Post-Nov ballot, BJP Expects One Sided Final in 2024
By Atul Cowshish & Rama Rao Malladi
Election results can spring a surprise but perhaps not of the scale witnessed at the end of assembly polls in three Hindi-speaking states—Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. So surprising were these results that the poll results from Telangana where the Congress dislodged the BRS from power and Mizoram where the regional parties have done well, have in comparison, received little attention in the media, both in the traditional one that almost without exception backs the ruling BJP and the multitude of digital platforms that present the other view.
The first lot of post-poll news and analysis seem more interested in reading the future of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and declaring with some confidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is almost certain to have a third term and inch closer to the 17-year rule of Jawaharlal Nehru, the man he despises most.
There is hardly any surprise in the ‘analysis’ of the BJP’s hat-trick of victories. As in so many cases in the past, a plethora of faults were found in the defeated Congress party, its leadership and its strategy while everything that the BJP, more specifically Narendra Modi, did or said was described as faultless and win worthy.
And not for the first time, commentators were hinting at the annihilation of the Congress after the 2024 Lok Sabha polls at the hands of the Narendra Modi’s BJP. Of course, in the process, I.N.D.I.A also stands exterminated. Those who had expressed reservations about the future of ‘idea of India’ with an intolerant Modi as the prime minister were busier examining the winning ways of Modi and his BJP than recall the dark forebodings they had made just days back.
But this is how poll results are viewed by most Indians: The winner takes all and deserves the crown. The loser stands condemned and invites the severest forms of castigation which includes writing the obituary.
An interesting thing about the 2023 November assembly polls is that the unbelievable results that came from the three Hindi-speaking states, especially Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In their pre-poll assessments, based on ground reporting, many pollsters had emphatically declared that the BJP rule in Madhya Pradesh with Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the chief minister, was about to end. He was weathering an anti-incumbency wave generated by 18 years of his rule.
In neighbouring Chhattisgarh which was, in fact, once part of Madhya Pradesh, the BJP was given no chance at all as it was said to be the Congress all the way with the chief minister Bhupesh Bhagel retaining his popularity.
In Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, the chief minister was given an even chance of breaking the tradition of alternating between Congress and BJP rule by retaining power. Near the last days of campaiging, many had started talking about a Congress ‘edge’ in Rajasthan and more so when the BJP’s strongest face in the state, Vasundhara Raje, was said to be smarting under perceived cold shouldering by the party bigwigs in Delhi.
The results turned every forecast upside down. The BJP won a comfortable majority in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and in Madhya Pradesh it took everyone by surprise by winning more than 160 of the 230 assembly seats, way beyond even the BJP’s own expectations.
Given the fact that Narendra Modi had led the poll campaigns in these three states it can be said that the credit for victory will accrue to him. But such a facile explanation suppresses what many were talking about when sizing up Modi as the prime vote catcher.
Two points that had emerged in these assessments were that the so-called Modi magic was declining fast, relating it to the results in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, and that the appeal of Hindutva was also ebbing.
A reason given by all whose who spoke of Modi magic’s decline was that the people had begun to see the falsehood that Modi preached in his speeches and making promises that were pure election ‘jumlas’. As proof of this was cited the thinner size of the crowd in the rallies addressed by Modi—as against the tumultuous turnouts at rallies addressed by Rahul Gandhi of the Congress.
These readings proved to be as fallacious as the fancy promises Modi routinely makes at his rallies. It can be said that irrespective of whether they believed in what Modi promised, people still liked to hear about dreams that Modi painted in his speeches—even if he took the precaution of speaking of a timeline decades ahead!
Selling wild dreams to the Indian voter has been very easy for Modi, thanks to his well-oiled propaganda machine and the media which has shown an enviable quality of presenting him as the hero even when his failure has been palpable.
It is the power of the vast propaganda and media machine that has by and large prevented the voter from even thinking about how Modi misleads them on the ‘serious’ issues of corruption, dynasty and appeasement. It has been etched in the minds of the majority of people that corruption is restricted to the opposition parties. Thus, Gehlot in Rajasthan and Baghel in Chhattisgarh were presented by him as ‘corrupt’ leaders.
He wants people to think only of the Gandhi family when he talks of dynasties in politics when there are probably more dynasts in his own BJP. No doubt it is only his critics who talk of dynasties in the BJP, not his supporters.
Modi alluded to an alleged bribe of Rs 500 crore paid to the Chhattisgarh chief minister by someone who told the police that he was forced to sign a statement and he had never met or known Baghel. Gehlot’s alleged corruption link was traced to a ‘red diary’ which however has remained a mysterious and unseen object. But the charges against the two chief ministers stuck because Modi had made them, making full use of his talent for theatrical delivery.
Similarly, the ‘appeasement’ charge against Gehlot—and the Congress in general– was broadcast again and again after word was spread that the Rajasthan chief minister had paid a small amount of compensation to a Hindu tailor killed by a Muslim, said to be associated with the minority cell of the BJP.
Of course, the Congress must be blamed for its failure to effectively rebuff all the allegations made by the BJP against the party and its leaders. But that is the problem with the Congress—it is rarely as alert as the BJP.
This attitude is part of the habit of complacency in Congress that many had seen in both Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. A laid back attitude may be understood to some extent if the Congress had a dedicated army of workers who keep a hawkish eye on the wrong doings of the adversaries. Reports suggest that organizationally, the Congress still remains weak in most states, especially in the Hindi belt. It is as if the D-shaped area outside the penalty box on a football pitch has been left empty for the rival team. (SAT)
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