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Haryana and Maharashtra Assembly Elections 2019: Lessons and the role of the candidates, citizens and the media

The lesson for BJP and Congress both is that you cannot run the media play with your narrative. Politics is about communications. It is not enough to be on Social Media, you need to communicate as well. That is the only way to circumvent the compromised mainstream media.

State elections have concluded in the BJP ruled states of Haryana and Maharashtra. Maharashtra was a clear win for the incumbent BJP, under the leadership of Devendra Fadnavis. Haryana, facing the brunt of Congress fueled caste-politics was not such a straight game, even though BJP did emerge clearly as the largest party, still short of a majority by six seats. It was a time for the euphoric Congress-leaning media which discovered by the evening that the Congress ended up its tally with 31 seats and JJP with 10 seats.

The initial exuberance quickly gave way to swift melt-down once it became clear that adding up JJP and Congress will still not given the state a Government, being short of the halfway mark of 46 seats in a 90 Seats Assembly. The total of JJP plus Congress, falling short of the half-way mark at 41, proved that it was not easily possible to repeat a Karnataka in Haryana. By the end of the day, it was quite clear that the ML Khattar government fighting both incumbency and caste-politics, held a popular mandate which equalled the sum-total of the mandate obtained by the two of his challengers.

By the time, I settle down to write my thoughts on this election, it is Saturday, and the Haryana conundrum is already settled. The erstwhile Chief Minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar is all set to form another government in Haryana, in coalition with JJP, Dushyant Chautala joining in as the Deputy CM of the state. If all goes well, this will make a decade of BJP rule in traditional Congress State. The young chief, Dushyant Chautala, of a young eleven month old party, JJP, which ate into the share of the grand old Party, nibbling out a-third of grand old party, has learnt the lessons of Karnataka from the tears of HD Kumaraswamy and aligned with ideologically-driven BJP, carrying on with their allies for decades, often to the exasperation of their own supporters.

The media went into a frenzy of Archimedes Eureka moment when their theorems of caste politics appeared true in Haryana, and articles were written out quickly about the return of Jat politics as if it were a good thing to come back in modern society. There is no denying that it did come back, but that is no cause to celebrate. I for one was saddened by the return of caste politics and rightly or wrongly let my mind wander to the point, when the Mighty Mughals after the collapse of the empire of temple-breaking, Jaziya seeking and Beef promoting a regime of Aurangzeb self-propelled itself into the darkness of decline.

If one reads the history around that time, the majority Hindus had seen the worst of the persecution under Aurangzeb, as Akbar’s policies were replaced by fanatic ideology; Jats were almost as strong as the Marathas down south at that time under Shivaji. The Jats, in the North, stayed content collecting protection money from the Mughal Empire which remained only in the name after Aurangzeb, alienated from the majority section of the people it ruled over. Marathas, to my mind, looked at this as a civilizational battle and created a formidable empire. The model the jats then had vis-à-vis the throne of Delhi seems similar to what Hooda proposed, after declaring a rebellion, with the first family of Congress, resembling Mohammad Shah Rangila’s sham Mughal Empire of India. Congress is now simply a case of the centre which can no longer hold.

I am not sure if there is a pattern or design in the appointment of the leaders of caste with lesser influence by Narendra Modi in the states. But I am sure that in the long run, it plays a great civilizational role. By appointing a non-Patel in Gujarat, a non-Brahmin in the UP, a non-Maratha in Maharashtra, a non-Tribal in Jharkhand, a non-Jat in Haryana, the BJP has done two things. It has urged people to come out of the casteist politics of the Congress and asked them to judge their leaders on their honesty of purpose. Another thing it did was that in an India where Hindus have been pushed away for so long, by dividing them into caste lines, this allowed the larger Hindu population come together as a collective of not-so-influential castes, eventually making the once-dominant caste, find themselves standing isolated in the middle of Hindu and anti-Hindu forces.

