[Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is taking full credit for the BJP’s victories in the recent Assembly elections]
By Sajeda Momin in Kolkata
Narendra Modi is a very happy man. The Gujarat Chief Minister who bullied his way into becoming the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last year by sweeping aside the claim to the post of the Party’s founding father and Modi’s own personal mentor, Lal Krishna Advani, is taking full credit for the BJP’s victories in the recent Assembly elections in four states of India.
Modi, who has been a political pariah in much of India till now because of his complicity in the anti-Muslim pogrom carried out by his party in 2002 in Gujarat during which thousands of Muslims were killed and hundreds of thousands lost their businesses and homes, has been crowing that these elections were just the semi-finals and that these victories will also be translated into a win for him and the BJP during the Parliamentary elections in May 2014. Thanks to these results Modi already sees himself as the Prime Minister-in-waiting. But he forgets that there can be many a slip between the cup and the lip!
While Modi claims that the BJP wins were down to his ‘charismatic leadership’ and a ‘Modi mania’ among the voters, the reality’s very different. In Madhya Pradesh (central India) the ruling BJP was elected for a third term because of the ‘good governance’ of the ruling Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and his pro-poor plank and ‘popular’ schemes. In fact the BJP supremo LK Advani, during the fight to elevate Modi to the PM candidate had said that Chouhan’s performance as Chief Minister had surpassed that of Modi simply because he had achieved the far tougher task of bringing development to an underdeveloped state like Madhya Pradesh rather than ruling an already developed state like Gujarat.
In Rajasthan (western India) the Congress was beaten by the BJP to form a state government, but even here the BJP has not broken any fresh ground thanks to Modi. The BJP has ruled Rajasthan in the past and there is a well-established party-machinery in place. The election also was not a two-horse race as anticipated, but was a three-cornered contest with a one-year-old party call the National People’s Party (NPP) taking on the big two. The anti-incumbency factor was already working against the Congress and then the anti-BJP or anti-Modi vote was split between the Congress and NPP giving the BJP an overwhelming victory.
Even in Chattisgarh (eastern India) the BJP was able to win a three-cornered fight against the Congress with a two-month old party called the Satnami Sena putting on a good show.
Despite Modi holding a whopping 12 electoral meetings in the small state, the BJP’s vote share remained at a static 41 per cent as in the last election. In fact Congress increased its overall vote share by 2 per cent but in many constituencies it was just piped to the post because of the multi-cornered contest.
The most interesting result was in fact in Delhi, the nation’s capital where neither the Congress nor the BJP won but the result was a hung Assembly thanks to the emergence of a new political party called Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which translates as party of the common man and its abbreviation AAP means ‘you’ in Hindi, was created only a year ago by the very people whom it seeks to represent – the common man.
Emerging as an off-shoot of a popular movement to sweep away corruption from politics and Government (hence its electoral symbol being a broom) which affects citizens at every level from birth to death in India, AAP really caught the imagination of Delhi voters. Its low-cost campaign through small, local meetings and social media networks; focus on the individual voter and his day-to-day problems like inflation and corruption; positioning itself ideological to the right of the Congress and left of the BJP, AAP was able to sweep out the Congress which had ruled Delhi for the last decade and half and also prevent the main Opposition BJP from winning.
If the results of these elections are anything to go by, then both the Congress and the BJP have their work cut out for them if they wish to obtain an outright win in next year’s general elections. The voter is decidedly looking for an alternative to the Congress – but that alternative is not always Modi or his brand of BJP.