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Lotus Blooms In Tripura

Lotus Blooms In Tripura

When the BJP lost the Delhi state elections to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and it got just three seats in the 90-member House, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dismissed it as of no consequence. “One city among a large number of cities”, he quipped. The three Northeastern states — Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland — which recently went to polls send just five members to the Lok Sabha.

Yet, the BJP has been celebrating the victory, achieved more by crook than by hook, as if it had won a second term. Party MPs wore Naga scarves as they received Modi when he arrived at the Parliament House. There has been an incessant flow of sweetmeat at the swank BJP office, which rivals in opulence any party office anywhere in the world.

It has a state-of-the-art hall for holding Media conferences. When journalists reached there for the first such conference, they were surprised to find the picture of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who asked Modi to follow the Raj Dharma when innocent Muslims were killed in Gujarat, missing from the backdrop banner. Instead, it showed the pictures of Modi and his Sancho Panza.

The party was in such a celebratory mood that even before its chief minister could be sworn in Tripura, the party used the state machinery to uproot the statue of VI Lenin, attack and capture many CPM and Congress offices. When I saw the pictures of frenzied BJP workers gloating over the pulling down of the statue, I remembered the Taliban smashing to smithereens the Buddha statues at Bamiyan.

Many BJP leaders asked what had Lenin to do with India while justifying the destruction of the Lenin statue. The Taliban also asked what had Gautam Buddha to do with Afghanistan. Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy, who should have been ensuring that the rule of law prevailed, justified the vandalism when he tweeted, “What one democratically elected government can do another democratically elected government can undo. And vice versa”.

The Governor should have realised that the BJP had not even elected its Chief Minister when the demolition of the statue occurred. Taking his cue from Roy and Ram Madhav, the BJP’s Man Friday in the Northeast, BJP leader in Tamil Nadu H Raja vowed to remove the statues of Periyar Erode Venkata Ramasamy, the founder of the Dravida movement.

Raja’s incitement had an immediate effect when a BJP man attacked a Periyar statue. The attack evoked a swift reaction from the non-BJP parties in Tamil Nadu. In Uttar Pradesh, a statue of Dr Ambedkar was destroyed. Jan Sangh founder SP Mukherjee’s statue was vandalised in West Bengal. 

The gutsy Ram Madhav deleted his Twitter post even as Modi and Amit Shah condemned the anti-statue campaign justified by its Governor. While the party-man who attacked the Periyar statue was expelled, no such action was taken against Roy, Ram Madhav and sundry leaders, including Subramaniam Swamy, who said that the statue of Lenin had no place in the country. The question is: Who are they to decide whose statue should be installed?

Be that as it may, was it a historic win in the Northeast? True, it won handsomely in Tripura. Anti-incumbency played against the CPM. It is apparent that the traditional votes of the Congress went in favour of the BJP, which was able to create an impression that it was the winner. The party also entered into an alliance with the Indigenous People's Front of Tripura, which wanted a separate tribal state, to defeat the CPM. The publicity blitz also helped.

Yet, the difference between the total votes received by the BJP and the CPM is less than 7,000. So what is the big deal about the victory? In 1984, a significant number of the BJP voters voted in favour of the Congress resulting in the defeat of Vajpayee and many other stalwarts of the party. The BJP ended with just two MPs in the Lok Sabha, one from Andhra Pradesh. In a democracy today’s winners are tomorrow’s losers.

In Meghalaya, the BJP won two seats in a House of 60 and in Nagaland it did not emerge as the single largest party. Yet it came to power in all the three states, though the single largest party in Meghalaya is the Congress. 

In the Goa elections in 2017, the voters rejected the BJP but still it managed to form a government by buying MLAs. The same experiment was successfully tried out earlier in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. 

In the Northeast, political affiliations do not matter much. When the Janata Party came to power at the Centre, it was not uncommon to find Congressmen suddenly wearing the garb of the Janata Party. All Northeastern governments prefer to be on good terms with the Centre, mainly to get funds. That is why the two-member BJP in Meghalaya commands greater influence than any other party in the state.

In short, there is nothing “historic” about the victory in the Northeast. The situation in Gujarat would not have been any different from Tripura if the NCP and the BSP had not split some anti-BJP votes. True, in politics ifs and buts do not matter. The point to be noted is that if the CPM accepts the defeat and strengthens the party at the grassroots level, it can bounce back to power in the next elections. There are many who feel sad that Manik Sarkar, an epitome of simple living, is no more the easily accessible chief minister.

There is a special reason why the BJP is overtly and needlessly celebrating the Northeast victory. It wants to create an impression about the party’s invincibility following the party’s victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in 2017. True, in that election, too, it lost Punjab and did not emerge the winner in Manipur and Goa. 

As elections are due in Karnataka, it wants to mislead the people that it won the Northeast. Desperate to win power, the BJP leaders have been stooping low in Karnataka by claiming that so many Hindus were killed in the state. They give the impression that it is the Islamic State (IS) that is ruling there.

Of course, it was the gutter-level politics that Modi indulged in Gujarat that helped the party to get a razor-thin majority. He even accused his predecessor of having anti-national links! Small wonder that the defeated Congress appeared the winner in Gujarat. Subsequent by-election results have also not been favourable to the BJP. It lost the Gurdaspur by-election in Punjab by a huge margin. It also lost the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan.