In an ideological battlefield where one side throws its weight behind the morality of Ram and another calls him a myth, one side protects cow and another slaughters a calf in Kerala to make a point; the stronger castes found that the other smaller caste formation have consolidated as one around a less caste-oriented leadership placed on the state throne, and it became pertinent for them, to move to one side of the faith eventually forming a monolith based on faith. In the longer run, the irrelevance of caste is one great service given to the nation, for which BJP will always be remembered. The way for BJP is for it to be more of the BJP which has emerged, not the less of it. The way for the Congress ahead is to not think of Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav of caste politics, cleverly camouflaged under the fancy term of social-engineering, as their ideological heroes, rather think of the ways to return to the times of Babu Rajendra Prasad, KM Munshi, Patel, Tilak and Malviya. If that means dumping the current anti-majority leadership they have, so be it.

The media has come out as an evil axis of opposition politics, lamenting the inability of the Congress to form the government in either of the two states. It is amusing that the progressive media voices find happiness in what they perceive of the return of regressive caste politics, which forgives corruption of caste leaders in Haryana and which even celebrates the nefarious connect of the wily politicians with the crime syndicates as in Maharashtra in the name of caste. It is as if when a Robert Vadra goes out to acquire lands through corrupt means, Jats do not lose the means of employment and as if when a Dawood unleashes 26/11 on Mumbai, Marathas do not suffer. The way they celebrate that the results show a defeat of nationalism is at once amusing and appalling. What kind of country has a press which hates the idea of nationalism and celebrates what it perceives to be the defeat of nationalism?

As has often been said, in their zeal to oppose Narendra Modi, somewhere down the line, they started opposing India. Most of the mainstream analysis of the election demonstrates that. This tendency to consider things in binary does nobody any good. It is not either-or between nationalism and the economy. A strong national pride is always boosted by a strong economy and vice-versa. It was on the back of strong nationalistic feeling that the Japanese economy came up even stronger post-world-war. The only economy which does not need nationalism as its fuel is the black economy. Every other form is supported and propelled by a strong sense of national pride and purpose. It is stupid to think that nationalism works counter purpose to the economy and one must be shunned for the other. The factory workers, the engineers, the accountants, the doctors- they too are performing their patriotic duties as much as the soldiers on the border. Nationalism is beyond visible motifs and any sign of reduced nationalism should because of worry not of celebration because sooner or later it will reflect in all aspects of national life.

If Congress needs to revive, it needs to stop listening to the media. It needs to answer BJPs nationalism with more nationalism. Opposing BJP on Article 370 was not the promise to bring it back, rather it should have been to remove 370 earlier than BJP promised. The job of the opposition is not to oppose everything the party in power promises. Oftentimes, it is to promise more aggressive, stronger strides towards the same objectives. BJP has things in their manifesto. Those have been accepted by the people who vote for Narendra Modi in larger and larger numbers, election after election. You can oppose the majority ambition reflecting in BJP manifesto or adopt them with a pledge of better implementation. The media in India has its own political design and agenda. They will, therefore, give a bigger coverage to a party like AAP which performed worse than NOTA in both Maharashtra and Haryana than say, a JJP.

Congress got lesser seats in Maharashtra than the Dawood-tainted NCP and is happy about the Satara loss of BJP where the descendent of Shivaji has lost to the NCP from where he defected. Instead of smirking, Congress should take the lesson about how the people of India are rejecting the dynastic claim to the throne, whether it be an ancient dynasty or modern. The nation has grown over servile gratitude towards one’s ancestors, be it Shivaji or be it, Nehru. Congress has only won only in the states which were kept out of the influence of the first family if we take together the Assembly elections in two states and by-elections in other states. With three exceptions, Maharashtra has been Congress bastion. The last CM before Devendra Fadnavis to complete full term and to step into a second term was Vasantro Naik of Congress who ruled for 11 years. Incidentally, Sudhakar Naik, his son also became CM of Maharashtra and had to leave the position to Sharad Pawar, whose alleged underworld links are suddenly of nobody’s interest after the great electoral performance of NCP in the election, claiming that Pawar Saheb gave him a call asking him to go slow against the notorious mafia Pappu Kalani.

