had no chance of success before the relentless assault of hard Hindutva.

Secondly, it has to be recognised that Narendra Modi has been able to build a larger-than-party image of himself—an image that Atal Behari Vajpayee acquired for himself during the first NDA rule. Many people voted for the BJP then because they wanted to vote for Vajpayee. Though Modi is a very different personality, he has been able to project a “macho” image of himself which has surpassed that of the BJP. Many voted for the BJP because they were swayed by Modi’s campaign speeches that “every vote for BJP will go straight into my account”.

In Delhi, the splitting of votes between the Congress and Aam Admi Party helped the BJP win all the seven seats—something that could and should have been avoided by them by being more accommodative of each other’s demands.

In West Bengal, the BJP has made massive inroads—18 out of 42, against just two last time. The votes the BJP polled were largely negative and to a small extent positive. The negative vote was an expression of intense aversion for Mamata Banerjee and Trinamul Congress—Mamata for her perceived impression of being a Muslim “appeaser” and the TMC because of indulging in the same vices that the CPI-M acquired during 34 years of Left Front rule.

The CPI-M can certainly take “credit” for swinging a large percentage of Left votes to the BJP. The CPI-M campaign line was that its main battle was against the BJP at the Centre and against the TMC in Bengal. The TMC had to be defeated and dislodged from power anyhow. Since the Left voters knew full well that the CPI-M cannot defeat the TMC, they voted en masse for the BJP. The result is that the CPI-M failed to open an account in Bengal. It has drawn blank. For the first time since 1952, there will be no Left representative from Bengal in the Lok Sabha. The CPI-M seems bent on liquidating itself.

An unmistakable feature in West Bengal this time is the fact that the TMC has won in seats having a high concentration of minorities.

The path ahead is strewn with difficulties. The secular Opposition led by the Congress will have to wage a consistent and unremitting ideological-political struggle against communal fascism, against the divisive policies that the BJP is pursuing overtly and covertly. There is one silver lining, though. The BJP’s influence is still limited to the Hindi belt in the North. It has not been able to strike root in the South. The results of voting in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana underline that fact.

Full unity of all the Opposition parties may never be possible. There will always be people like Naveen Patnaik who cannot see beyond Odisha and prefers to take a non-committal position and wait till a new government is formed at the Centre, then bargain with it to get a better deal for Odisha. India does not figure in his political thinking. Then there are others with inflated egos who agree to join an alliance only if their claim to prime ministership is conceded. The task of unifying and consolidating secular-democratic parties, organisations and individuals falls squarely on the shoulders of the Congress.

May 23 B.D.G.

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