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Dhaka Tribune

The beginning of the end?

Update : 11 Apr 2018, 02:27 PM
It may seem like there is both bad and good news for the BJP in the recent state assembly elections and by-elections, but that’s not true. In fact, the bad news for the saffron is quite heavier than the good in real count. BJP was expectantly re-elected in Prime Minister Modi’s home turf Gujarat, but at a much smaller margin and that too after extensive campaign by the prime minister himself -- leaving his duties as the premier of the country in the backseat. The result bears all the indication that a rejuvenated Congress (under a transformed and assertive Rahul Gandhi) is going to give Modi a run for his money in 2019 Lok Sabha election in Gujarat and the latter will grab a sizeable number of seats in the state, if not the most. Yes, BJP achieved extraordinary results in Tripura state election, but nationally, the tiny state is insignificant as far as Lok Sabha elections are concerned. It’s true that the saffron wave has moved eastwards with BJP’s success in Assam, Manipur, and Tripura -- and now there is some possibility of them to do better in West Bengal and Orissa. The latter two are sizeable states, and the strength of the so-called Modi wave is dubious, at best, in these states, with Mamata Banerjee and Navin Pattanayak still very much in power. But the alarming sign for the BJP’s lotus is its suspected decline in its core Hindi belt, which is also known as the “Cow Belt” -- which was quite evident in the results of the by-elections in big Hindi states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar. Karnataka is the only southern bastion of the BJP and all the pollsters are predicting a Congress re-election in the upcoming state election which will almost certainly have a spillover effect in Lok Sabha elections of 2019. The other threat to the BJP, apart from Congress gaining ground, is the possibility of a third force under the banner “Federal Front,” which has been initiated by Mamata Banerjee and enthusiastically looked at by many important non-BJP and non-Congress regional parties. Meanwhile, BJP’s southern ally, the powerful TDP of Andhra Pradesh, has abandoned its alliance with the former, and even the right-wing regional party Shiv Sena of Maharashtra, which has been a BJP ally (a troubling one though, of late).  The BJP won the last parliament election in 2014, and much noise was made of Modi’s charisma and magic in his talks of development and more. What most people didn’t quite catch is the vote share of the BJP despite their winning majority -- it was only 31%. 
Nowadays, Modi hardly recounts his developmental promises, let alone deliver anything worthwhile
Most of the Lok Sabha seats were given to it by the province of Uttar Pradesh, which makes it 75 seats out of 79. There too it got 42% votes, with the secular forces divided into two major camps led by SP and BSP. These two parties joined hands in the recent by-elections in several constituencies, and they won in the home states of senior BJP leaders, including the fiery Hindutva Chief Minister of UP Yogi Adityanath -- the national parliament seat he held for five consecutive terms before he left to became CM. There are several reasons behind this seeming turn of the tide. The key development, governance reform, and anti-corruption endeavours of Modi’s government have bitten dust. There were some jobless growth, mostly on paper, and the much touted demonetization turned out to be a disastrous exercise -- bringing a lot of suffering to the common men and achieving absolutely nothing. The other major reform -- the Goods and Services Tax (GST) -- doesn’t seem to be popular either. The excesses of BJP and affiliated outfits’ workers and propagating Hindutva agenda have angered a lot of ordinary people. Nowadays, Modi hardly recounts his developmental promises, let alone deliver anything worthwhile. There was a silent shift to Plan B by the manipulative Amit Shah, party president, which is bringing Hindu nationalism to the forefront, if development promises fail. But frivolous jingoism eventually shows its nuisance in the face of ordinary people’s everyday expectations. Common men can be fooled on few occasions, but not days after days and months after months. Had the BJP government focused on strategies, preparation, and execution of sound developmental schemes, including maintenance of much needed socio-political stability, they could have accomplished something commendable. But more energies in projection and propaganda with almost no genuine deed has earned them the name “fake”  in liberal and even popular circles. It is, however, not entirely clear whether the Modi-Shah brand of violent and aggressive Hindu nationalism (in compare to Vajpayee’s soft Hindutva) has substantially exhausted its chances of survival. The fear is that the duo may want more communal tension in India leading up to the next election, so as to maintain whatever Hindu consolidation they achieved the last time. An utterly perilous political scheme for holding on to power, to say the least.  The question is what price will India, the Indian federal democracy, and civil liberty pay in this process?Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury is a regular contributor to the Dhaka Tribune. 
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