Beyond Numbers: Message of the Mandate
Organiser   18-Dec-2018
All these are factors (caste & communal considerations and financial viability while considering the candidates) that are likely to give a wrong direction to the polities of the country. If steps are not taken to mend them, powerful lobbies will emerge in the country’s legislatures and political decisions will hardly be taken in an objective manner taking into consideration only the welfare of the people and furtherance of national interests. The parties that want to develop into major parties should be careful not to sacrifice principles for quick gains. People too have a duty, and if they exercise their franchise in a judicious and intelligent manner, they can also correct the distorted viewpoint of the political parties.”
–Who is a Suitable Candidate? Your Vote-1, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, Organiser, December 4, 1961
The hard-fought elections are over. BJP, despite strong anti-incumbency, showed a remarkable character, especially in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The Congress finally sees some signs of revival in the Hindi heartland with this victory. Though some people have already started projecting this as the beginning of the end of the Modi Government and some calling it the victory of Rahul Gandhi, in reality, the election results have posed more questions to the political parties, pollsters and us as a nation. Whether the respective parties, pundits and ‘we the people' are ready to read the message beyond numbers for the future course of democracy is critical.
Since 2014, many elections were termed as the semi-finals and referendum on Prime Minister Modi and the decisions of his Government like demonetisation and GST. These elections are also not an exception. Some social media pundits have even started giving their suggestive strategies and predictions. Of course, being close to the 2019 General Elections, these results will build momentum for the bigger battle, but the political behaviour of the voters cannot be predicted to be the same in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. In the coming days, what kind of policy decisions are taken and who takes the lead in setting the agenda through the desired narrative building is going to be crucial.
For the Congress, this is undoubtedly a much-needed reprieve after a series of debacles since 2014. Rahul Gandhi and his coterie will be indeed regarded as the architect of this victory. Ultimately, the State level leadership that matters and Congress party has a serious problem with that due to the crumbling organisational structure. Whether Rahul Gandhi really would be able to build a vibrant organisational machinery on the ground or will he rely on his regional and destructive outfits to generate anti-Modi atmosphere? The pulls and pressures within the party over Chief Minister's post in almost all the States is a clear indication of starting troubles even before the Government formation. In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh especially, where the different Chief Ministerial candidates were sold to the different regions and social groups, addressing the aspirations of the common karyakartas would be the real testing ground for Rahul Gandhi and his party.
The message for BJP is more complicated, but still clear. After the strong anti-incumbency and fake narratives, the way BJP almost pulled off Madhya Pradesh and the way they recovered in Rajasthan, clearly shows that there is no anti-Modi sentiment. The Chhattisgarh elections also proved that the third force does not necessarily benefit the BJP. This can be a vital pointer in certain States for the BJP. The agrarian distress is real, but if it was the main reason behind this verdict, then the BJP could not have registered victory in almost fifty per cent rural constituencies. The BJP was caught up in the problematic turf of false narratives on the reservation issue and faced anger from both sides.
The losses of BJP in the stronghold of Shekhavati region of Rajasthan, Mahakaushal of Madhya Pradesh and Central Chhattisgarh give some indications. The anti-BJP votes got consolidated in favour of the Congress while the pro-BJP votes remained silent. Addressing the concerns of the core, both issues and constituencies, while expanding the voter-base, is the real takeaway for the ruling party at the Centre. PM Modi and his development policies are indeed the vote catchers for the BJP, but the glue that binds the core is Hindutva. The core ideological plank becomes all the more critical when the Congress is trying to shed away its 'secular' and 'pro-minority' image by playing the counter version of 'Hinduism'. The real challenge for the BJP is how to present the development and Hindutva as complementary to each other under the leadership of Modi.
The pollsters once again went horribly wrong in these elections, especially while predicting the seat numbers. That the landslide mandates in Telangana and Chhattisgarh could not be gauged undoubtedly points out the methodological flaws evolved in the opinionated psephology. Instead of focusing on seeing numbers to the 24X7 media craze, if the surveys are more centred on understanding the political behaviour of voters and rationale behind it, the psephological exercise will be more fruitful for the democracy.
As voters, do we believe in the emotive and negative campaign rather than a positive and constructive programme is the most pertinent question that emerges out of the recent election results. In other words, do we prefer voting on who do we deny as our representative rather than who do we want to be our true representative? At least in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, this seems to be true. The growing number of None of The Above (NOTA) preference is also a concern for us as a democracy. The performance and electoral outcomes are delinked because of this; resultantly emotive fake narratives on divisive lines or the politics of freebies decide the electoral outcome. Instead of deliberating on the ill-effects of mindless globalisation and its impact on agriculture and trade in Bharat and how to counter the same, the socialistic measures such as loan-waivers and unemployment allowance get prominence. As suggested by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, a fine balance of candidate, party and programme needs to be restored while choosing our representatives, for which ultimately ‘we the people' will have to create the pressure on the political parties.