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'Voters Gave Modi Course Correction'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
June 11, 2024 14:05 IST
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'Hindutva will not win any elections. Hindutva as a political plank never works.'

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra D Modi and Cabinet ministers at the swearing-in ceremony, June 9, 2024. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
 

Uttar Pradesh turned in the most unexpected election result, when it gave the Samajwadi Party-Congress combine more seats than the Bharatiya Janata Party which, under Prime Minister Narendra D Modi, had had an incredible run at the hustings in the state, virtually decimating all opposition.

Dr A K Verma, director, Centre for the Study of Society and Politics, Kanpur, believes that the BJP was unable to counter the narrative set by the SP-Congress combine.

"Earlier, the BJP used to have its own agenda and set its own narrative. This time the BJP was trapped into the narrative of the Opposition parties. Especially, the Samajwadi Party and Congress in UP. When the BJP started its counter narrative it became communal in nature. People did not like that in UP," Dr Verma tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com in the concluding segment of the interview.

What about Hindutva? Will we see that kind of campaigning in future after the BJP's defeat?

This was a media creation. Hindus do not think they are a homogeneous society. They are a caste-divided society.

When you say Islam is in danger then some kind of homogeneity is there but you cannot say the same thing about the Hindu religion as there is so much diversity in the religion.

Everyone's worship (of gods) is different. I worship this lord and my neighbour will worship some other lord.

Hindutva will not win any elections. Hindutva as a political plank never works. The people of Uttar Pradesh are very secular as in 2007 they elected Mayawati, then in 2012 they elected Akhilesh Yadav.

In 2017 they elected the BJP so the focus is on governance. Ultimately they found that Yogi Adityanath was doing good governance so he was elected again in 2022.

The law and order problem was huge in UP which he (Yogi) maintained well so the people elected him again.

Therefore one wonders, with Yogi ruling UP, the law and order is good and then you have Modi in Delhi. They were called the double engine sarkar and yet the BJP lost badly.

This is what politics is all about. It is very uncertain. If you take politics for granted, then this is what happens. And Akhilesh (Yadav, the Samajwadi Party president) capitalised on it which other opponents of the BJP could not do.

There is a lot of appreciation for the good work of the Yogi government on the ground.

I am sorry to say that the BJP forgot the constructive agenda which it achieved in 10 years. They did not emphasise this to the voters. The BJP did not sell their achievements to the people.

What is their vision in the next five years, they were not able to sell to the people. They made statements like India will be a developed country and a $5 trillion economy in 2047. Such statements do not make any sense to the poor people of the country.

There should have been a proper narrative from the BJP as to what they have done and achieved in the last 10 years and what they are going to do in the next five years. This was missing from their campaign.

They should have said that we want 400 paar so that their vision of Viksit Bharat could be achieved. Unfortunately, they did not say anything like this on the ground.

If I am not mistaken Mr Modi spoke about Viksit Bharat and such matters during the first round of the election campaign, but after the second round he started Hindu-Muslim politics.

Therein lies the catch. Earlier, the BJP used to have its own agenda and set its own narrative. This time the BJP was trapped into the narrative of the Opposition parties. Especially, the Samajwadi Party and Congress in UP. When the BJP started its counter narrative it became communal in nature. People did not like that in UP.

Instead of sticking to their original narrative of Viksit Bharat they got embroiled in the narrative set by the Opposition parties.

IMAGE: President Droupadi Murmu and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar with the newly sworn-in Prime Minister Modi and his council of ministers, June 9, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Will the 2027 UP assembly elections be easy for the SP and Congress now?

It is too early to say, but one thing is for sure: Whatever Modi achieved in the last 10 years it has been demolished in one stroke.

Modi was trying to create class consciousness in India. He was focusing on four classes --women, marginal farmers, subalterns and the youth. Had he not done this, the BJP would have remained a party of 15 percent and not reached a 50 percent plus vote share.

He was trying to bring in a class structure and amalgamate it with the caste structure in which he became very successful.

For example, women, he focused on their well-being and did not bother about their religion or caste.

In the same way, he did good work for marginal farmers, subaltern groups and youth.

Demographically, India is adding one Sudan or Spain every year.

For any government to provide employment, it is a very risky proposition. You can have a short term victory but it can ultimately boomerang.

No government can provide jobs to people in such huge numbers and what Modi did was to provide an alternative, like Startup India, speaking of entrepreneurs and unicorns.

People saw Modi as techno savvy and had faith in him. In UP however, issues like Agniveer backfired, which Akhilesh successfully capitalised on.

IMAGE: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses a media interaction with Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav in Ghaziabad, April 17, 2024. Photograph: Jitender Gupta/ANI Photo

Are the days of Naya Bharat over and will we go back to identity politics?

I don't think it is gone as Modi is sticking to his agenda with a reduced margin. There are coalition compulsions but I feel his coalition partners are also mature and this government will be stable.

With Modi, Nitish and Naidu at the Centre I don't think they will return to identity politics.

Modi will go ahead with Sab Ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas politics.

UP was a special case in this election but then it was a massive jolt to the BJP. They will certainly work on it and find out how to return to class consciousness and not allow identity to take precedent.

You don't believe that Modi ran a Hindu majoritarian government ruthlessly? The Western media highlights this fact, that he is winning by suppressing the minorities.

I don't believe what the Western media writes about Modi or India. I trust Indian journalists more than Western journalists.

Will we see communal politics in future and a Hindu majoritarian campaign in elections?

If there was a Hindu majoritarian way of campaigning which worked, do you think Akhilesh Yadav would have won with these numbers?

Even in Varanasi, Modi won with a reduced margin.

All this Hindu majoritarian way of politics is a bogus Western media set narrative. They do not have the maturity to understand the Indian voter and Indian democracy.

Whenever something goes wrong with a leader, then course correction is done by Indian voters immediately.

Modi won by a reduced margin and there was a message to him that whenever you do an aberration, voters will give you a course correction.

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
 
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