In the run up to the General Elections, the result of the 5 states are a direct mandate for the ruling BJP, which post 2014, seemed quite invincible but the juggernaut has been halted in the Hindi heartland by the arch rival, Rahul Gandhi.
In a Bi-polar contest between the BJP and Congress, this time it was more about the rural issues, anti-incumbency and local leadership rather than campaign, manifesto and polarization. The result has a clear message for the RSS cadre that people won’t buy the temple rhetoric in every election and its high time that the Sangh Parivar looks for the course correction in its policies.
An infamous acronym, TINA (There is No Alternative) had come into existence since the beginning of the Modi wave in 2014, and since then, it has been widely propagated on the news channel debates, social media etc. to convey a perception that BJP and PM Narendra Modi are the last resort and the only option for the voters of the country.
But, come this December, and Congress has overturned the results of the Hindi speaking states in its favor and the acronym has been transformed to RITA (Rahul is the Alternative).
The story of Rahul Gandhi 2.0 dates back to December 2017, when the nation saw a different wavelength in the Gujarat election, where the slogan of ‘Vikas pagal ho gaya hai’ kept trending on Twitter and the entire agrarian livelihood stood behind the Congress party.
In the end, it was the Gujarati Asmita and the urban voters of Ahmedabad and Surat, who managed to get BJP escape through the majority mark. Although, Gujarat, which was popularly known to be the Hindutva laboratory of the BJP, had high rural distress amongst the villagers and the factors of anti-incumbency, Jignesh Mevani and Hardik Patel contributed.
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were mere an extension of the rural dissent and the shift of lower, backward class votes from BJP to Congress. Clearly, the politics of Mandir and accusations on Nehru-Gandhi family has been rejected and PM Narendra Modi will have to present his report card at the completion of his term.
The result also hints that the right-wing parties and groups will re-strategize their policies and the reason to get afraid here is, either BJP will return to its development narrative or they will push the right-wing agenda to a whole new level, polarizing and communalizing the voters and the ambience even more.
UP CM Yogi Adityanath, the star campaigner of BJP, has mostly downscaled the image of the party and wherever he campaigned, new controversies erupted from Lord Hanuman being ‘Dalit’ to changing the name of Hyderabad to Bhagyanagar.
Yogi campaigned at 24 places in Chhattisgarh and BJP lost 16 of them; same goes in Madhya Pradesh, where he rallied in 13 districts and the party lost 8 of them, whereas in Rajasthan, Yogi went to 26 places and BJP lost in 13.
Certainly, BJP has received a dent in its core vote base and the backwards have shifted from its grasp as the events in the last 2 years have merely presented the party appeasing the SC/ST, spreading communal agenda, pitching up the Mandir rhetoric ahead of polls and loosening the hold on economy but be assured, that the Amit Shah school of election management is still preparing for the final exam and PM Narendra Modi remains the top leader of India at present and frontrunner in the 2019 polls, although the Modi wave might now have been vaporized.
Amidst the slogan of ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ by the BJP president Amit Shah, the grand old party has now managed to score another one, ‘BJP-rahit Hindi heartland’ which is a big shift in the tone being set for the 2019 elections. Congress will be the fulcrum of the Opposition in 2019 and now, after winning in the 3 big states, it will act like a magnet for the regional parties to form a ‘Mahagathbandhan’ and lead from the front.
The only issue is that a ragtag coalition will not work, as seen in Telangana where the Congress went into alliance with TDP, CPI, TJS which seemed strong but only paper as it lacked vision and mission
In the end, while it may be a major setback for the BJP in the state assembly results, it is definitely not a victory for the Congress, it can be a relief for them as they have found their winning ways again. Given the amount of farmers anger and rural distress in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress managed to touch the mere majority number in Rajasthan and fell short-off 2 seats in MP.
The curious case of Mandsaur should be mentioned, which became a hub for protest as 6 farmers were killed in police firing during their strikes and Shivraj Singh Chouhan was directly blamed for it but in the assembly election, the BJP has won the Mandsaur seat. It clearly shows lack of organizational capacity, lack of election machine and a clear political roadmap on the part of Congress party.
As the Mahaul is changing, the ghost of nationalism, Hinduism, chaiwala, surgical strikes and demonetization will haunt PM Modi, while he gets out for the electioneering in the next and final round of 2019, where he will have to answer the questions and not vice-versa.
On December 11, it has been made sure that Lok Sabha election is an open game and the partnership of PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are not invincible, it’s up to the non-BJP parties which will set the momentum ahead and time will tell whether Rahul Gandhi, after hurting the BJP in its own bastion, can become the king maker.