By-election Outcome – Mesmerizing Spell is Wearing Thin

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By A Staff Analyst

The reverses suffered by the Bhartiya Janata Party in the two rounds of by-elections indicate that the Party’s votebase is much like a sand dune and would crumble over time if the party’s government does not deliver on the promises of growth, good governance and inflation. Within less than four months of swearing-in of the BJP government at the Centre, the party seems to have lost favour with the electorate in most populous states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In Rajasthan which had returned it in every alternate Assembly polls, the party’s rival has still much fire in it.
In Uttar Pradesh the BJP has ceded the ground to the Samajwadi Party in a big way. In Rajasthan the Congress is clearly recovering its ground. And surprisingly, even in Gujarat, the bastion of the BJP since long, Congress has begun to cut ground from beneath the party’s feet. Though in Bihar an alliance between Laloo Yadav and Nitish Kumar could translate the joint might into seat for the two secular parties, the victories were less than convincing ones. It was only last month that the Congress registered impressive wins in Uttarkhand and Karnataka, the two states where it rules. As for other states like Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and Assam, the outcome of by-elections largely reflects the existing ratio between Congress vis-à-vis other parties. Only surprise comes from West Bengal where the saffron party could manage to win a seat and open its account in the state legislature.
The kind of campaign the BJP ran in Uttar Pradesh reflects the mindset of the party. It seems the party is all for promoting communal divide and strife and shows no sign of power at the Centre sobering down its leaders. It imported the nasty oxymoron ‘Love Jihad’ theory from Kerala/Karnataka despite the fact that it had failed to come up with any conclusive evidence to prove its veracity. Union Minister Maneka Gandhi invented the canard of cattle smuggling across the border of Bangladesh being used to fund terrorism. Earlier reports from the Border Security Force had denied any such trafficking. And there was usual fiery communal rhetoric from Gorakhpur MP Swami Avaidyanath and Sakshi Maharaj. One feels like saluting the secular minded Hindu majority who saw through the game of deception by the BJP and refused to fall for its partisan appeal a second time.
That a party should lose the popular favour so soon after its meteoric rise on the national level, is worth taking note. All that it conveys is that the people were momentarily swayed by the concerted and well-oiled campaign during the April-May elections, sick as they were of the decade long United Progressive Alliance reign. With prices keeping their rise upward, the mesmerizing spell cast by the media is clearly wearing thin. People are coming out of the stupor and finding that there is no wishing away of harsh economic realities and no one has the magic wand to address the larger question of economic inequality, corruption and inflation. Over and above that, the BJP’s communal politics is all likely to add a layer of social schisms, friction and conflict to the mess and make the life even more nightmarish.
The Congress and the regional parties too have to realize that their major test lies in addressing the basic issues of removing poverty, ensuring affording education, health and housing for all. Replacing communal propaganda with secular rhetoric would not win them the lost ground.