By elections Outcome: Wake-up Call for Secular Forces to Re-work their Strategy
Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Results of the by elections for 36 seats across 10 states have exploded the myth of the BJP riding high on the promise of development and good governance by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BJP lost 13 of the 23 seats it held in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The results of these by polls announced on September 16 do reflect the resentment of the electorate that catapulted Narendra Modi to power four months ago. Neither Modi’s engagement with Bhutan, Nepal, Japan and China, nor the virulent campaign of the Hindutva brigade against Muslims could cut much ice with voters. The hate campaign of the likes of Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj to polarise voters on communal lines failed to click. This is in sharp contrast to the Lok Sabha elections that gave a landslide victory to Modi who undertook as many as 40 tours to UP to bag 71 of 80 seats. Beginning with the results of the by elections for three seats in the Uttarakhand assembly in July in which the Congress won all the three seats, BJP continued to suffer losses in Bihar where RJD, JD(U)-Congress alliance upset its applecart. Congress gains in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are enough to prove that the popularity of the new government at Centre is sliding day after day.
Modi’s success at the hustings can be attributed partly to the dream he was selling to the youth who participated in the polls in a big way and partly to the communal propaganda unleashed by the ultra Hindu organisations, like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal against Muslims, especially in the wake of communal violence in western Uttar Pradesh. But the BJP mantra to win elections by raising emotive issues did not work in western UP. The newly coined “love jihad” to nurse hatred against Muslim youth did not find favour with the otherwise peace-loving people. BJP failed to retain a single seat in that part of the state which had filled its kitty in the Lok Sabha polls in May this year. BJP could claim success in West Bengal and Assam with tentative gains where it bagged one seat each. Though these two eastern states had not been kind to the BJP in the past, their contiguity with Bangladesh had turned into a fertile ground for the party to chart its course for communal polarisation. During campaigning in these states in the Lok Sabha elections, the speeches of Narendra Modi and other party leaders were directed against Muslims who were dubbed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Modi went to the extent of urging the people in Assam to push the Muslims back to Bangladesh as they were infiltrators and accommodate Bengali-speaking Hindus who crossed into India as they were genuine refugees. This heightened tension in the communally charged atmosphere of Assam and widened the gulf between the two communities. As the BJP has of late set its foot in West Bengal by charging the Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee with appeasing Muslims with a slew of schemes for them, it is high time for the secular parties to beware of its real intentions. BJP is busy targeting both these states with its communal agenda in which Muslims will be the focal point. If the secular parties fail to read the writing on the wall, these two states are feared to go the UP way.
While it is risky to guess the outcome of the polls for Haryana and Maharashtra assemblies next month, the results of the by elections are likely to impact them. With the bargaining position of BJP weakening in both the states, the secular political formations must close ranks and unitedly put up a tough fight against the BJP. One should not lose sight of the fact that the BJP is the political wing of the RSS, which has been striving hard since 1925 to turn India into a Hindu state where there shall be no place for the minorities, particularly Muslims, Dalits and other depressed and deprived sections. For the RSS, democracy and the Constitution are a means to attain power, but the real intent is to systematically destroy democratic institutions and replace them with RSS cadre. Take the instance of the Planning Commission, which had been finalising five-year plans for the Centre and states since the times of the first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. India progressed during these years following the implementation of schemes and programmes approved under five-year plans. It is anybody’s guess if a think tank of a few hand-picked persons would undertake exhaustive study of the needs of each state and come out with plans conforming to the state’s demands.
Ever since Modi assumed power, economists with rightist leanings advised him to focus on growth and pay little attention to the basic needs of the common man. This was also reflected in the Union budget for 2014-2015 which ignored the social sector. Mr. Jagdish Bhagwati and Mr. Arvind Pangaria, who are the professors of economics at Columbia University, represent the rightist lobby which is behind the major policy initiatives of the present government at the Centre. But India requires a prescription recommended by the Nobel Laureate and noted economist of the poor, Prof. Amartya Sen, who pitches for nutrition, health and education for our teeming millions. The immediate fall-out of the policies being pursued by the Modi government is that the sensex is taking an upward swing, but in real terms the Achchhe Din have become a mirage for the common man. His government’s failure to hold the price line of commodities like onion, potato, tomato etc. is having a cascading effect on the general consumer.
RSS plan for pan-Hinduism has ill portents. The process of assimilating different castes with orthodox Hinduism had begun when the Mandal agitation was at its height in 1989. The Babri Masjid issue was raked up to direct the ire of the caste Hindus against Muslims.
In order to divert the attention of the backward classes from the demand for reservation in government jobs and education institutions, RSS and its frontal organisations orchestrated the demand for the construction of a grand Ram temple where the Babri Masjid stood. This was the ideal time for the BJP to reap rich dividends. Riding on the popular wave generated by the temple movement, BJP formed its own government in UP in 1991. Similar euphoria was created in the wake of Muzaffarnagar riots that made the Scheduled Castes turn to the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. These are the same Dalits who have been suffering indignities at the hands of the upper castes for centuries. But the times appear to have changed with both Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav perhaps realising their folly. If they still persist with their rigid stand, they are running the risk of handing over gains to communal forces. This is a wake-up call for both of them. g