Election results and the future of Indian politics

As the election results for the 5 states were being declared on 11th March, the future of politics in India was being defined. These much talked about elections got huge media coverage as some were calling it a ‘semi-final’ before the final of 2019. Along with this, they were considered to be a litmus test for claims and counter claims made by the ruling and opposition parties in favor of and against demonetization.

A major takeaway from these elections is that the BJP juggernaut is still going strong and the Modi wave is still pretty much there. For political pundits who started predicting a downfall of Modi and BJP after setbacks in Bihar and Delhi, these results have left them with egg on their faces. The margin of BJP’s victory in UP has only added to their embarrassment. But how did the BJP manage to pull off such a landslide victory and what do these trends tell us?

First things first, reasons behind BJP’s success:

  • The party has started working in a very stable and organized structure as everyone in the management has been assigned a specific role. From Modi to Amit Shah to state party presidents and chief ministers, everyone sticks to their role during an election without any diversion from the job allotted to them. This discipline has been the main reason for BJP’s election successes in and after 2014. The people engaged in political management of the party like the party president Amit Shah have been completely detached from jobs of governance and legislation. The roadmap for the election campaign is prepared by these people working in the political wing of the party while the star campaigners and other popular leaders become the face of the party. This is a finely intertwined model which works on the basis of interdependence and trust.
  • Since 2014, BJP has always been ahead of all its rivals in preparation for elections. The party already has a plan in place for 2019 general elections and various other state elections during this period that ends in 2019. Every political activity that involves the BJP is a step in the direction of that plan. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the opposition parties to compete with a party that’s so focused on achievement of its targets.
  • The central government’s policies for the poor have had a major role to play in Uttar Pradesh elections. One policy that has been repeatedly mentioned during the election campaigns was ‘PM Ujjwala Scheme’ which aims at providing LPG connections to BPL households in the country. As has been said, this scheme became a game changer for BJP as it helped the party in gaining popularity and support from the weaker sections especially women.
  • BJP has been able to reinvent itself in the last 8-10 years. From a party which was portrayed as a party of upper castes, BJP now commands huge support from other sections of voters which were previously considered to be out of their zone of influence. This has been possible because of a carefully devised strategy of diversifying the representation. In the Uttar Pradesh state elections and in the 2014 general elections, they were able to fine-tune this tactic to perfection and the result is well known.

So where is the Congress going wrong? Is it the leadership? Or is it the cadre which should be blamed for this series of debacles? There is a common pattern in this downfall which the Congressmen refuse to acknowledge. This pattern consists of repeated events and consequential actions which have been pushing the sinking Congress harder into the quicksand.

Firstly, the Grand Old Party of India has to admit that it has lost its narrative. They don’t have a story to be labelled as their own. They need to get rid of this habit of tagging along with every other party opposing the government. Instead of following these small regional parties, the Congress should be leading the opposition. They don’t seem to do that. It is evident from the recent JNU/DU cases which involved student leaders’ protests. As soon as the incident took place, Congress leaders, including their Vice President Rahul Gandhi went to the university campus to stand with the students who were accused of shouting anti-national slogans. However, these students were supporters of extreme leftism, which even the Congress, being a centrist party (as it claims to be), should not support as it goes against their ideology. But the Congress went with the flow. They will keep repeating the same mistake till the time they realize that they will have to set their own agenda and depart from the practice of riding on someone else’s back to achieve their aims. Also, Congress’ absence from the national political scene is not a healthy trend for politics in this country. The void left by them would be filled by parties like AAP, SP, TMC and other regional parties and as a result, it will encourage regionalism.

Secondly, there is no doubt that the Congress needs a total revamp in its organizational structure. They have been suffering and will keep suffering under this nepotistic leadership. The party has a choice to make- success or sycophancy. It is a party with some very capable politicians but most of them have either gone quiet or left the party to join BJP (popular leaders like Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Vijay Bahuguna). Long story short, Rahul Gandhi has to give it up in favor of party’s interests. He’s mature enough to realize that he’s not capable enough. For a charismatic leader like Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi is no match. The sooner Congress realizes this, the better.

All in all, the Congress needs radical steps to come out of the mess they have created for themselves. There is no more time for introspection but enough for action. However, if they want to maintain the status quo and remain reluctant to incorporate such changes in the leadership and functioning of the party, then 2019 is a battle they have already lost.

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