BJP, after 15 years, has lost one of its bastions to the Congress. Just 6-8 months ago nobody would have imagined that a “Sanghi state” like Madhya Pradesh would turn over its head and vote the RSS backed party out in what was called a semifinal before the crucial 2019 polls. But, stranger things do happen. In this post, we will try to analyze why this happened and what went wrong.
1) Anti-incumbency: There are some parties that can handle the ecosystem well and nurture it so much that they can keep the hold on power for long. BJP is not one of them. Take for example INC in Maharashtra and CPM in West Bengal. Both ruled for over 30 years in their respective states and held to power no matter what. Yes, you can say the BJP is going to do similar in Gujarat but except that there are no other examples. MP was going to be one but it didn’t happen. Even in MP, the party barely scraped through in the 2008 election. One factor that both CPM and INC employed in their states were to decimate the opposition. Here, the party leaders kept accusing the Congress of land scams, land grabs but the relations were quite cozy behind the scenes. Thus, no actions were taken in any such cases. Congress, even with small amount of seats keep hanging there with 35+% of votes. This time, they got just 5% more and secured a victory. Why are we surprised?
2) Caste Arithmetic: BJP got played this time by the far superior propaganda of the Congress both at the group level and in WhatsApp groups. After the Supreme Court’s decision on the atrocities act, one of the worst places affected were in the Gwalior region. This is the same area which was one of the major centers of Maratha confederacy, the place where late ABV grew up and one of the very few places to elect a Hindu Mahasabha MP in 1951 elections. This time, 7 out of 8 vidhansabha seats in the Gwalior loksabha seat elected Congress. And, there were reasons for that.
Party’s messaging was totally flawed. First, it didn’t react quickly to the decision and let things get out of hand including violence and deaths in places like Gwalior. Then, it appointed AK Goel, a judge who was part of the said judgment, as the new NGT chief, a decision criticized by Dalit activists and exploited the opposition. In the end, after 6 months of the initial judgment, the government approved an amendment which quickly passed through the lower house. This led to a backlash from the so-called upper castes and groups like sapaks were formed. The sapaks won more votes than the margin of victory of Congress in Gwalior south and made a huge presence in other regions leading to the disillusionment of the said groups from the party. The SC-ST groups, exploited by vested interests, also didn’t like the handling. BJP won only 13 out of the 35 reserved seats, 15 less from 2013.
3) Modi’s Performance: In MP according to Poll data, the prime minister was the least popular among the three major northern states that went to poll this fall. No action against perpetrators of corruption in states where BJP is in power for 4 years like Rajasthan and Haryana, No major boost in employment opportunities due to lack of reforms and constant gyanbazi seem to be the major factor of this downfall.
I have not included farmer distress and rural fatigue with the government as that was also present in previous states like Gujarat. Remember, we are only talking about only 2-3% of the votes. If any of the above factors were corrected before the polls, the perfect storm would have been averted but as they say in Hindi ab pachatay hot kya…?