It took 15 years. But in the minds of BJP supporters, that ghost of 2004 was alive and kicking and screaming till the very end.
I had structured my day somewhat like this, anticipating a win but absolutely terrified of celebrating too early.
8:00 – 12:00: Try to hide somewhere with the phone turned off.
12:00 Provisional celebrations (watch Republic)
13:00 Official celebrations (watch NDTV)
Obviously, the first item turned out to be harder than expected. While I did manage to avoid looking at trends for ten to fifteen minutes at a time, I did keep returning to my phone at least once every half hour. By 10:30 or so, the evidence was so clear and so overwhelming that I advanced the formal celebrations scheduled for 13:00 by two full hours.
There are so many things to say right now that I am bound to forget at least a few of them.
First of all, I wish Atalji was alive to see this moment.
This nation made a mistake in 2004. In the process, we ended up electing the most corrupt government in the world.
But now, on May 23, 2019, we have buried the ghost of 2004. It’s a pity that Atalji is not here to see this. He has become immortal.
There is a lot to learn today. The most important being that when you dedicate yourself to a cause and refuse to give up despite what “conventional wisdom” says, you might just make history.
And that is what BJP has done here: made history. In the process, they have shuttered the shops of those who were running factories of casteism and regionalism. I heard one ABP news anchor ask an “expert” something like this: “Is there a new votebank now? The more people try to talk about Yadav and Jatav and Jat, etc, the more the Hindus unite?”
Dear ABP news, give that man a cookie! He’s stumbled into the biggest idea of the election.
“They,” said that a lot of things were impossible. They said that when you add the Jatavs with Mayawati to the Yadavs with Akhilesh and the Muslims who will go with anyone to defeat BJP, you have a combination that is unbeatable.
I remember Amit Shah said that the BJP is doing the “politics of 50%” in Uttar Pradesh. As of now, the BJP is leading 60 seats in UP and their vote share is 52%!
Modi spoke of 300 seats. BJP leading 303 right now. I guess we have become so used to politicians putting out empty boasts that we don’t recognize the real stuff when it stares us in the face.
There are many jokers in this election, but Akhilesh Yadav is arguably the biggest of them. Rather than focus on squeezing out the BSP and turn Uttar Pradesh into a bipolar state (BJP vs SP), he ended up reviving them. As of now, BSP is leading 11 seats and SP is leading 5. Remember that SP won 5 seats (or more specifically, the extended Yadav family won 5 seats) even in 2014. So what was achieved with this Mahagathbandhan? A net negative, now that Mayawati is back in the reckoning.
We cannot move on from Uttar Pradesh without mentioning Smriti Irani’s triumph in Amethi. I was very certain the saffron tigress would win … but had a few second thoughts when Modi didn’t hold a rally in Amethi to support her campaign. Turns out it wasn’t needed.
Smriti Irani tried to enter the Lok Sabha in 2004. It didn’t work. In 2014, she tried again, taking on a formidable opponent. She lost again but kept fighting, kept nurturing the constituency. And now she will be entering both the Lok Sabha and the history books.
What a contrast between Smriti Irani and her spoiled dynastic opponent. In 2014, Priyanka Vadra had referred to her as “Smriti, who?”
Who’s laughing now? Life gives many humbling lessons, but hard work and patience can get you very very far. Smriti Irani is a glowing example. A lot to learn from her.
The next thing I must talk about is two champion CM picks by Modi early in his tenure who have both delivered big time. One is Khattar and the other is Fadnavis. At the moment, BJP is leading 9/10 in Haryana and at one point it was even leading in Rohtak, the stronghold of Bhupinder Hooda which his son was contesting.
Then there is Fadnavis (my favourite among all BJP CMs). What a performance… 41/48 at this moment. The man has been tested in every possible way: he didn’t even enjoy a clear majority in the Assembly. And having an ally like Sena is in many ways worse than having an enemy. Remember that Fadnavis found himself in charge of the state BJP all of a sudden, owing to the sad loss of Gopinath Munde in a car accident. The Munde sisters and the other big senior leader from Maharashtra… indeed from Vidarbha (who I will not name) couldn’t possibly have been happy about it.
But Fadnavis negotiated all this skillfully and emerged a champion. What do we learn? Always be prepared for the opportunity and when you get it, grab it with both hands.
