The old saying is ‘Pride cometh before the fall’, but at the moment what almost everyone in India is pondering is ‘What comes after the fall?’ There is no doubt that the BJP has taken a hard fall. In Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, it has suffered dramatic setbacks. In Telangana and Mizoram, its performance has been dismal, to say the least. Political analysts are unanimous that what has led to this humiliating debacle is the hubris of leaders who effortlessly combine astounding ignorance with insufferable arrogance. The ‘invincible’ Chanakya of the party, the master strategist, seems to have lost touch with reality.
It was not just the anti-incumbency factor that put paid to the BJP’s dreams to return once more to power. What boomeranged devastatingly was the misreading of the minds of the people, including its own cadre-based supporters. It raised the issue of building a grand temple in a shrill manner, disregarding serious popular concerns about jobs, an economy in doldrums, and law and order. The government’s inability or reluctance to keep in check the allegedly rogue elements in ‘the family’ has obviously cost it dear. Where does the BJP go now and how?
We aren’t interested in speculating about 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The real question is: will there be a course correction, rectification of mistakes, a shift of focus from hyper-zealous religious nationalism to inclusive development? Or will the party continue to inhabit a paradise not populated with particularly intelligent till another nightmare wakes it up?
The Congress is gloating in its ‘victory’ and no one should grudge RaGa his rare moments in the sunshine. But frankly, prophecies of the Phoenix rising from its ashes are a bit premature. There is a long way to go. BJP isn’t the only party/family with Humpty Dumpty. As the nursery rhyme tells us after a nasty fall ‘all the king’s horses and all the king’s men’ couldn’t put the poor creature together again.
This brings us to ‘All the king’s men’ if not the horses on both sides. As far as the BJP is concerned, Chief Ministers in defeat have fallen in line as Men (read dispensable foot soldiers, cannon fodder etc.), the Officers and Gentlemen (read the party High Command comprising less than can be counted on fingers of one hand continue to stand apart, silent with stiff upper lip, untainted if not exactly in shining armour). Disgruntled rumblings are getting increasingly loud and criticism of allies like Shiv Sena is getting harsher. The BJP national leadership must realise sooner rather than later that it can’t run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. In almost a kamikaze-like suicidal mission, it tried to win over the SC/ST vote bank and retain its upper caste traditional supporters.
It hailed the apex court’s verdict on triple talaq but went into an apoplectic fit when the court ruled according to ‘constitutional religion’. How long it intends to play this duplicitous game is anybody’s guess. The lumpen anti-social elements masquerading as gau-rakshak vigilantes have spread a reign of terror and no amount of name-changing is going to wash away the stain or clear the stink. As long as Arun Jaitley remains at the helm, wearing multiple hats—the man with serially proven anti-Midas touch—there is no hope for economic recovery. His bristling ego and blistering wit have backfired more than once. How long can the BJP afford to retain him as the FM? What has made people anxious and apprehensive is the manner in which institutions like the RBI and CAG along with JPC have been neutered.
Enough about the ruling party. Its fall certainly does not announce the glorious rise of the Grand Old Party. Let no one forget that the Congress won only because the BJP appeared bent to commit hara-kiri. It has not only lost face but a large chunk of its mass base (other than members of Sangh Parivar), thanks to Modi’s charisma and spellbinding rhetoric in 2014 in the Hindi Patti. This, however, doesn’t automatically translate into gains for the Congress in a zero-sum game. Many in the Opposition continue to chase the Mahagathbandhan mirage.
It is also dangerous to forget that RaGa had no compunction about playing the janeyudhari, practising Hindu card. Not so soft a blow that the really secular can forget easily. Less said about democratic practices within a dynastic political outfit the better. The Congress has emerged victorious in the recent hustings with its ideological identity and credibility severely eroded. We have no clue where it is headed. The Supreme Court verdict on the Rafael Deal has taken a strong tailwind from its sails. It doesn’t have a magic wand to deliver all items in the voters wish list. For the moment it’s surfing on a tidal wave of renewed rising expectation oblivious of a lurking fall no less humbling than the one suffered by the BJP.
Pushpesh Pant, Former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University firstname.lastname@example.org