By Gyan Pathak
The humiliating defeat of the BJP and the Akalis in Punjab civic body polls is not merely a small political happening of the state politics, but is a significant one for the national politics of the country. Though, making a clean sweep by the Congress winning six of the seven municipal corporations and emerging as the single largest party in the seventh, is a great boost to the Congress in the state, it has a potential push up the morale of the Congress workers in other states as well.
These elections were held amid farmers’ protest against the three farm laws enacted by the BJP led NDA government at the centre that has also got the four labour codes passed by the parliament and subsequently notified. Labour rules are being framed, the draft of which are by and large perceived as anti-worker. It is also to be noted that the elections were held in the urban areas, which are either the market towns for agricultural products or industrial towns, and thereby the results reflect sentiment of three sections of the society – the people involved in the agri-market, the working class involved in business and industry, and the people adversely affected by the vitiated socio-economic environment.
It is true, that any local body election, even the election to the legislative assemblies of the states, is contested primarily on local issues. However, these elections of the urban local bodies were not fought local issues as main concern of the people. The chief concern of the people this time was which party is most suitable for them in the present circumstances. They thought that the BJP is most dangerous for them which is bent upon on distorting not only the agri-market through the three farm laws, but also has threatened well-being of the working class by tampering the labour laws through four labour codes. The relations between the working class and business and industries have somewhat become estranged.
The relations between the farmers and the agri-market has also been worsening because of acrimonious discussions for or against the three farm laws. BJP as a party was seen in the root of their present distress. BJP leaders felt so much threatened by the public mood against them that most of them preferred not to participate in election campaigns. In many areas people have declared that any BJP leader visiting their area for election campaigns would be greeted with ‘wreaths of shoes’. It was a very bad situation, if viewed with the point of view of democracy, since no one should be threatened like that for the sake of free and fair election. However, when people were in anger, election campaigns for the BJP candidates had become too tough. The BJP has traditionally been perceived to be strong in urban areas, but the party’s becoming third in municipal corporations and fourth in municipal committees does not augur well for its future.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) became their next target in line of their fire, since the party was seen not trustworthy, despite their being quitting the NDA in a bid to retain their support base. People could not forget that SAD was the former accomplice of the BJP which is perceived turning their life miserable and that too in favour of big business houses. Merely disassociating from the BJP did not work for SAD. There have been several factors for this, one of which is their traditional natural bond existing for a long time. People are still of the view, that SAD would ultimately ally again with the BJP, for both the parties have religious orientation with blatantly communal tendencies. Though, the Hindus and the Sikhs form the majority, they preferred not to vote for the BJP the self-proclaimed defender of Hindutva and SAD the imposing so called custodian of the faith of Sikhism. The existentialism gives its answer – when the very survival is at stake, people can do almost anything to survive. People of Punjab has thus rejected the parties and their leaders practicing divisive communal agenda in name of religion exploiting the pious religiosity of the India mass.
The Congress is ruling the state, and it was but obvious that there were some anti-establishment sentiments among the people. They have certain grievances against the party, but it was perceived as the least dangerous and people believed that the party at least would not put them into any further ‘struggle for survival’. The results of the hung Moga municipal corporation, in which the Congress could emerge only as the single largest party, is the clear signal that the party cannot afford to take people granted, even when they are angry against their bête noires. Congress will have to work hard to replicate such success in other states. The lesson for the party is that it should do everything possible for farmers and working class. It should also avoid the mistakes of setting farmers and working class against business and industries, and this could be done only through putting a system in place in which all can hope for justifiable gains for their survival.
The most surprising and significant result has come from Bathinda corporation where there will be a Congress mayor for the first time in 53 years. The shift of voting from communal lines to the line based on well-being of the people not based on religion is quite noteworthy. The trend, however, was prevalent in other areas too. The BJP and SAD left no stone unturned against Congress, even went on urging Sikhs not to vote for Congress that ‘planned Sikhs Genocide in 1984’, but such bitter communal arguments were utterly rejected by the voters, because they knew the party had never planned the genocide though some of the Congress leaders were guilty.
The results are certainly a big boost for Congress in the state ahead of assembly polls, and a huge setback for the BJP and SAD, however, it has lessons for other states too, and also for the country as a whole. (IPA Service)