In 1951 Shyama Prasad Mukherjee founded a nationalistic political alternative to Congress called Bharatiya Jana Sangh. However, it never saw the electoral success to come across as a party to reckon with. It started with 3 seats in 1951 general elections and tallied 36 in 1967 as its best ever performance. In 1977, it merged with Janata Party to form government which lasted a little more than 2 years. After the poor show of Janata Party in 1980 elections, members of the former Jan Sangh separated to form another political party called Bharatiya Janata Party – BJP, and it’s fortune dwindled further. In the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the huge sympathy wave in favor of Congress left BJP with 2 members in parliament.
Little did one imagine that BJP would go onto become India’s largest political party in 2014. The Modi-Shah duo have created a well oiled election juggernaut which keeps rolling, virtually demolishing any competition on its way. Not only the 2014 general elections, where the BJP won a record 282 seats, a clear majority, something that happened after 30 years, but they have won 11 states on their own and ruling 7 other states through coalition with regional parties.
It is this astounding electoral success based on which, journalist and associate editor of Hindustan Times, Prashant Jha, has published his recent book, “How the BJP Wins”. The book tries to find the mantra behind this Modi-Shah magic.
At the outset, let me call out that this is not a book review. It’s an opinion piece on where the book has gone wrong.
The book starts with the “Modi hawa”, the man and his charisma and how despite being CM and PM for so long, there is virtually no anti-incumbency against Modi, rather it has added to his appeal. It then moves on to Shah’s Sangathan. His hunger and relentlessness in winning elections, his carefully planned strategy up to booth level, his boundless unlimited ambition helping BJP to chart the path to such electoral glory. The author also focuses on social engineering and caste consolidation in the Hindi heartland where once upon a time, BJP was seen as primarily a party of upper castes. The book tells us about the role of Sangh during election campaigns and how the sangh volunteers help the BJP to spread its message to the households. At this point, the book turns to “Communalising Indian elections” or the “H-M Chunav” as the author calls it in the book.
It is this chapter where the author seems to have moved away from facts and let his bias and/or inhibitions cloud his thought process.
Mr. Prashant begins by stating that, in UP, Bihar & WB, BJP starts with a -20% disadvantage because 20% are Muslims and no Muslim ever votes for BJP but more importantly, “BJP doesn’t care for their votes”. I assume, the author has insights into BJP’s war room meetings to be privy to this kind of information. However, the same publication where the author works, suggests that BJP has won 62 out of 82 assembly constituency where Muslims constitute one third or more of the population.
Anyways, the problems starts where the author starts accusing BJP of communalising elections. As per the author
- There was no politics of “Tushtikaran” or appeasement. Scholarships and laptops distributed favourably to Muslims was a lie propagated by BJP. Even PM Modi communalised further by raising “Shamsan vs Kabristan” debate.
- Migration at Kairana was, you guessed it right, again a “lie”
- Illegal slaughter houses being linked to environment and hygiene is BJP’s official spin
- And the most dubious narrative of the BJP was love Jihad. The anti romeo squad BJP promises is actually anti Salman and anti Naushad. Failure of law and order is again a BJP narrative.
Now let’s look at facts. And I am going to cite only ‘few’ examples. A customary Google search will tell you many more such examples exist.
- The state govt immediately after assuming power in 2012, started a scheme called “Hamari Beti Uska Kal” under which only Muslims girls were paid 30,000 after clearing class X. Here is a small list [pdf] of the beneficiaries. SP had sanctioned Rs 400 crores for constructing boundary walls around kabristan. Remember, this is a minuscule percentage of appeasement by state policy I am quoting. An analysis during the elections had shown that the argument of religious discrimination based on burial facilities, was backed with solid data.
- Next up is Kairana. The NHRC report in clear and unambiguous term states that, 250 Hindu families had indeed left the town due to fear of the members of a particular community which constitutes majority population in the area and allegedly enjoy political patronage.
- Last I checked, the National Green Tribunal was not a BJP or RSS functionary. Hence it can be said with conviction that the NGT order banned illegal slaughterhouses because they have an impact on environment & hygiene and certainly not because it was a BJP conspiracy.
- The author may think that Love jihad is a figment of imagination of the far right but the Kerala High Court certainly doesn’t think so. Also, the Kerala High Court and justice K.T. Sankaran are in no way related to the Sangh. The court must have asked the police to stop Love Jihad in its own wisdom, without getting influenced by the Sangh, by looking into the evidences at its disposal.
- Anti-romeo squad is actually anti-Salman and Anti-Naushad. Not necessarily, but the NHRC report is certainly adverse.
So if all this is false, propaganda and spins by BJP, how does it resonate with people? Why did people overwhelmingly vote for BJP which focussed only on imaginary issues? The author tells us why. This is because, BJP was successful in constructing a perception through relentless smear campaign using WhatsApp, images, texts and videos.
There, we have cracked it. The success to election, the insides of Indian’s greatest election machine, lies in WhatsApp, images, texts and videos. Even though, the issue doesn’t exist, BJP plays some kind of “Inception”, infiltrates into voter’s dreams, plants these imaginary things and furthers its propaganda.
Well, with the “Look East” policy, BJP has started a mission 120+ in Odisha. They held their national executive meet, 2017 in Bhubaneswar. Amit Shah and PM Modi have visited Odisha at least 6 times since 2014. But they must be fools not to raise any caste or religious overtones in their speech so far since the author has told us that BJP can win any elections by communalising the environment, doesn’t matter if the issue exists or not on the ground, whether people relate to it or not. Just infiltrate voter’s dream, plant communalism and bingo.
And if this is not true, alternatively, what the author is suggesting is, even though these exist, BJP should not raise its voice against this blatant communal appeasement because it will “communalise the environment”. Well, aisi secularism aap ko mubarak Prashant sahab.
From the Author’s own admission, he claims that he has done an extensive tour of Uttar Pradesh to understand its demography, aspirations and politics. Extensive tour is a 75 day tour with a continuous stay of 30 days during which he got to know about UP more than an MP representing people of Gorakhpur for last 20 years. He concludes by quoting someone at a coffee shop in Khan market, New Delhi, “It was an India – Pakistan election. India has won”
To summarise, in my humble opinion, to understand the aspirations of people you need to move a little beyond Khan market coffee shops. Otherwise, with your extensive research of 75 days, you will end up with imaginary pieces like “How BJP wins”.