BJP cements its position as central pole of Indian polity

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the leadership of Narendra Modi has swept India once again. This election has confirmed that the BJP has replaced the Congress as the main aggregator of different castes and communities under the umbrella of Hindutva. And that BJP has consolidated its position as the central pole of the Indian polity. Even without the detailed data of the elections, we can safely draw some inferences. First, Modi is the most formidable mass leader India has seen since independence. His popularity and credibility are at their zenith and that opposition committed hara-kiri by targeting him personally.

Second, this is an unequivocal victory of Hindutva; a modern vision of Hindu unity cutting across the caste and regional divide. And nowhere is it seen better than in Uttar Pradesh where the United Spectrum of Hindu Votes has decimated the formidable alliance of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The sole purpose of the SP-BSP alliance was to consolidate the Muslim votes. They couldn’t imagine the counter-consolidation of the Hindus.

Third, this is the vindication of what is famously called “Shekhawat doctrine”. It formulated the expansion of the social base of the BJP beyond the traditional urban upper caste constituency and localisation of Hindutva. The straitjacket of “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan” was abandoned and the Hindutva narrative was adapted according to the regional and caste-specific imagination.

What began in the 1990s was picked up again by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah and scaled up. Gujarat, Karnataka, Bengal and Uttar Pradesh are the shining example of the success of this strategy.

Fourth, Modi transformed BJP from the party of urban middle-class into the party of the poor and neo-middle class. And herein lies the main reason behind this unprecedented full-majority second term.

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The unparalleled delivery of public goods to the poor and the villagers and massive expansion of the social security coverage endeared him to the masses and destroyed the opposition charge of “Ambani-Adani ki sarkar”. The numbers of beneficiaries of toilet construction, housing for poor, gas cylinders, electrification, health coverage under Ayushman Bharat, pension coverage, banking coverage etc runs into tens of millions and there was no way that the opposition strategy of creating mahaul, an atmosphere of negativity, was going to work.

The use of Aadhar and Direct Benefit Transfers ensured that, for the first time, the poor got the benefits they were entitled to. And the direct income support to the farmers under the PM-Kisan consolidated the rural poor as an unassailable fortress of Modi. All this while, the opposition was busy funding rootless propagandists and comedians on social media thinking that they will succeed in creating the mahaul, perception, against the Modi government.

The BJP successfully converted the vantage point of the election from caste to class and blunted the appeal of the caste-based regional parties. One of the main reasons behind the caste politics is the absence of the universal provision of the public goods leading to competing mobilisation behind caste leaders to ensure that the state works for their respective communities. And Modi has just undermined that model. He made universal service delivery and efficient administration a major plank of the campaign. This will lead to long-term change in both political discourse and ground politics.

Fifth, the credit must be given to Amit Shah and the party organisation he so painstakingly built. It has once again shown that elections can’t be won without boots on the ground and that no amount of hiring of foreign experts, consultants and social media trends can match the disciplined army of the party cadre. It is not surprising that today that the BJP is the only major cadre-based party.

It also ensures intra-party competition with constant churning of talent in the party structure, unlike the feudal enterprise that other parties have become.

Sixth, the opposition was leaderless and clueless. It was under the delusion that 2014 was a black swan event and Modi could never repeat his victory. They failed to understand that the fundamental shifts in an increasingly young, aspirational and urban India.

Their political strategy was trapped in the 1990s framework and remained wilfully blind to the inroads BJP has made in the Dalit, tribal and Other Backward Classes. Bengal is the prime example of this subaltern consolidation behind BJP against the oppressive rule of the Trinamool Congress.

And last, people refused to give their mandate to an unstable coalition of the warring regional satraps and have indicated their clear preference for political stability and decisive leadership at the Centre to deal with issues like national security.

The anarchist politics adopted by the opposition of targeting each and every institution by vicious propaganda and patronising far-left demagogues has backfired. One hopes that better sense will prevail this time around.

(The writer is an assistant professor at Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University)

First Published:
May 25, 2019 07:28 IST

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