Make the best of poll verdict
Yogi as CM wrong signal; governance issues should find focus
By Harvinder Ahuja
The choice of hardcore Hindutva face Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh reflects the BJP’s disdain for the modern, progressive thinking. Having won the biggest state of the country for his party with a brute majority and then picking a firebrand leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown scant respect for the secular and inclusive chorus in the country.
There is no doubt that the five-time MP was the unanimous choice of the 312 MLAs and it would be premature to cast doubts on his capability as he is still untested, but the critical question is of perception. What is the signal that the party wants to convey to the people in the state, and for that matter, to the rest of the country? What kind of image the BJP wants its government to project? The answers to these questions explain the choice of Yogi Adityanath for UP.
Modi, undoubtedly, is worthy of huge credit for proving pollsters and media pundits wrong and delivering the most populous state to the BJP with an unprecedented majority. In fact, by scoring astounding victories in UP and Uttarakhand and managing to install his party governments in Manipur and Goa, Modi has proved that he is the tallest leader in the country today. He has shown that he has tremendous connect with the masses.
Though the dominant theme of Modi’s pre-poll speeches was development, law and order and good governance, there was also a sub-text, which no one can afford to miss. His references to ‘shamshan, kabristan’ and power availability during Ramzan and Diwali should be read in that context. Though ‘sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas’ slogan was being touted all along, a subtle attempt at polarization was underway simultaneously. That’s where the stridentvoices like that of Yogi Adityanath and other Hindu die-hards played a key role.
Modi knows how cleverly he and his party have been able to trounce the caste structure so assiduously built by the SP and the BSP in the state. He has been able to bulldoze BJP’s way through the so-called ‘social engineering’ which the two regional biggies along with the Congress were hoping to cash on. Shoving aside media criticism about denial of BJP ticket to even a single Muslim in the state, Modi emerged as a colossal winner. The clamour for ban on ‘triple talaq’ raised around the election time was not for nothing. Modi and his party knew very well which section of the minority community they were targeting and why.
Having established his party’s presence pan-India, Modi’s eyes are now glued to 2019 parliamentary elections. The party under his charismatic leadership is perpetually in an election mode. Having virtually decimated the Grand Old Party and vastly diminished the influence of regional outfits, Modi aims to win 2019 for the BJP decisively. For that to happen, a particular climate has to be established, binaries have to be created and divisive elements need encouragement. The anointment of a saffron-clad leader is a step in that direction.
The verdict delivered by five states on March 11 has certainly elevated Modi’s stature to new heights but still it will be wrong to read it as an unqualified endorsement of his social and economic agenda. Like, the demonetisation announced last year had caused incalculable hardship to people and most economists had trashed it as unwise. It was predicted that the measure will cost the BJP dearly in the Assembly elections. But that didn’t happen. Still, it no way means that demonetisaton was beneficial. Modi is a deft communicator and it goes to his credit how he has been able to make a virtue out of it. Good economics, it is said, is not always good politics and that is what happened in the case of demonetisation. A bad economic decision yielded political dividends.
Likewise, the social and political agenda being perpetuated by the BJP under Modi is not all virtuous but thanks to an aggressive campaign unleashed by the party along with the lack of an effective Opposition have made it gain ground. The aggressive and ruthless nature of BJP’s style of functioning was in full display when it was able to set up its governments in Manipur and Goa where it had not emerged as the single largest party. The Congress, which won this distinction, failed thetest thereby betraying the crestfallen approach of its top leadership.
Punjab was the only state which could withstand the saffron surge but, here again it was more a victory of the former Maharaja Captain Amarinder Singh than that of the Congress or its Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. The BJP also can’t be called a loser in the state as it was only a fringe player contesting in alliance with a highly discredited Shiromani Akali Dal.
Having thrust four states in the BJP kitty out of the five that want to polls recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is today sitting at the crest of his popularity. People have reposed trust in his promises and have high hopes from him. One only hopes he reads the verdict correctly!
(Author is a Delhi based consulting Editor of daily Kashmir Age and can be reached at email@example.com)