“This was my last dream… when I die, my body should be wrapped in BJP’s flag” were the immortal words of a tearful Kalyan Singh, when he addressed a mammoth public rally in Lucknow on the occasion of his return back to the party fold. On that day, the pain in the eyes of this “Hindu Hriday Samrat” was clearly visible. It was the pain of a decade of decay in the Hindi heartland, when Hindutva was defeated not by pseudo-secularism but by Mir Jafars from within. A decade that culminated in March 2012, when BJP faced a humiliating defeat despite an undercurrent of support for the party.
Sanjay Joshi, as the master strategist in charge of Uttar Pradesh elections last year, believed a silent undercurrent would power the Bharatiya Janata Party to victory. To be sure, there was an undercurrent of polarisation along Hindu-Muslim faultlines in the largest State of India. But the problem for the BJP was that the undercurrent never transformed into overt support, so the votes never materialised on the day of the polls. Of course, there were last moment internal sabotages in many seats (for the BJP), the support for SP eventually turned into a wave and BSP did not lose much vote share (as Joshi ji hoped). Whatever the reasons, Sanjay Joshi was an unmitigated disaster in Uttar Pradesh.
“I would rather have lucky generals” is one of the illustrious quotes attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous warrior strategist of the 19th century. Sanjay Joshi will go down in Right-Wing history as one of those supremely gifted political strategists with nothing to show in terms of positive results, for luck never seemed to favour him when he needed it the most.
Today the baton of Uttar Pradesh has passed on from one gifted political strategist to another. The difference is stark though, for if the former was an out and out desk analyst, the latter is an organiser who himself has tasted huge victories in Indian elections. If Sanjay Joshi epitomised a backroom operator who was the darling of the faithful cadre, Amit Bhai Shah is an organiser par excellence who can reach out to the votes beyond the faithful.
Uttar Pradesh awaits deliverance
Multiple opinion polls over the last week have suggested a positive swing for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh if LS polls were to be held now. The AC-Neilson poll gives BJP a tally of 23 seats in UP, although it is not clear whether the Modi factor has been accounted for in this survey.
Two very interesting surveys are the ones conducted by C-Voter and LensOnNews, for they try to quantify the Modi impact. Projection of Modi as the leader by the BJP could double the party’s tally from 14 to 29 in UP as per the C-Voter poll. The LensOnNews poll gives a whopping 47 seats to the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi – whereas without a declared leader, the party tally would be limited to 20 seats in the largest Indian State.
Based on these surveys, we can safely assume that the actual BJP tally could be potentially in the range of 30 to 40 in Uttar Pradesh under NaMo’s leadership. The logical question then is why has such an overnight transformation taken place? Is it possible that these surveys have gotten it all wrong? The answers to these questions will give us the picture of UP politics.
» The SP government headed by Akhilesh Yadav is one of the worst in recent memory; there is blatant corruption everywhere, a return to Goondaraj has disappointed even the most ardent Akhilesh fans, outright communalism has angered both Hindus as well as Muslims
» The undercurrents of polarisation have been around in UP for almost 4-5 years now, but the same has never transformed into votes and seats in terms of Hindu counter-reaction because of lack of leadership in the BJP.
» The return of Kalyan Singh to the BJP and projection of Modi as the PM candidate, giving an OBC the first opportunity to lead India can help BJP tap the undercurrents favourably.
» BSP’s base is shrinking with each passing day. The biggest mistake that Kanshi Ram made was to bequeath the entire Dalit movement of UP to one lady. Mayawati is slowly inching towards that political equator of the heartland politics known as ‘spent force’ and that really is the danger for the BSP.
» Baba Ramdev has made a clear shift from supporting the Yadavs in UP Assembly elections to unequivocally backing NaMo’s candidacy for India’s premiership.
» There is a distinct possibility that Narendra Modi may contest from Uttar Pradesh to give fillip to the efforts of state BJP; this act has the potential to turn the entire UP political scene upside down.
Amit Shah, the electoral magician
One of the primary reasons why BJP has failed consistently in UP despite favourable undercurrents and positive political climate is the failure to make a transition from purely Hindutva politics to that of good governance. Today the Hindu vote in India has evolved from a purely identity-based prototype to that of development/aspirational oriented perspective.
Amit Bhai Shah is one of the earliest proponents of development politics as the core of Hindutva. His former constituency of Sarkhej is a prime example of development politics as the subset of the ideological Hindutva. To Amit Bhai’s credit is the fact that he is one of those rare BJP politicians who is intrinsically suspicious of the news media types – a trait which has also rubbed off on Modi. Thus, Shah has managed to remain rooted in political realities and has never been beguiled by media hyperbole.
Shah’s legendary accuracy in judging political currents and predicting electoral outcomes is perhaps his greatest asset. BJP could not have chosen a better manager as the man in charge of the most populous State that sends 80 MPs to the Parliament.
Under Amit Shah’s guidance and with Modi as the icon of aspirational India along with his underlying appeal to the OBC/MBC vote that had deserted the BJP in the last decade, Uttar Pradesh can make the big transition from Mandalised identity politics to development politics. The Hindu vote of UP has possibly never been as charged as today since 1991-92.
Although the Muslim vote is slower in making such a transition, fortunately, it too is moving along in a similar direction. In fact, the Muslim vote of the entire subcontinent is going through a transitional phase in these times of post-Al Qaeda Islamic socio-political renaissance – as evidenced in the recent election in Pakistan.
The usual suspects in the intellectual-media clique are making the same old lazy analysis of terming Modi as a ‘polarising figure’ to explain away his huge popularity. The truth is that India has already made the transition along with Modi towards a new dawn of aspirational realities. The heartland politics of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the final frontiers for Modi to conquer and for ‘secularists’ to cede space.