Indian citizens have given their mandate and have given it unequivocally. As it turned out, the 2019 elections were not about who will lead India but who would lead the opposition. The mandate was against the opposition, not the ruling dispensation. All those leaders were decimated who had made anti-Modism as the only plank of their politics, be it Arvind Kejriwal, Mayawati, Chandrababu Naidu, Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav, and the head of this family Rahul Gandhi and his sister.
Only a few leaders survived this Tsunamo, they were those who opposed Modi but did not hate Modi like Naveen Patnaik, Stalin, KCR, Jagan Reddy, Omar Abdullah and Captain Amarinder Singh.
This was not a normal election (I don’t know how many times these words have been or will be used for describing elections in India since the arrival of Narendra Modi). This election would go down as a watershed moment, a tectonic shift in Indian politics. Let’s look at some of the aspects to back this assessment.
The End of Left
Left has been a big stakeholder in Indian politics since Independence. ‘Nehruvian Socialism’, which the country followed till 1991, can be defined as ‘violence-less and practical Marxism’. The left ideology was widely accepted and many of the leaders used to come from their ideological backgrounds, be it in any party. Even till 15 years back, the left parties themselves used to have 60 Loksabha seats. Today they stand at 1. Most of their candidates not only failed to win but lost their deposits.
They were out of power in Bengal but now they stand wiped out. In Tripura, where they ruled for 25 years till 2018, they were relegated to a distant third even behind the decimated Congress party in terms of vote share. The last citadel of Left, Kerala gave them a solitary seat. But the story does not end here for them.
In less than 2 years, there are state elections in Kerala, maybe even early. The anger against the state government is palpable. UDF government is set to come back. And Kerala, also being the last state for Congress with mass acceptability, there is every possible chance that BJP emerges as the new political force in Kerala replacing LDF especially given the growing vote share and popularity of their state leaders. If that happens, it would be the political death of left ideology in India.
The rout of Congress
The rout of Congress shows that the 3 state election results were not due to the party but in spite of it. Congress has been reduced to the binary numbers of 0 or 1 in all the states barring Kerala, TN, Punjab, Telangana, Bengal, Assam and Chattisgarh.
Congress won majorly in 3 out of these 7 states – Punjab, Kerala and TN. In Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh runs his local leadership as a private party in stark contrast with Congress party’s politics in the rest of the country. It is not a win for Congress but for Captain Amrinder Singh. Congress piggybacked on DMK to win 8 seats in TN which add to their tally but does not impact their future in politics. In Telangana also, it seems the BJP would emerge as the real opposition to TRS rather than a weakened Congress.
So, effectively the only number which Rahul Gandhi vis-a-vis Congress Party can claim for themselves is 15, which is the number of seats they got in Kerala. Rahul Gandhi himself lost Amethi seat to Smriti Irani. So, 52 might seem like a jump from 44 under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, the fact remains that Rahul Gandhi and his party have been relegated to a status of a single state party, thus making it a bigger loss than in 2014.
Not reading too much into it, if I can add mischievously, the irony is Congress has been confined to the state from where the Islam came into India and houses the first mosque built in India. This might be the bigger justice for their false narrative of ‘Hindu Terror’ rather than Sadhvi Pragya’s win against Digvijay Singh, which they propped up to appease a certain section of Muslim groups.
Performance and Nation above Caste
With the defeat of SP-BSP alliance and complete decimation of RJD-Congress alliance, which both the groups tried to project as Mahagathbandhan or social engineering, there is ample evidence to conclude that this is the end of the era of ‘Indians don’t cast their vote but vote their caste’.
Caste no longer plays a dominant role in politics. This is perhaps the most positive message from this election results. The message is loud and clear from the Indian voters, performance matters and nation comes first. The shackles of the caste system might take a few more decades to be broken completely but this is a huge stride in that direction.
This is where the choice of Yogi Adityanath as CM of UP shows the political vision of the BJP leadership. He is a pan Hindu leader, thus making his caste irrelevant. He is also an able administrator with a clean image as evident by his tenure as the head of the humongous Gorakpur Math and its associated organizations. The social engineering of SP-BSP failed because of the delivery of the government schemes by both the state and the center, and the lack of a caste figure which they could have attacked, like in case of KP Maurya or Dinesh Sharma, by terming them as upper caste leaders and making their alliance a symbol of lower castes against upper castes.
A mature Democracy
The results also show that India is becoming more and more mature as a democracy. Parties would like to believe that Indian citizens don’t understand politics and details of complex political issues but the truth is farther from that. If the 1977 election showed that Indians would not accept any other form of governance other than democracy, this election showed that they have the capability to scrutinize, understand and see through all the minute details of political issues and propaganda.
The opposition led a completely negative campaign which was devoid of any issues and was based on only Modi bashing and Modi abuse. Their conduct in the last 5 years was unbecoming of a constructive opposition which is very much a pillar in any democracy. They lied on every other issue, demeaned the constitutional institutions, used their clout to the hilt and tried to divide the society into Hindu-Muslim or Modi-anti Modi.
Maybe they believed too little in the intelligence levels of the common voter for which they were given a tight slap by the Indian citizens.
End of dynasty politics
Indian politics was reduced to the hegemony of a few families from all over India under the over-arching monarchy of the Nehru-Gandhi family. This election decimated the politics of entitlement once and for all.
