Sunday, June 23, 2024

What helped Modi-Yogi double engine to ram through hurdles?

Whole of Thursday was consumed by watching, understanding and digesting the results of elections held in five States. The results were not altogether unexpected. The exit polls informed us earlier and for a change they proved to be right, on the dot, this time.

Modi-Yogi double engine rammed through many a strong obstacle. It was true that Covid dead bodies were floating on Ganges. Nobody can deny that the farmers were angry, the prices of essential commodities have been skyrocketing and unemployment was at its unprecedented high.  There was  unhappiness among the Brahmins, who constitute more than 11 percent of voters as do Yadavs and Jatavs, with the Thakur raj, there was anti-incumbency which made Modi and Shah to think, albeit fleetingly, of changing the chief minister at one point in time. There has been a trend in the last 30 years that no incumbent was voted to power. Despite all these formidable factors, the BJP and its allies won a thumping majority with increased vote share. It was almost a repeat performance after five years of controversies, police accesses, misery and divisive politics.

Akhilesh Yadav, on the other hand, stitched a coalition very selectively, encouraged defections by OBC ministers and MLAs from the ruling BJP alliance and campaigned energetically. He surely improved his position compared to 2017 in terms of seats and votes but could not be a match to Modi-Yogi combine. The other opposition parties such as BSP and the Congress got decimated in the process. Mayawati was, somehow, made immobile by the BJP leadership, Priyanka Gandhi, Congress General Secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, attracted crowds and spoke sensibly at election meetings  but could not convert her popularity into votes. Her party was polled less than three percent of votes which is less than the percentage of votes polled by RLD confined to Western UP.

The major aspect of Modi’s campaign was to praise Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to the sky. Favourable media (both mainstream and social) is always there to carry the message to the people. The anti-incumbency was refused to be taken note of. Instead, the pro-incumbency sentiment was blatantly manufactured and successfully  propagated. None other than the Prime Minister speaking high of their Chief Minister went down well with the public. The Hindu majoritarianism which got embedded in Gujarat long ago had got into the popular psyche in UP as well. What Yogi said about 80:20 campaign was correct. The non-Yadav, non-Jatav Hindu majority was solidly behind the saffron party. The Brahmins were not that intensely angry to desert the BJP which had taken care to send a message to the community by being unashamedly soft towards the son of a Union Minister who recklessly drove his car over the farmers causing four deaths. The farmers themselves were not powerful or serious enough to stop BJP’s juggernaut in Western UP where the ruling party did as well as it did in 2017. What worked in favour of the BJP?

Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena was right, to an extent, when he said the electioneering helped the BJP. Beside the superior campaign strategy, there are a couple of tangible factors. The welfare measures, launched by the Prime Minister in the wake of demonetization to prove that the measure was meant to empower the poor, were delivered universally irrespective of caste, religion or political affinity. The gas cylinders and cash transfers impressed the women folk who voted the BJP en masse. The ration and shaasan (law and order) did the trick for the BJP. The law and order situation appears to have improved perceptibly. The scenes of Yadav and Mulsim strongmen ruling the roost in villages during Akhiesh Yadav’s rule when they controlled the police stations (thanas) which were doing their bidding were refusing to go away from the collective memory of the people. In spite of Hathras and other ghastly incidents, the law and order is better and Yogi did not allow the local BJP leaders to boss over village police station. Everything was centralized in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO). The Hindutva narrative has made the poor people forget their immediate problems and rally round the slogan “Jai Sri Ram.”  The Muslim women also seemed to have voted for the saffron party in Western UP thanks to Modi’s decision to do away with Triple Talaq. Most important of all is the Hindu majoritarianism that made common people overlook deficiencies, commissions and omissions on the part of Yogi government.

This factor, Hindu majoritarianism, has worked in Uttarakhand also where the BJP did everything needed to lose. It changed the chief ministers, there was corruption, there was internal strife even on the eve of the elections, just as in opposition Congress, but the party managed to debunk the trend and got elected for the second successive term. In Manipur and Goa it was Modi’s image more than anything else. Modi or/and Hindu majorianism did not work in Punjab which gave an entirely different verdict. It may not work in South also. But Thursday’s election results gave enough boost to BJP’s dispensation to go ahead with its Hindutva project. It may even reinstate the three farm laws that were repealed recently. Would Modi go ahead with the CAA, bring uniform civil code, one nation-one election, Presidential system and  the project of Hindu Rashtra to his table now or wait till 2024 general elections are over are some of the decisions that the nation awaits with trepidation.

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor


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