May 31, 2018
Chennai : Thursday May 31 was a bad day in office for the Modi-Shah combine as their best laid strategy to win four Lok Sabha bye-elections and a plethora of Assembly bye-polls across the country failed to pass muster. But what is more significant and worrisome for the Chanakya of current day Indian politics – BJP national president Amit Shah – is that in Uttar Pradesh that sent 73 BJP MPs to Lok Sabha, the entire opposition has come together in a Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) and wrested the Kairana Lok Sabha seat with ease.
The coming together of Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Congress and consolidation of castes – Jats, Dalits, Muslims and Yadavs – behind the alliance means big trouble for the BJP in the 2019 general elections.
In 2014 general elections the BJP won 73 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh and this was when all the four parties in grand alliance today fought them separately at that time. So, for the BJP to repeat its performance is well neigh impossible.
Then the other big jolt to the BJP was in Bihar, where its ally in turncoat Nitish Kumar lost in his own backyard Jokhiat. People of Bihar are with RJD, declared a triumphant Tejaswi Yadav, son of Laloo Yadav. He urged all the opposition parties to come together to eject the BJP from India.
It is the strong index of opposition unity that put paid to the BJP efforts to even communalise the campaign, highlighting the religion of the RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan, which goes to show that the people are also tired of the BJP’s Hindutva campaign and were more interested in matters of bread and butter. Or more important, in Uttar Pradesh, the surgarcane price was an issue of concern for the farmers and on its promises to farmers, the BJP track record has been poor.
Besides the twin anti-incumbency of Modi government and Yogi government worked on the ground and the 50,000 margin of victory of the combined opposition candidate only showed the extent of the peoples’ anger against the two governments. In fact, the opposition unity had enabled the SP to wrest Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha constituencies, held by the deputy chief minister and chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. If the two previous victories were the shape of things to come, today’ victory and the assertion of the SP and BSP that the alliance will continue into the future is distinctly bad news for the BJP. The sheer arithmetic of the alliance vote is enough to give sleepless nights to the BJP and its leadership, which no doubt has a plan up its sleeves and Amit Shah has shown in the past that he has lost bye-polls but won the general elections.
So this time also be will it be the same?
Of this the opposition leaders are very sure. The countdown for the Modi government had begun with Phulpur and Gorakhpur. And now it has become certain as Kairana is the template on which the political strategy of the opposition parties will be based.
Today’s bye-election results of course mean that the BJP cannot repeat its 2014 performance and will lose out big in UP as also Bihar. Which is why the BJP was looking at new areas where it will not have anti-incumbency weighing it down. So it hit upon North East and South India. But sadly, for the BJP, the South India, comprising 130 seats, presents a tough challenge to the BJP to breach. Its best chance was in Karnataka where it could not form a government despite being the largest single party. Its failure to put out the Congress has given a fresh lease to Rahul Gandhi and his team, which has now begun taking a very pragmatic and flexible view of the politics it is playing.
It has got its priorities right and has its enemy sorted out. The BJP has to be prevented at all costs – so, it does not mind making sacrifices it has to. Like it did in Karnataka where it did not hesitate even a minute and in fact was ready with its Plan B and personnel to put it together in a jiffy. The BJP was still celebrating when the Congress sent a letter to the governor that it was supporting the JD(S) and pulled the rug from under the BJP’s feet.
Also sadly for the BJP, its aggressive and strong moves has scared away its allies and potential allies. In contrast the Congress under Rahul Gandhi is showing how different it was in treating its allies and potential allies.
Just consider this: In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP has scared away Chandrababu Naidu and now has launched a broadside against him, accusing him of corruption of gigantic scales. In Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, BJP has absolutely no chance without a Dravidian party supporting it. Its great hope Rajinikanth is getting exposed as a BJP agent and this is bad news for him also. Kerala continues to be a no-go area for the BJP.
So, the BJP is unlikely to make up its possible shortfall from South India. The battle for India therefore will be fought in the central, north and west India. The BJP will also be looking at North East from where it hopes to secure a majority of seats from 25 on offer.