Sunday, March 12, 2017

BJP VIctory in Uttar Pradesh: Implications for 2019

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The BJP sweep in Uttar Pradesh did not come as a surprise to this blogger as he had predicted a tally of 300 seats. In reality, the BJP got well over this number and we have to ask some hard questions which have serious implications for the General Elections of 2019.

THe first question is: Did demonetization play a positive role in galvanizing the poorer sections of society in favour of the BJP. The conventional wisdom emanating from the wooly leftist commentators was that demonetization to prove a disaster and voters would register their protest in the polling booths. This did not happen primarily because the political messaging that accompanied the move was clear: the policy was aimed at unearthing black money and was meant to keep the pledge of rooting out corruption and hoards of hoarded wealth. The Congress and the BSP the most vocal critics of the MOdi initiative have had to bite the dust because they did not understand the baci purpose of the policy and its political implications. Even the small trader and daily wage worker soon adjusted to the new reality of a cashless or less cash economy and there was no major social unrest following the demonetization initiative. At the political level it shifted the focus of politics away from issues of identity to those of class, and employment along with livelihood.

The demonetization policy was effective in breaking the stranglehold of caste and power brokers over the electorate. Even in Muslim majority areas the Party has done extremely well. One obvious and a clear possibility is the Muslim women have voted in favor of the BJP given the stand taken by the party on the contentious triple talaq issue. But this alone does not explain the fact that even in predominantly Muslim areas like Deaband which has nearly 70% Muslim electorate, the bJP quite easily won the seat. Here I postulate a hypothesis that the younger Muslim voters are increasingly getting alienated from the sort of divisive politics that the traditional parties practice in the name of "secularism". Tokenism at best and condescension at worst is the main feature of Indian secularism. Modi's message, Sab Ke Saath, Sab ka Vikas is not a mere statement of intent. It is now emerging as a new contract between State and Civil Society.

In 2019, the BJP will be able to do well. However by that time, the state Government may have been in power for more than 2 years and hence the strong winds of anti incumbency will be felt. I suggest, though the BJP hot heads may disagree, that the present mandate is not for identity based issues like the Ram Mandir and BJP must resist playing identity politics on the issue except play the occasional tune to the die hard mandir addicts. The social coalition consisting of Brahmins, Rajputs, Trading castes and sections of the OBC and non Jatav SCs is a fragile and rather short sighted. It would be best not to put total faith in the sustainability of this coalition and continue to build up support.

An interesting feature in these Elections has been the substantial increase in the vote share of the BJP. Even in Goa where BJP got less seats than the COngress, the Party has more share of the votes polled and the same in Manipur. Uttarakhand and Punjab did not come as a surprise to anyone and I am sure that the BJP was expecting a poor show. Probably the showing of the AAP may have come as a surprise.

All in all, if this trend continues the BJP will cross 305 to 320 seats in the Lok Sabha Elections of 2019.

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