The Meaningful Mandate


The Bharatiya Jana Sangh does not believe in the theory of opposition. It is striving to build itself as an alternative. But an alternative is not to be built up by a waving of the magic wand. Vote by vote and Seat by Seat this alternative shall be evolved. Let your vote be used constructively. Let it build up an alternative to the present decadent, emaciated and corrupt government. Each Voter has a part to play. May you play it worthily, worthy of a democratic nation, determined to defend its freedom, national and individual, and to build a glorious future, more glorious than the most glorious past.
Pt Deendayal Upadhayaya, Organiser, February 12, 1962
In a democracy, every election has some significance and voters through their votes convey their wishes regarding the direction of governance; Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly election results are not different from this. What difference these election results have made is the way people have conveyed subtle messages to every party. Though the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Governments have retained powers in both the states, these results are not as per the expectations. Broadly one can always argue that Vidhan Sabha elections are different from General Elections and people vote differently, technically known as split-ticket voting, but the nature of mandate requires in-depth analysis to understand the state of our polity.
The BJP was naturally the biggest stakeholder in these elections being the ruling party. In Maharashtra, after showing the strength, the party realigned with the old ally Shiv-Sena and after contesting 164 seats, retained 105 assembly segments. In terms of strike rate, it was still a splendid performance compared to other political parties but still not as per expectations. Why did BJP fail to retain the Lok Sabha kind of domination? Were alliance and absorbing stalwarts from Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) strategic blunders? Why could the party not able to address the issue of rebellion or sabotage by the ally? These and many more questions need some scrutiny. After BJP (26.7 per cent), it was the independents (18.6 per cent) who have secured the second position in terms of vote share, and this should be a matter of concern for the BJP.
If we add the Haryana results to this, then the debacle of important ministers is much more indicative. Mere Modi magic or a clean Chief Ministerial face is not sufficient in the assembly elections. The performance of individual candidates, ministers and their rapport with the local karyakartas is equally important is the key message for the BJP state units.
Shiv-Sena is throwing usual tantrums and positioning itself as the gainer. In reality, the seats of the party have gone down from 63 to 56 and vote share is restricted to 16.4 per cent. The party MLAs know very well that whatever new grounds they have gained in Vidarbha is due to BJP. Aditya Thackeray is undoubtedly showing new zeal to lead the party with a more balanced approach but mere Thackeray tag with old aggression would no longer work and new kind of organisation building is required to address the contemporary issues in an important nation perhaps the regional party like Shiv-Sena would find it difficult to absorb.
Congress is fine without Nehru-Gandhis and whatever little that is remaining can be managed by the local leaders is the loud and clear message for the Congress. It has ceased to be a pan-Maharashtra party, and in Haryana, just because of local factors it has gained some ground. Unless the grand old party is built up from below, it has no future.
The Nationalist Congress Party and Jananayak Janata Party (JJP), a splintered group of erstwhile Indian National Lok Dal, are the major gainers in this election. Regional parties and dominant caste politics is here to stay at the state level. Sharad Pawar has shown his mettle as a seasoned politician, but the way gain of fifteen seats is being projected is out of proportion. The emotional appeal and Maratha caste consolidation in Western Maharashtra helped NCP to some extent to save the last bastion. The strength of Sharad Pawar’s politics limited to 15-17 per cent vote and 50-60 seats which he had shown for the last forty years; he could show the same in Narendra-Devendra era is a remarkable achievement which younger politicians should study.
As a nation, despite claims of dismantling caste politics, replacing it with the development discourse and drastic reduction in corruption, are we really heading towards a new political culture or we are just continuing the old politics of winnability by all means in a new form, is a point to ponder. The sharp decline in voting percentage and free flow of candidates from one party to another are two important indications of the same. As the dominant force with some ideological moorings, the onus lies on BJP to decode the lessons of this mandate and make the necessary amends to transform the polity as envisaged by Pandit Deendayalji.