The State elections 2022 have elements of surprise, feeling of relief, introspection for the Opposition, diminution of smaller parties and a question whether 2024 Lok Sabha would be a cakewalk for the BJP or counter a new challenge. It is naïve to believe that the personal benefits motivate more for voting a party than a focus on national economy. The path to 2024 can possibly be replicated through sound economic progress, less of privatisation, stable rupee and emancipation that can boost the pride of individual voters – a new order.
The BJP and allies reclaim Uttar Pradesh with reduced mandate than 2017 tally of 325 with 41 per cent vote; unexpectedly trounce Congress in Uttarakhand though its Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami loses despite replacing three Chief Ministers in quick succession; and retain Manipur and Goa. The Congress loses the remaining glory. The Samajwadi Party may not have been that powerful in dislodging but certainly has broken barriers to cut BJP numbers.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) springs the greatest surprise and shock for the political community bagging 92 of the 117 Punjab Assembly seats rummaging established contenders. The political tsunami of its leader Arvind Kejriwal started with Chandigarh Union Territory’s local body. In Punjab, AAP demolishes all traditional political powers. It is likely to emerge as a major contender in the ensuing Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections. The move for reunifying three MCDs into one is credited to the rise of the AAP. His rise is a challenge to the entire privileged political class.
It complicates comprehension of the electoral mood. The electorate has gone through a period of turbulence, difficulties, social tension on account of three farmers’ bills, Citizenship Amendment Act 2019, demonetisation, GST, marginalisation of SMEs, an acute pandemic that sent at least over 12 crore people trekking back to their homes and Ganga delta dead bodies. It follows severe stagflationary situation, with food, edible oil and commodity prices reaching new highs.
The Samajwadi Party’s 32.05 per cent vote share denotes the simmering anger, but Akhilesh Yadav has to come out of his caste cloak to look to new realities in a changing Indian society. The caste engineering of Akhilesh apparently did not work wonders.
The difficult economic pangs are forgiven not forgotten by the soothing new M-Y – Modi-Yogi touch. Or are the people just giving up their comforts for the sake of ration, saashan and prsashan – food dole and the administrative approach or is it just being “labharthi” (beneficiary) – free benefits, housing, pension and cash doles alleging loyalty to the “namak” (salt)?
Difficult questions alright, but the electorate possibly believing that the BJP dispensation can do better throws its plank with it. This leads the Opposition to raise accusations to the extent of expressing doubts over the mandate. That the contest was too close is testified by an array of seats being won or lost by hundreds to thousand votes symbolised by UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya’s loss to Pallavi Patel, Apna Dal founder Sonelal Patel’s daughter, almost like a game of see-saw. The likes of Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan who quit the BJP bite the dust but Apna Dal daughters Anupriya Patel and Pallavi Patel despite in opposing camps could have their kill.
The BJP leaders Modi-Yogi’s sharp assault on SP’s love for minority could not prevent 35 Muslims getting elected to the UP Assembly under a Hindu leader Akhilesh against 24 in 2017. Now it is also being claimed that poorest minority labharhis with a house, gas cylinder and free food, tended by the Rashtriya Muslim Morcha (RMM) of RSS executive member Indresh Kumar have sailed with the saffron. So have Christians, including the Nagas, in Manipur and South Goa due to the efforts of Indresh Kumar.
The minorities despite business relationship with the majority community have not been able to share the social space. Mutual suspicion, legacy of the Partition sours the ties leading to polarisation of the communities. The social tension was palpable at almost every stage of the seven phase elections becoming acute with the fourth phase in Avadh region. Strangely enough whenever there is blatant minority polarisation, the party being favoured by them slinks to play the second fiddle since 1991.
The RSS-BJP understands the phenomenon leading to Yogi’s sharp blurb that he is contesting for 80 per cent and not the 20 per cent. It seemingly has paid dividend again despite the touted bonhomie with kisans, Jats and minorities in western UP.
Parties such as the BSP must be worried with vote share plunging to 12 per cent. It means that BSP leader Mayawati is no more the force to lead her dalit vote banks particularly Jatavs despite Amit Shah exchanging niceties with her. Evident new dalit politics is surfacing.
It changes the scenario for BJP too in its march to 2024 elections. If SP acts with vigour, forges effective national alliances with TMC of Mamata Banerjee, NCP of Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena, TRS, the residual Left and may be also the Congress a resistance can be put up. It, however, looks too farfetched. The impending Gujarat and Himachal polls would set the tone. If such alliances remain utopian as Goa experiment of Mamata Baneerjee, the BJP may remain comfortable.
But such comfort may elude it as a new political order emerges. The challenge in UP from SP-RLD was hackneyed. But an emerging Kejriwal can create a national alternative as voters can break away from identity silos to get their lives improved. Punjab is a lesson. Its rise in 2017 led to rise of the Congress. His Tiranga Yatra burnishes his nationalist credentials. The committed Hindu voter turned against Congress and BJP. They voted along with Sikhs and other communities to usher in the change. Tainted Ram Rahim’s furlough angered dalit voters to vote for AAP.
The politics is changing. The voter does not want to remain in the labharthi mode. There has to be economic and political emancipation. The BJP has to realise it and effectively improve its rhetoric into economic action may be drastically away from privatisation and respond to the mundane concerns like junking of efficient cars, imposition of new rules every day, high tolls and prices and a review of National Education Policy. Indian politics is in a churn and pines for change. —INFA