Rahul Gandhi lost from Amethi, Jyotirao Scindhia lost from Guna, Vaibhav Gehlot lost from Jodhpur, K Kavitha lost from Nizamabad, Deve Gowda lost from Tumkaru, Nikhil Gowda lost from Mandya, Chautalas lost in Haryana and Yadavs lost in UP and Bihar. Only those dynasts were able to survive who had performance backing them up whether it is Supriya Sule, or Gaurav Gogoi or a few others.
Indian politics will no longer be about entitlement but about performance.
BJP swept almost all the areas except South India. Though it swept Karnataka and won a few seats surprisingly in Telangana, it got zero seats in the other 3 big states – Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This is one nut that BJP is finding tough to crack.
Tamil Nadu and Kerala, over the course of years, became more and more detached from the national politics due to them rejecting Congress very early into Independence era. Kerala gave its first non-Congress government in as early as 1957 (first state to do so) with Tamil Nadu following suit in 1967. Since then, the politics of these two states have always been more dominated by local issues rather than national issues even in General elections.
The general level of good governance and regional pride by the local parties have made it difficult for the national parties to make inroads in these states. However, that has made them irrelevant in national politics despite having almost 60 seats between them. Tamil Nadu has 39 seats, third highest from any state, which can play a huge role in national government formation but till now they have chosen to go against the national tide. This trend has only enhanced with the demonization of Narendra Modi in these parts of the country.
With East being conquered, BJP has set their eyes on South now. They will push much harder and it will be interesting to see what their strategy will be to gain a foothold in these states to become truly a pan-India party.
Rejection of autocracy
The opposition tried to demonize Narendra Modi as some sort of an autocratic ruler bordering on the brutality levels of the Hitler. However, the true face of fascism and autocracy was unmasked in Bengal. The level of political killings, violence, intimidation, death threats, murder attempts – that were seen in Bengal was in complete contrast with the rest of the country.
State institutions have been completely hijacked by Mamata Banerjee. Even constitutional bodies are not allowed to enter the state without her permission. The blatant misuse of police, state election commission and other state government machinery was evident in not just this election but also in the Panchayat elections a few months back.
Freedom of expression, Democratic rights, freedom, in general, were all held hostage by an egoist leader who thought herself as bigger than the people’s will. Despite her every attempt, people dealt her a big blow by reducing her from 34 to 22, and by giving BJP 18 seats in the state. Her defeat in the upcoming state elections is looking imminent. People of India irrespective of the region seem to detest an autocratic ruler and have the sense to judge when the boundaries have been crossed.
The Muslim vote bank
Muslims, by many accounts, voted almost 2-3 times more for BJP in 2019 than in 2014. However, still, more than 80% of Muslim voters voted against BJP. Though BJP has been able to send Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Tribals, and others to the parliament, Muslim MPs are still elusive on a BJP ticket.
This election, a lot of Muslims admitted openly that the policies and schemes of the government have reached to them and there is no apparent bias by any of the BJP government, in centre or states; but they still refused to cast their vote in BJP’s favour. Without able to give any substantial argument, they resorted to the rhetoric of the anti-Muslim party while explaining their position.
There is no denying the fact that the Muslim community has been reduced to a mere vote bank by the ‘Secular’ parties. Congress and its partners forced the Muslim community to vote as a block in their favour by hyping up the imaginary fear of BJP and India becoming a Hindu majority political state. They often used the example of Pakistan to incite fear among Muslims. This narrative was at its peak in these last 5 years.
Despite all this hate and propaganda, BJP managed to win over almost twice as many Muslims as it did in 2014. That’s an achievement but not satisfactory enough for a dynamic leader like Narendra Modi. He has already spelt out that this situation needs to change and if we know anything about him, he achieves what he sets out to more often than not.
With the end of ‘Secular’ politics and the ideological debate settled at least for now, the Muslim community need to break the chokehold that vested Muslim intelligentsia voices have put on their collective thought process. With more empowerment and political will, perhaps this stronghold will be weakened faster and BJP will gain acceptability among the Muslims in the years to come to become an all-inclusive party.
Reality check for alliance managers
There have been many attempts by various tall leaders from different states to stitch together an alliance to become a major leader at the national level completely devoid of any ideological base. India has already seen the drama play out for almost 25 long years by these vested interests and its consequences. They do not want to return to the same era and this has been very clear from some of the surprising results that came out.
Chandrababu Naidu, KCR, Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav and Sharad Pawar had tried to cobble together a similar alliance at various points of time in the last 5 years. Akhilesh Yadav was reduced to 5, Sharad Pawar was reduced to 4, Chandrababu Naidu to 3 and KCR; who seemed to be most active, often at the cost of ignoring his own state and taking the voters for granted; was given a big blow by the very same people who gave him a thumping majority just a few months back. Even her own daughter was defeated. He was reduced to just 9 seats.
Mamata Banerjee, who was harping the dreams of becoming prime minister despite doing little in her own state, despite all the violence and harassment, was reduced to just half of the total seats in the state.
This is a clear message from the voters of India that they do not wish to see politicians betraying their mandate and try to use them to fulfil their political ambitions. KCR must be really worried now because the Telangana which was looking opposition less till a few weeks back, is now beaming with different ideologies and political parties.
Many familiar faces are crying about the lack of opposition at the national level after these results but I think the people of India are the real opposition for any political party, no matter how powerful it might be. It has reduced Congress to a single state which used to rule all over India at one point of time. Indian people know very well when it needs to give a reality check and to whom. I hope all the political parties are listening!