By Gyan Pathak
No one seems to have a clue to the psyche of Indian voters, which has seen perceptible changes in the last four decades. The period of this transition has put political parties and their leaders on tenterhooks. Socio-political trends in the country are too diverse to give any comfort to parties on what could happen in the 2019 general elections. Obviously, they will have to work hard to win a majority. The optimism recently exuded by an international media organisation that Modi may remain prime minister until 2029 is too impressionistic and runs contrary to the socio-political trends revealed in media, social-media, and the results of elections held in the last 46 months.
On January 23, 2014, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Modi had given a call to the people of India to give him 60 months in return of which he promised them a ‘life of happiness and peace’. In the same “Vijay Shankhnad rally” in Gorakhpur he referred to a statement of Mulayam Singh Yadav that Modi would not be able to convert Uttar Pradesh into Gujarat (defamed for widespread communal riots of 2002). Modi said, “”Netaji, do you know the meaning of converting to Gujarat? It means 24-hour electricity in every village and street. You can’t do it. It requires 56-inch chest.” The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate appealed for a mandate for a minimum of 60 months, promising to convert the country’s huge potential into a reality so that it matches the most developed countries of the world. It ignited the people’s imagination in his favour and they voted him to power with an unprecedented majority. However, after 46 months of his rule, everybody now knows with certainty that against the promise of happiness Indians have been increasingly unhappy. Unprecedented rise in communal tensions, conflicts, unemployment, crime, and Modi’s policy experiment induced economic hardships has stirred the peace of mind of the general public. His misadventures and arrogance on all fronts are not equated with the proverbial 56-inch-chest for courage, but something evil. It resulted in defeat in the recent Lok Sabha bypoll in Gorakhpur, which was held for the last four terms by none other than the Chief Minister. The Deputy Chief Minister of the state also lost Phulpur seat.
These are not the isolated cases. BJP lost not only in Uttar Pradesh but also in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and had come to the verge of losing majority in the assembly elections in Gujarat. In all three states, BJP had delivered scintillating performance of winning all but two seats in Madhya Pradesh. Since 2014, bye-elections for 23 Lok Sabha seats were held, out of which BJP could win only four seats. Earlier, it held 10 of them, which means six seats were wrested by other political parties, while BJP could not wrest any seat earlier held by any other political party. It clearly shows BJP’s declining political fortunes and the increasing strength of the opposition parties, which not only wrested BJP-held Lok Sabha seats, but also increased their votes compared to the last Lok Sabha elections.
BJP’s considerable gain in the assembly elections is taken generally as the party’s increasing political clout. It could be explained in other terms, such as anti-incumbency factors of the regional political parties. Moreover, state elections are held on local issues, which cannot be taken as guaranteed support for the BJP. For example, Delhi put all its seven Lok Sabha seats in BJP’s bag in the general election of 2014, but gave it only three seats out of 70 in the assembly.
In the 2014 general election, Narendra Modi bagged 100 seats of 120 in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. A total of 107 seats had come from six other states claiming all but two in these states. If Maharashtra and Karnataka tally is added, he got his numbers out of only 325 seats and very little from the remaining 218 seats. It is obvious that he cannot repeat the same performance in these states nor can he gain from other states to make up for the losses in his citadels. He has to account for the non-delivery of his government. All are disappointed, particularly the young generation, who had believed in his electoral promises of rapid development of the country to bring people happiness and peace. The disillusionment has to leave its impact on the political fortune of the ruling establishment.
People, even the supporters of the BJP and Modi, are openly voicing their frustrations against the ruling establishment in the Centre, which has raised the hope of Congress and the regional parties and their leaders. They are going to increase their tally of 224 seats presently held by them in the Lok Sabha. The question is how many more seats they can increase. The Uttar Pradesh bye-election results show that a united fight against BJP would give them added advantage. They are trying to make a pre-poll political alliance but there are many roadblocks. The recent desertion of TDP from BJP-led NDA is also an indication of the weakening of the ruling alliance. In brief, no political party or leader can take the Indian voters granted.
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