Elections stand for Elation and Despair.
Though elections were held in five states, all eyes were focused on Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India that sends the largest contingent of MPs to Lok Sabha. Uttarakhand, once its part which accounts for just five MPs in the Lower House, continues to be treated as its appendage by most analysts. Manipur and Goa, and even Punjab were treated more or less as sideshows.
The voter has spoken loud and clear, and the results, stunning as they are, can’t be termed unexpected.
Though in UP, the SP-RLD alliance had aroused hopes that it may bring about an upset and oust Yogi from power, in the end, it appears it was nothing more than a wish-fulfilling daydream. The UP CM had faced a lot of flack—inept handling of the Covid situation, unabashed communalism chants of 80:20 and harping on religious nationalism. To this list, his detractors added his preference for his own caste.
Ironically, tradition and folk wisdom tell us not to identify a monk, who has renounced the world, by his caste—jati na poocho sadhu ki, etc. Nobody has accused the Mahant of the Gorakhdham Math of prioritising enlightening discourses over hate speech. Restoring law and order in the state has meant encounters to execute criminals, anti-national and anti-social elements.
His critics accused him of grave misdeeds like letting loose stray cattle into farmers’ fields or turning classrooms in village schools into bovine shelters, showing no remorse when heinous crimes against women and Dalits were committed, and bulldozing enemy property to dust without following due process of law.
Even the Supreme Court was constrained to commit adversely on some of the events in the province that is larger than many ‘big powers’ in Europe. In the end, none of this swayed the voters. Neither a power-drunk minister’s son driving over agitating farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri nor the hurt feelings about the destruction of priceless heritage in haste to build a ‘bhavya and divya’ corridor connecting the ghats and the Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi. Spiralling inflation and unemployment didn’t matter either. The saffron tsunami that swept away everything in its way can’t just be explained by the mischief of DM and EVM.
This is time for serious reflection. Call UP the “Ulta Pradesh” if you like. Refer derisively to the Gobar Patti, the Hindi Heartland that suffers from chronic cardiac infractions caused by multiple choked arteries you can’t wish away that this is the land of ‘Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb’—shared heritage of composite culture, tolerance, and celebration of pluralism. How long can this survive? Is this heritage shared by the majority of those who dwell and vote in UP today?
Allahabad is renamed Prayagraj but can this administrative order shift (or perish the thought!) dry the Sangam—confluence of diverse influences? This monk didn’t sell any Ferrari he drove it roaring back to power.
What next? After the Ram Mandir, the BJP/NDA agenda lists Gyanvapi and Krishna Janmabhumi. The run-up to 2024 is bound to see increasing religious polarisation. The majoritarian swagger will become difficult to check by a demoralised opposition. Spoilers are many from the now-defunct BSP led by a Lilliputian Behenji and myriad small parties referred to as vote katua. The ghost of the Congress that is long dead but yet to be buried continues to haunt and lead to the self-destruction of many who desperately cling on to the Nehruvian idea of India.
As the line in an Urdu verse has it: ‘iss ghar ko aag lag gayi ghar ke chirag se!’ (Literally: this house was reduced to ashes by a fire started by its own lamp-scion of the family). No accidents this. If you have not one but a trio of serial pyromaniacs in the family, how long can you avoid an all-annihilating conflagration? Don’t waste breath on the future of RaGa, Priyanka and Sonia. It is an internal matter of the Congress Party or the Mom ‘n’ Children family enterprise.
There is, to our mind, no need to keep speculating about prime ministerial potential or prospects of Yogi Younger than Everyone or his moving up on ATP-like rankings in the BJP hierarchy. There are more important issues to ponder.
The election results in UP should leave us in no doubt that popular perceptions of ‘Secularism’, ‘Constitutional Liberties and Fundamental Rights’ and ‘Separation of Powers’ are changing or have changed. Securitisation of politics and religious polarisation has rendered caste-based social engineering irrelevant.
The farmers’ agitation has little impact on the electoral fortunes of the ruling party and exposes the limitations of popular protests against the government’s policies. A week, it’s been said, is a long time in politics. Two years seem like aeons. Much can change by then. There is a time to laugh and a time to cry. Bursting into laughter or tears impulsively is of no use.
Former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University