Challenges Ahead
Organiser   14-Jun-2018
The recently conducted by-polls have commenced the time trial for General Elections, 2019. While opposition seems to be only resounding Modi Hatao, BJP can also risk itself by contemplating on Only Modi without enticing core voter base


All the policies of the Modi Government have been inclusive, progressive, bringing in long term benefits and far reaching. Some have shown results while others will take some time Immediately after Gujarat Assembly elections, I had tweeted “If development alone could win elections, Saurashtra with 1.50 lakh check dams and freedom from water tankers should have voted for BJP.” Saurashtra was the region from where Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) lost in spite of higher vote share all over Gujarat.” This quote went viral for days.

After Budget 2018, I had tweeted – “Budget2018 – in my humble opinion, Narendra Modi ji is boldly creating a new vote bank, bypassing the earlier core base.” His work for the poor began from ‘Swachha Bharat’ to ‘Jandhan’, agriculture schemes, ‘Mudra Yojana’, insurance, agriculture insurance, demonetisation, gas connections, power to the last village and health etc. Even infrastructure ultimately benefits the last man in the queue with better opportunities and new avenues. All this was in line with Deendayal Upadhyay’s vision of reaching out to Daridranarayan – Antyoday.

All the policies of the Modi Government have been inclusive, progressive, bringing in long term benefits and far reaching. Some have shown results while others will take some time. To my mind, no Government has done as wonderful a job on economic front as the Modi Government.

BJP has an upper edge in 2019 over opposition because the Chemistry that Modi ji has with voters is unsurpassed. This backing needs some push on the ground Core Base and Basis of Vote

No party can hope to thrive and expand at the cost of core base. This core base of BJP is made of aspirational poor, the middle class and the Hindus. The issues on which they converged on BJP platform were development, equitable legal system that is equitable for both minority and majority, corruption, simplified tax rules and less governance; and terrorism. Social issues were national integration symbolised by Jammu & Kashmir, Ram Temple, Uniform Civil Code, unfair Right to Education (RTE), Government control on Temples etc.

Development and Core social issues listed above are not mutually exclusive. But, somehow atmosphere has been created to show them as mutually exclusive. Destructive acts of fringe elements have put BJP on the defensive and pushed it into safer issues of only economic development, going silent over most of the issues that agitated its core voter base.

We find that each budget brings in incentives for corporate sector but leaves salaried class and middle class with some confusing mix of exemptions and additions which at the end mean nothing, leaving the most voluble supporter base irritated. A flat simplified tax with direct benefits was so simple to execute. RTE with its amendment leaving minority institutions out of its ambit means only typical Hindu philanthropic schools should take care of vulnerable sections of the society, their plight compounded by strict governments who don’t clear compensations easily. Thousands of schools are closing down. Bharat has suffered intellectual paralysis because of castrated History taught to us, valueless amoral education that has produced emotionally disconnected citizens, who are still confused about their nationality. Thus, we Indians have no sense of Bharat’s glorious history and our perennial Dharma, irrespective of religion we profess. The constitution that was meant to help minorities, nurture their institutions and culture has been interpreted in a way that has taken away the right of majority to do the same. On Ram Temple too BJP leadership seems to be lukewarm. Debates are fought at lower rungs. Courts have blissfully gone, back to safety of ‘tareekh pe tareekh’.

With the most peaceful terror-free 4 years in Bharat, except Jammu & Kashmir, the Home Minister should have been much a feted man, but all he gets is brickbats because of J&K. Common perception about Jammu & Kashmir is that BJP has been a disaster. If there is a strategy, for example, of finishing off terrorists with the support of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) alliance and win over people with vikas, there has been no attempt by BJP leaders to explain it.

No political party, including BJP, is ready to give up control on temple funds and lands, which are exploited to cover up government deficits and profligacy, diverted to even fund minority community programmes. Temple lands are being usurped. A Hindu devotee donates money in temples to nurture his/her dharma. Nothing has been done in this regard. Symbolisms galore, concrete work none.

None of the above expectations are against the secular character of the constitution, none is against minorities. By side lining these issues BJP has neither been able to nurture the core base nor it has endeared itself to the other sections of the society whom they are addressing through various schemes. Inspite of working for the poorest of the poor, BJP has fallen prey to malignant propaganda of opposition. Lesson is that core voter base is the glue that provides cohesion and strength to the amorphous voter base.

Arithmetic and Chemistry

Current by-elections were not a test for BJP as it has proven its strength in all the major elections so far. These by-polls were a test for Opposition unity and its impact on voting trends. For the present, it seems that Arithmetic has worked. Key question is whether Chemistry will work in 2019 when the adjustments will be at national level over vast, varied stretch of 543 constituencies, with each party jockeying for a dominant position in the khichdi alliance.

On these parameters, it is clear that BJP has an upper edge in 2019 over opposition because the Chemistry that Modi ji has with voters is unsurpassed. But, this solid backing needs some push on the ground for which you need cadre that is as enthusiastic as it was in 2014.

Rahul Gandhi, the reluctant leader with record breaking defeats on his shoulders is not a lucky charm for anybody; rather he is like an albatross around opposition neck. Any successful alliance works only if there is a solid stabilising force; otherwise we have seen a procession of PMs in late 1980s and 1990s. We know from experience that outside support model is a very poor idea as it is not only against people’s will but also a mockery of governance.

Truth be told, that Congress cannot, as yet, give up on Rahul Gandhi, while opposition cannot accept him as its PM candidate. So, how will direct fight between BJP and united opposition happen unless Congress gets over its ego and dumps Rahul, surrendering to opposition? If it happens, one can easily write off Congress’s future. BJP may not need to work hard for ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’, Congress will do the hara-kiri. History has shown that wherever Congress has played second fiddle to opposition to contain BJP, it has lost its relevance - across India. Will it play this game of death wish? However, BJP cannot rely on these factors alone. Any level of unity of opposition reduces its margins and likely seats.

We have seen that lower voting percentage has generally favoured the so-called secular parties as their vote banks come out to vote, come what may, while the BJP voter needs coaxing. To make this happen, BJP will have to go back to core issues elaborated above and take some demonstrable action that will enthuse its workers first, who can then feel enthused enough and persuade voters on behalf of BJP to go and vote. Unenthusiastic and NOTA voters both can hurt BJP, especially in the marginal seats. It needs to absorb lessons from Gujarat and Karnataka for 2019’s highly fractious election where each vote and each seat will count. For Left Nehruvian lobby 2019 is a ‘do or die’ election. For BJP it is a crucial election to take forward its dream of a developed progressive India.

Only “Modi Hatao” will boomerang on opposition, just as “Only Modi” without enthusing core voter base can be risky for BJP.

Key Takeaways

• By-elections are not reflection of what will happen in General Elections, that too one year from now. In 1963 by-elections, combined opposition won 3 out of 4 seats, but Congress

won the general elections again. Before 2004, BJP lost the general elections after winning 3 State Assembly elections just a few months earlier.

• Opposition has found its saviour in grand-alliance. It feels it can take on the might of BJP, enhance hugely with the charisma of Shri Narendra Modi.

• Like any other ruling party, BJP will suffer as the index of opposition rises. No ruling party has won an election with over 51% votes since first general elections. Closest that Congress came to, was 1984 election after assassination of Smt Indira Gandhi, an election won on sympathy wave.

• Voters think differently in general elections. Whether you project a PM candidate or not, people take their own view about the leader. Is Rahul the counter point to Modi or are leaders of myriad small parties the alternative?


(The writer is an author and columnist. His latest book is RSS 360 °Demystifying Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)