We should also say something for Amit Shah here, for eating a bit of humble pie and cutting deals with egoistic allies in Bihar and Maharashtra. Those deals effectively shut out the Congress from both of these large states. 38/40 in Bihar and 41/48 in Maharashtra. Super.
Well, we all knew it would be 100% in Rajasthan and Gujarat, barring some anomalous seat here and there. No surprises.
It’s funny actually how Congress bungled up two big states they won in December: Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan, they played for little, with CM Ashok Gehlot looking sort of selfish in spending so much energy on saving Jodhpur for his son. It didn’t work and the party lost miserably all across the state. Another lesson not to be narrow minded in victory.
Perhaps the same could be said for Scindia, who I heard flew away to the US, with much of UP and MP still left to vote. I can guess he wanted to be CM and probably felt hard done by when he was passed over for Kamal Nath. Maybe he didn’t feel like giving his 100% to the party cause? Ok, but see the results now. He’s lost everything, including his stronghold of Guna.
Some hard decisions have to be taken in every party. And there are many who might legitimately feel hard done by. Remember the big leader from Maharashtra who I did not name? Would you not feel insulted if you were in his place? But despite all that, they cooperated for a common cause and see the results in Maharashtra. And see what happened to Scindia and Congress in Madhya Pradesh.
Lesson: Don’t be petty. If you are narrow-minded to each other, you will all lose.
Just one word before I come to Bengal (finally!). Yesterday, I lavished praise on Sunil Deodhar, who may not be as well known to BJP supporters. I mentioned he had been sent to handle BJP in Telangana after delivering a historic victory in Tripura. In Telangana today, the BJP is picking up 4 seats out of 17! Who would have thought this possible?
This man Sunil Deodhar is a miracle worker. He is turning the BJP into main opposition in Telangana. Watch out for his career graph.
At one point, even Owaisi was trailing from his seat. As an aside, I must say a gleaming modern metropolis like Hyderabad deserves better than Owaisi. I understand that he will always control the part called “Old City”, but I really hope people who don’t live in the Old City will come up with a way to rescue the place from him.
Please… Hyderabad deserves better.
What to even say? There is so much emotion here. A huge salute to the people for coming out against the dictatorship of the Trinamool in massive numbers and delivering a knockout punch.
Folks, it’s over for Mamata Didi. She might as well start drafting her resignation letter dated May 2021. The wave is here. She will be hard pressed to win 50-60 of the 294 Assembly seats in Bengal.
That map tells a story. The BJP wave came from the tribal regions bordering Jharkhand and the neglected areas of North Bengal.
In other words, the wave came from those parts of the state where the “subalterns” live. The Bengali “Bhadralok” sitting in Kolkata wanted to impose their notion of “Bengaliyat” on them. The tribals of Medinipur and Purulia. And even the Bengali language on parts of North Bengal. Yes, there are many communities in Bengal that don’t speak Bangla. The racist Bengali elite in Kolkata see these people as “undesirables”. You should listen to how the racist Bengali elite talks about the Santhals in the eastern part of the state and the Gorkhas in the northern part. Their attitude is arguably worse than white supremacists in the 1950s trying to enforce a White Australia.
This is why I am not such a big fan of intellectuals. As a class, “intellectuals” are generally sold out to the establishment. In Bengal, they used to support the CPIM before Mamata Banerjee bought them over. It’s not a phenomenon limited to Bengal… the Indian elite used to support the British and then switched over to Nehru.
Two years ago, when BJP won Uttar Pradesh, I wrote a post explaining that intellectuals have an idiotic myth that the resistance to “nationalism” would come from empowering the oppressed communities. Ha! How could that be? It is the elite who swore loyalty to the British crown and to Nehru. Do you think a youth from an underprivileged community in eastern Uttar Pradesh shares your kind of nostalgia for the Pakistani noblemen whose kids were your classmates at Oxford?
Something similar happened in Bengal. Mamata had the elites under her control, preaching her version of Bengaliyat. Everyone else rebelled.
But then, every single politician who ran on casteism and regionalism has seen their dukaan closed in this election.
PM Modi has fought like a lion. Above all, he has shown that not every Hindu leader needs to end up like Prithviraj Chauhan.