Here another thing comes up is the problem with a league of laconic leaders which stares at the BJP.  There is a crisis of communication. After Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, how many are reaching out to the people to communicate their position. I would say, many tried and attempted initially, but got so scared after they found what constitutes mainstream turn and twist their statements and turned those attempts to communicate into a PR disaster. Modi and Amit Shah managed to circumvent the media hostility through direct communication on Social Media. Unfortunately, others have not been able to do that. They don’t write on SM (when was the last you saw a tweet of ML Khattar or Raghubar Prasad or even say, a Manoj Tiwari go viral about any pro-citizen action or initiative), they don’t blog on matters of national importance or public priority. Yogi comes out and makes a statement on Article 370 to Ram Temple. When you want people to take a stand, people want to see you taking a stand as well, and not only around the elections.

If we look at the current situation, apart from Maharashtra and Haryana elections, UP by-polls gave strong positive results for the BJP. Of the 11 seats which were polled, BJP picked 7 and one was won by BJP ally, SP won 3. Congress import Alpesh Thakore lost for BJP in Gujarat. An open-door policy does not seem to be doing much good for the BJP. In Bihar, AIMIM made an entry in 2 seats and RJD wrestles 3 seats from JDU. It is high time that BJP re-thinks its partnering strategy in Bihar, instead of drowning in dead with the partner. North East brings in good news yet again, as BJP wins 2 seats in Sikkim; in Assam, BJP wins 3 and AIUDF wins 1. If we look at Assam and Bihar, BJP loss has been the gain of blatantly Islamist parties, the Congress has been left out in dry with its neither-here, nor-there ideology. In UP, being a fourth-ranker, it seems neither Priyanka Vadra nor Ajay Kumar Lallu, in spite of adulatory articles written in the mainstream media about relatively unknown face, has been able to do much about the falling fortunes of the ideologically confused Congress in UP.

The lesson for BJP and Congress both is that you cannot run the media play with your narrative. Politics is about communications. It is not enough to be on Social Media, you need to communicate as well. That is the only way to circumvent the compromised mainstream media. The Great War of Mahabharat was narrated by Sanjay not fought by him. The media went into overdrive on the rumours of BJP taking support from the Controversial politician Gopal Kanda. The prodigal daughter of the first family of the Congress who celebrated the nose-dive of Congress in UP politics took pot-shots at BJP based on the rumour and speculations. Even as per speculations, Kanda support to BJP was unconditional. He is an elected MLA and if he supports the BJP, I do not know how the party can stop him from supporting him. It is the people who elected him. It is in vogue to blame the politicians, but can the people exonerate themselves? “A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.” wrote Theodore Roosevelt. The man is an elected member of the assembly, how is it even possible BJP to oppose his unconditional support? To all those who are thumping their fists and gnashing their teeth, I would just like to point out that as against the rumour of Gopal Kanda offering unconditional support(which means no place is being offered to him in the ruling cabinet), in 2009, the same man not only offered support to the Bhupendra Singh Hooda led Congress Government, also bargained the post of a Minister of, hold your breath, Home Affair. He was never sacked, rather he resigned in August 2012, after being arrested on the charges of abetting suicide of a woman.

Read: Gopal Kanda: From abetment to suicide to beating up a cricketer, read all the accusations against the newly elected Haryana MLA

However, as things turn out, after giving material to the media for writing editorials to attack the BJP based on rumours, BJP has entered into an alliance with the JJP and is forming the Government in Haryana. Questions can be asked as to how something can be right for the BJP merely because it has been done by the Congress in the past, the counter would be, how something can be wrong for the BJP merely because Congress is failing to do it in the present. The morality of a society is the responsibility of the people of society, not of the politicians of the society. The politicians come from society. These elections are the time not only for the politicians to rethink, but it is also the time for the people to sit down and think about the political choices we make. As George Bernard Shaw wrote-

“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”

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Saket Suryesh
Saket Suryesh
A technology worker, writer and poet, and a concerned Indian. Writer, Columnist, Satirist. Published Author of Collection of Hindi Short-stories 'Ek Swar, Sahasra Pratidhwaniyaan' and English translation of Autobiography of Noted Freedom Fighter, Ram Prasad Bismil, The Revolutionary. Interested in Current Affairs, Politics and History of Bharat.

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