RaGa has done it again. He has, like an expert one-man demolition squad, not only ensured that his own party is annihilated in Uttar Pradesh and brought to the verge of extinction, but also succeeded in damaging the SP beyond repair. One can argue that the Congress President-in-perpetual-waiting can’t be singled out—Akhilesh Yadav, too, deserves his share of blame in the dispatches from the electoral battle front. The former chief minister may have been humbled but is far from defeated. He lives to fight another day with his personal image more or less intact.
There is no lack of sympathisers who believe that he fell a victim to family feuds and paid the price for joining hands with Rahul. Similarly, Mayawati stunned. Given the unexpected turn in her fortunes, she had been incoherent in her immediate reactions and has the will and skill to survive the blow. This is the end of the road for RaGa, the man with the anti-Midas touch. The sycophants who have started the chorus to give him credit for the victory in Punjab have only succeeded in making him look more like Humpty Dumpty.
However, the most important take-aways are not about individuals but relate to issues and ideologies.
Poll results from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand will be analysed for a long time and are bound to shape the strategic and tactical responses of all political parties eyeing 2019 general elections. Some may continue quibbling that we shouldn’t overlook the ‘Return of the Congress’ in Punjab from where it daydreams to rise like a Phoenix—but let us not kid ourselves. Congress party or RaGa can’t usurp any credit for the victory crafted by Captain Amarinder Singh. Arvind Kejriwal, too, contributed his bit in his inimitable style—peaking prematurely and continuing with an arrogant boastful swagger. True, the close contests in Manipur and Goa defy the ‘Modi tsunami’ explanation, but let the sideshows not distract us. A few quick points before moving on.
Ever since Narendra Modi has been sworn in as the Prime Minister, there has been a sustained campaign to demonise him and vilify the ‘lunatic fringe’ in Sangh Parivar that allegedly remote-controls his government. What must be conceded now is that despite stupid hate speeches, spouted by some Hindu zealots, none of this muck has stuck. On the contrary, preemptive counter-attacks by similar unguided missiles, claiming to be protectors of imperilled minorities, have only succeeded in alienating intelligent and responsible youngsters they have been targeting.
The majority of Indians north of Vindhya mountains and Narmada river (not only Hindus but most of the young voters regardless of their caste, community and gender, urban or rural, employed or jobless, educated or unlettered) have shown it more than once that they find NaMo and BJP more credible than any one else. This is the reason why BJP candidates have won in such large numbers in Muslim as well as Dalit majority constituencies. Why blame the EVMs?
True, UP isn’t India and there are other geographical regions and cultural zones that comprise the nation. There, too, the churning is on.
The electorate in the heartland as well in the coastal region and in distant Northeast have spoken out loud and clear. They are not going to be swayed by appeals to caste and community (read religion). Days of ‘Identity Politics’ are over. Nor is the voter on the street prepared to be prejudiced and provoked by the ‘narrative’ of social justice.
‘The Force’ has most certainly forsaken the Secular Democratic Brigade. The English-speaking urban elite has demonstrated once more that it is incapable of breaking out of its cocoon to catch a glimpse of the drastically-changed outside. Not many are sorry that the caterpillars have failed to sprout wings and will never take off as radiant butterflies. No doubt the badly-mauled members of the smart set in the media, ‘celebrities in their own right’ with an exaggerated sense of entitlement, and their own might will sooner or later find their tongue but will continue to talk to each other in an echo chamber.
All of us support Freedom of Expression but tend to forget that those we address can exercise their right ‘not to listen’. Tirades of secular-democratic liberal-progressive-rabidly communal-patriarchal-feudal have only succeeded in cancelling each other. Words such as ‘discourse’ and ‘narrative’ are lost in translation. The dialects in the ‘cow belt’ and elsewhere are repositories of priceless folk wisdom, adages and idioms resonating with shared memories of the people. From municipal to gram panchayats, recent electoral contests from Maharashtra to Odisha have underlined the writing on the wall. The Indian voter is not waiting for the pundits to show the way. The silent majority may not be articulating it crisply at the moment, but it refuses to buy someone else’s ‘Idea of India’—and treat it as eternal and immutable.
Former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University