September 21, 2014

On Bye-Election Results

AS we said earlier, normally bye-election results do not constitute a major reflection on the national standing of any political party, particularly that party which heads the central government at the moment. However, if the recent three rounds of bye-elections since the BJP’s single party majority victory in the Lok Sabha and formation of the government at the Centre are taken together, the trends appear of certain significance. Of the 50 assembly seats that went to the polls in these three rounds of bye-elections, across various states in the country, the BJP-led NDA managed to win a mere 18 seats compared to the 35 assembly segments in which it had a significant lead in the 2014 general elections. Even in comparison to the earlier round of assembly elections in these states, there is a sharp decline. Further, these bye-elections were held in states that are some of the most populous states in the country and command a significant presence in the Lok Sabha. In this current round of bye-elections in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP won a record 71 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats, a little over a 100 days after it formed the central government, it lost eight of its sitting seats compared to the last assembly elections and seven of the segments where it recorded significant leads in the Lok Sabha elections. In Gujarat, the BJP lost three seats in comparison to both the Lok Sabha and last assembly elections. Likewise in Rajasthan, the BJP lost again three sitting seats as compared to both the last assembly elections and the Lok Sabha victory margins. In this round of bye-elections out of the 32 assembly seats across nine states, the BJP managed to win only in 12. While the entire national media commented upon the rapidity and the extent of such erosion soon after the general elections, the BJP is drawing some solace from the fact that it entered the West Bengal assembly alone for the first time. The last time it had won seats in the Lok Sabha and the assembly was when they were in alliance with the Trinamul Congress and other allies. The Basirhat Dakshin assembly seat which they won this time was the seat where they led by over 30,000 votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Their victory margin now is less than 1300. This seat borders Bangladesh and has always been prone to the stoking of communal passions. These were fully exploited both in the Lok Sabha and these bye-elections by the BJP. Further, the common working people in West Bengal terrorised by the TMC goons and extortions combined with politics of violence, terror and intimidation saw in the BJP some hope to receive relief as they hold the central government today. This, amongst others led to some shift of votes in favour of the BJP. The Basirhat Dakshin assembly seat was represented by the CPI(M) and the Left Front since 1977. The death of its sitting MLA, who was a very popular leader in the area, caused these bye- elections. The CPI(M) and the West Bengal Left Front have announced that they are conducting an indepth analysis of these results to identity and overcome the shortcomings that led to this reversal. However, it should be borne in mind that it was the Trinamul Congress that in the first place provided the BJP with an entry into state politics. The TMC’s alliance with the BJP saw the TMC chief joining the Vajpayee government as railway minister. In their urge to defeat the Left Front in Bengal, the TMC facilitated the entry of the communal forces into Bengal on the one hand and the entry of Maoist violence and terror on the other. The net result has been the miseries that are being heaped on the people of Bengal with the TMC in power. The consequent communal sharpening is taking a heavy toll in Bengal which some successive generations of Bengali people had thought that they have left this behind as a historical legacy. It is today resurfacing in Bengal with a vengeance. In all these discussions and analysis over these bye-election results, one element that has been mostly deliberately ignored is the resounding victory of the CPI(M) in Tripura. An assembly seat that was vacated by the incumbent having been elected to the Lok Sabha, went to by-polls along with the rest. The CPI(M) won this seat with a record margin resulting in all other candidates in the fray losing their deposits. This despite the vigorous interest shown and campaign conducted both the BJP and the TMC in this bye-election. Concerning the bye-election results particularly in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan the national media is seeing this beyond the scope of a mere warning to the BJP. The banner headline of the Times of India for instance comparing the Lok Sabha results to these bye-election results says “After the landslide, A slide”. Another headline screams “Bypollar shock for BJP” (Mail Today). Most national dailies carried editorials ascribing various factors and reasons, but all underlining the fact that the BJP must see the signals clearly. The BJP on its part has said that it shall examine the results in detail before making any reasoned comment or observation. Most however cautioned that this strident campaign for communal polarisation around the slogans like “love jihad” turned out to be counterproductive etc. However, media quotes senior RSS/BJP leaders who chose to comment under condition of anonymity (a tendency on the rise under the current Modi regime) that the reluctance in making slogans like love Jihad and the Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur and Moradabad communal riots as big election issues cost the BJP dearly in these elections. “The fact remains that we got votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections because of our Hindutva related agenda. We lose elections whenever we forget our real identity and start pursuing inclusive politics.” (Mail Today, September 17, 2014) Thus, the cat is out of the bag. In earlier editorials we had mentioned the RSS/BJP’s ‘forked tongue’ politics pursuing a diabolic agenda. While the issues of ‘development’, ‘Gujarat model’, ‘achche din aane wale hain’ on the one hand for public consumption and on the other the sharpening of communal polarisation and violence as the real methodology for reaping electoral benefits. This is all the more apparent once again during these bye-elections. Herein lies the real danger. These successive rounds of defeats in bye-elections are clearly leading to the consolidation of returning to the hardcore Hindutva agenda as the only sustainable basis for the RSS/BJP’s continued governance in national politics. This spells disaster for our modern secular democratic republic of India. It is this danger that must be squarely met by the Indian people by defeating the communal forces and thus rejecting the RSS vision of converting our secular democratic republic into their version of a rabidly intolerant fascistic ‘Hindu rashtra’. Only when we are able to secure the foundations of a united secular democratic India can the battle for creating a better India for all our people move forward decisively. (September 17, 2014)