NEW DELHI/MUMBAI/BHOPAL: The Opposition’s bid to target the BJP on agrarian distress and violence against SC/STs seems to have fallen flat on its face. While the epicentres of agrarian distress -- Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra — have firmly rallied behind the BJP, states that erupted in violence following the saffron party’s alleged attempt to dilute the SC/ST Act also supported it.
According to some estimates, nearly 63 per cent of SCs across the country voted for the BJP.
In 2014, the BJP had lost two seats to the Congress in Marathwada and four to the NCP in Western Maharashtra, the worst-affected areas of the agrarian distress. But this time, it has wrested the two Marathwada seats from the Congress and given a tough fight to the NCP in its bastion.
Apart from Beed, Latur and Solapur -- the worst-hit districts -- the BJP won Nanded and helped the Shiv Sena win Osmanabad.
So, what helped the BJP this time? The Maharashtra government’s flagship water conservation scheme, Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, aimed at making the state drought-free and implementation of several direct benefit transfer DBT schemes appear to have worked in favour of the BJP-led government.
According to the Opposition, the state government transferred `5,000 each to the accounts of people from these areas terming them as labourers.
Ditto with Madhya Pradesh. While in 2018 the same issues helped topple the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, the electoral outcome was reversed in the West MP belt, with the BJP repeating its 2014 performance and emerging victorious winning in all eight seats.
In Mandsaur, the epicentre of farmer protests, sitting MP Sudhir Gupta defeated the Congress’ Meenakshi Natrajan, a close confidante of party president Rahul Gandhi, by over 3.5 lakh votes.
Rural experts point out that farm distress failed to gain traction as an election issue for multiple reasons. “The issue was hardly spoken about. Farm loan waiver is used as a poll dole ahead of all elections but this time even that was not done. The BJP also emerged victorious as there was no credible Opposition,” said Professor H S Solanki of the National Institute of Rural Development.
The SC/ST issue also found no resonance among voters. Despite protests last year, the BJP swept almost all seats in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, which saw violence. “Although there was discontent among the SCs and STs when the dilution process began, the BJP used other things to divert voters’ minds,” said Dalit thinker Chandra Bhan Prasad.
ISSUES THAT FAILED TO HURT BJP
PARTY MANAGED TO TURN VOTERS’ ATTENTION FROM THESE ISSUES
Rajasthan: Kota, Bundi and Jhalawar (all BJP)
Madhya Pradesh: Mandsour, Jabalpur, Sagar and Ratlam
Maharashtra: Wardha (BJP), Gondia (BJP), Akola (BJP) and Amravati (NCP)
Karnataka: Mandya (Cong), Belgavi (Cong), Gulbarga (Cong), Haveri (Cong), Dharwad (Cong), Udupi-Chikmanguluru (BJP)
Madhya Pradesh: Gwalior, Morena, Bhopal, Indore (All BJP)
Rajasthan: Alwar (BJP)
Uttar Pradesh: Meerut (BJP)