The ideological tagline of ‘Congress Mukth Bharat’, by the BJP lies in tatters with the election results of five state assemblies being out today. While two states have continued the trend of voting the incumbent regional parties to power, the three major states in the Hindi heartland of the country have voted out the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and instead elected the much touted ‘finished’ and ‘destroyed’ Indian National Congress (INC) to power. Political pundits and several rationalists have started predicting this loss of the BJP as the litmus test to the final showdown of the General Elections to be held in 2019. While the theory of change of mandate and public consensus is acceptable to a certain extent, the over ambitious presumption of a similar show in the 2019 elections is still a utopian dream, far from being realized, unless proper preconditions are achieved.
Rajasthan, which has always set a general culture of anti-incumbency along with both Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh which have overseen BJP regime for fifteen long years were expected to come into the fold of voting out the BJP and electing the INC as the single largest party at least.
However, believing the notion that INC won in the three Hindi speaking states just because of its ideology would be a half-true conclusion. When MP went to polls earlier this year, the party manifesto, apart from other things, promised setting up of Gaushalas in every district in the state. Deliberate attempts as this, to capitalize on the trend of Hindutva, by playing in on a softer version of it was one of the major reasons why Congress was voted to power. The average middle class Hindu voter who doesn’t want to be a part of fanatic right-wing populism, but at the same time wants to keep his religious identity intact found the INC to be the perfect choice. The INC relied on the apathetic conditions that had been set in the states going to polls, to set its wheel rolling.
Lack of jobs and employment avenues, and the ruling party’s disregard towards the scenario is what voted the Raje government out of power in Rajasthan. On the other hand, an ideal rational view was supposed to vote it out on the grounds of both unemployment and destruction of social fabric. There was absolutely no or very less discussion on the CM’s insensitive comments towards the law and order situation in the state, and the brazen public lynching of Mohammad Afrazul by one Shambhu Lal Regar.
The declaration of Rahul Gandhi’s gotra and his frequent visit to temples, emboldened by his self-proclaimed tag of being a ‘Shiv Bhakt’ has added to his Hindu vote bank, along with keeping intact the Muslim vote bank which has sensed no threats whatsoever from this appeasement policy of soft Hindutva.
Coming to why these assembly elections will have little translation on the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, in spite of the soft Hindutva strategy is the larger than life figure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the BJP is heavily relying on. Secondly, as it has been quite visible in Telangana and Mizoram, both the INC & the BJP have not been voted to power where there has been a regional alternative. This can have a major effect on the Lok Sabha vote bank, where the regional parties can eat into the seats of the national parties and thus hinder the growth the INC has been expecting in the states where neither it nor the BJP has been voted to power. The prime and foremost example of such a situation was witnessed back in 2014, in Odisha where the regional BJD won 20 out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and the BJP won the lone seat on account of its political heavyweight and senior cabinet minister Jual Oram. Thirdly, the core supporters of the BJP, believing its Hindutva agenda and hate propaganda have got explicit support from the top echelons of the BJP and it is quite improbable that they would ditch it for a party that stands for a secular nation. One of the finest examples of this is the garlanding of four criminal convicts by Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha. Another example is the wrapping of the dead body of a Dadri lynching accused in a tricolor, paying no attention to his crimes whatsoever. A softer aspect is the brazen Facebook posts imploring the BJP to let go of its secularist politics and engage in the real Hindutva.
To sum it all up, the INC’s win today is a partial ideological win and partially an effect of anti-incumbency. If the Rahul Gandhi led INC aims to stake claim for the formation of a government, it should look at the larger picture of a merger with other major national parties on a long-term basis, chalking out the division of seats as well. Only then can we expect a close call on the promise and claim of Rahul Gandhi to defeat the BJP in 2019 as well.