It is a Narendra Modi sweep in the Hindi heartland. Saffron wave uprooted the Congress and two regional parties – the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party – in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The Prime Minister’s electoral discourse electrified the public across both the States, though it has failed to work in the other three States – Punjab, Goa and Manipur. In Punjab, the BJP along with its ally Akali Dal had to bite the dust at the hustings. The Congress has swept the polls and the Akali-BJP alliance has been relegated to the third position, behind the Aam Aadmi Party. In Goa and Manipur too, it is the Congress, and not the BJP, which is the single largest party, with both States throwing up hung Assemblies.
The results once again put Prime Minister Modi on a higher pedestal than the party itself. The party rank and file chant ‘Modi’ rather than BJP which gives the party an individual-centric image. One has to wait and see whether this will spell good or bad for the party in the long run. The U.P. and Uttarakhand results raise the question: Why didn’t the Modi magic help the party romp home in three of the five States that went to the polls? The answer partly lies in the election campaign unleashed in Uttar Pradesh by the party’s national and State leaders. The Prime Minister’s pointed reference to the State government’s discrimination against Hindus and special favours to Muslims through his ‘Kabristan vs Shamshaan’ remarks in the midst of the campaign hit the right place where it was intended to be. He further sharpened his argument alleging bias by the State in making electricity available during Ramzan and Diwali. Amit Shah pitched in with his ‘Kasab’ remark and maverick leaders like Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj contributed their share to it.
It would be wrong to say that the verdicts vindicate the Modi government’s decision on demonetization. The results are a slap on the face of the argument that demonetization has universal acceptance in the country. If that is true, the results in Punjab, Goa and Manipur too would have gone overwhelmingly in favour of the saffron party, but that hasn’t happened. The possible conclusion could be that in the Hindi heartland, polarization of voters, rather than any agenda, boosted the BJP’s prospects. It could also mean that the general public was enamoured of the Prime Minister’s narrative that demonetization was a measure to wipe out black-money and it would help the poor. There is no denying the fact that Mr. Modi’s communicative skill to reach the heart of the people on issues affecting them has no comparison.
There is a strong message for the minorities in Uttar Pradesh. In numerous seats, the division of minority votes between the two regional parties – the SP and the BSP – led to the victory of the BJP. Unless they join hands as happened in Bihar where arch rivals Janata Dal (U) and Rashtriya Janata Dal came together to fight the BJP, it will remain a pipe dream in the near future to halt the march of the saffron Party. The Congress too has a herculean task in hand in rejuvenating the party in the Hindi heartland if it wants to remain relevant as a major national party.(Published on 13th March 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 11)#