In the by-elections held in Chitrakoot, Mungaoli and Kolaras in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress emerged the winner. The defeats in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are significant as these states, together with Chattisgarh and Mizoram, will go to polls later this year. The situation does not appear to be favourable to the BJP, given the anti-incumbency factor. That makes the party desperate to win Karnataka.

The BSP’s decision to support the Samajwadi Party in  the by-elections in Phulpur and Gorakhpur in UP has unnerved the BJP. It knows for sure that if the two parties join hands as in Bihar where Nitish Kumar’s JDU, Lalu Yadav’s RJD and the Congress joined hands to defeat the BJP, the party would not be able to retain the surprisingly large number of seats it won in 2014.

One reason why the BJP lost in the 2004 elections was that it could win only 10 seats in UP. In other words, if Modi wants to return to power in 2019, his party must retain most of the seats in UP. The results of the ongoing Phulpur and Gorakhpur by-elections will reveal how the combined Opposition can drive the BJP to a corner in Uttar Pradesh.

No one knows that the BJP position in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh is bad better than party chief Amit Shah. That is precisely why he has asked the party units to think of strategies to gain more seats from states like West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in 2019. At one time it appeared that the Biju Janata Dal was losing control of the state but a recent by-election in Odisha showed that it has not lost its mass appeal.

When rats start leaving the ship, it is a sure sign of danger to the ship. In Bihar, Hindustani Awami Party chief Jitan Ram Manjhi has left the BJP-led NDA to join the Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress alliance. He is a maha-Dalit leader. There are reports that another ally, Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Loktantrik Samata Party, could also jump ship.

The results of the by-election to the Araria Lok Sabha constituency and Bhabua and Jehanabad Assembly seats in Bihar will show how popular the Nitish government is. The Telugu Desam Party is no longer enamoured of the BJP after what it calls the cheating of the state by the Centre. Voices of dissent may not be audible in the BJP save that of former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and actor Shatrughan Sinha but there are murmurs of protest in the party at the way things have been going on.

The Union Cabinet has been reduced to a one-man show and in the BJP no one other than Amit Shah matters. Senior leaders like LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi have been reduced to non-entities. However, the hardcore elements in the party are happy that their dream of a Hindu Rashtra would soon be fulfilled. If anybody had any doubt about how the Hindu Rashtra would be, it was cleared by a person like VHP chief Pravin Togadia. 

He was seen in a video giving an oath to his constituents that the word secularism in the Constitution would be replaced by Hindu Rashtra and that only Hindus would be allowed to become PM, CM, MP, civil servants and judges. This was no surprise to those who read Golwalkar’s book which says the minorities would get the status of second-class citizens!

Forget the Rs 15 lakh every Indian was promised once Modi brought the Indian money stashed away in foreign banks, the millions who opened new bank accounts find the banks charging money from them for any transaction they make. Two high-flying swindlers — Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi — flew away cheating Indian banks of billions of rupees. 

The Kerala Police was able to bring an ATM cheat and foreigner from Nicaragua but mighty Modi was unable to bring either Mallya or Modi to justice. It was just to save the government face that P Chidambaram’s son Karti was arrested on the basis of a statement made by a couple who have been in jail accused of murdering their “daughter”. 

Every effort is being made to trace Nirav Modi’s cheating to the Congress Party, though it is four years since the party lost power. Subramaniam Swamy has indicated that there is something fishy about the way Adani, who bankrolled Modi’s election campaign in 2014, has been increasing his wealth.

An online newspaper which detailed the story of the meteoric rise in the business of Amit Shah’s son — 16,000 per cent growth in one year — is being taken to the court under the law of defamation. The 20 million jobs that the government was committed to create every year are as imaginary as the “accha din” Modi created. 

Nobody now disputes that the demonetisation was a disastrous decision except for the likes of Paytm owner who has joined the billionaires’ club. As regards foreign policy, we find Pakistan and China strengthening their relations with Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives etc at our cost. More Indian soldiers have been killed on the border during the last four years than the last four years of the UPA regime. It was the first time the nation saw the bodies of Indian soldiers being sent to their homes in a shameful manner. One general tweeted, “Seven young men stepped out into the sunshine yesterday, to serve their motherland. India. This is how they came home.” The bodies were in cardboard boxes tied with a ribbon.

Bofors was peanuts compared to Rafael. It is against this backdrop that the BJP has been going to town with the victory in Tripura. Yes, the party controls several states in the North, west, and the Northeast. Its victory has been at the cost of the Congress. Now the question is, has the BJP rule really benefited the Indian people?

There has been unrest among the farmers. The party’s decision not to allow the farmers to sell their cattle has added to their woes. The leather industry is in tatters. The number of unproductive cattle ruining crop has been multiplying and the government has no solution to the problem. Ministers have been making a mockery of themselves by making fanciful claims. 

During the Vajpayee regime, crores of rupees were wasted to prove that the river Saraswati which is believed to have dried up existed by conducting excavation in Haryana. Now efforts are on to prove that the events in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana were real. That alone will prove Modi’s claim that the first plastic surgery happened in India when an elephant’s head was attached to a human body. For all this, it is necessary to distribute sweets and pull down Lenin statues to celebrate the victory in Tripura!

( ajphilip@gmail.com

(Published on 12th March 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 11)