A bad omen indeed. On the day the entire state machinery of ‘Bharat’ was busy exploiting the G20 event to project Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the “Yugpurush” and “Vishwaguru”, via decorating the national capital with larger than life cut-outs and festoons, even bigger than any of the world leaders participating at the summit, like the US President Joe Biden, the nondescript voters of Ghosi in a single stroke struck an implausible blow through the ballots.
The Ghosi verdict has multidimensional implications. While it exposes the myth that Hindus, especially the extremely poor and Dalits of Uttar Pradesh, have been ushered into the Hindutva clan, it also underscores that Modi’s politics of hatred and Hindutva has miserably failed to raise an exclusive band of Hindu bigots in the state. The Ghosi verdict also underlines that despite their best efforts, BJP and RSS have failed to bring the Dalits and EBCs under the Sangh fold and accept Hindutva as their religion. The most significant signal that the verdict sent to the people across the country was outright rejection of Mohan Bhagwat’s assertion that India is Hindu Rashtra.
The people of the Hindi heartland had switched their loyalty to the BJP not out of affection for it, or accepting wholesale its ideological and political line. Instead, they rallied behind it as they were feeling dejected and remorse for the political decline of the Congress. The moment they saw some ray of hope in emergence of Rahul Gandhi as the harbinger of secular values, they preferred to desert the BJP. The winning margin of the Samajwadi Party candidate, 42900, makes it clear that it reflects the massive homecoming (ghar wapasi) of poor Dalit and EBC voters. The return of the traditional support base was not a symptomatic feature.
Muslims, Dalits and backwards are the predominant castes in Ghosi. Disenchanted with the politics of the Congress and Samajwadi Party, they had previously shifted their loyalty to the BJP. Nevertheless, it was not their ultimate choice and it is manifest in their consolidating behind the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, or I.N.D.I.A. at the first ever opportunity that came across.
Though the rightist RSS has been trying to create an impression at the international level that the centrist and democratic forces have completely become irrelevant in India, the BJP losing the electoral battle of Ghosi would make the foreign powers, attending the G20 summit, to take a fresh look. In fact, this has been causing much concern in the RSS. Sources maintain that the three-day national annual coordination meet, to begin on September 14 in Pune, will have in-depth discussion on the defeat. Bhagwat did not expect this. Quite interestingly, the senior RSS leaders, who do not approve of Bhagwat’s style of functioning, are happy at the prospect that the Ghosi defeat would force the RSS to amend its political approach. Besides Bhagwat, the Pune meet will be attended by RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale, all five joint general secretaries, including Arun Kumar – its pointsman in the BJP – and other prominent functionaries.
BJP chief JP Nadda and heads of other 35 RSS-inspired organisations — including the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Vidya Bharti, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Sanskar Bharti, Seva Bharti and Sanskrit Bharti, among others — will also attend the meeting. As per sources, the heads of these organisations have been asked to present reports about the BJP losing four by-elections in four major states.
The by-elections were certainly not a shadow contest. It was the first of its kind battle of relevance between I.N.D.I.A. and the BJP. The results of the bypolls are being viewed as the precursor to the Lok Sabha elections. Unfortunately, the mainstream media is trying to put the blame of Ghosi defeat on the BJP candidate Dara Singh for his party hopping. Godi media anchors wilfully suppress the fact that it was Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, his two deputy CMs, at least six union ministers, and 30 state ministers who had camped in Ghosi for a month to ensure the victory of Dara Singh. Incidentally, none other than Union home minister Amit Shah picked him. He had motivated him to resign his membership of the house and recontest with the assurance of making him a cabinet minister.
The Samajwadi Party candidate Sudhakar Singh was in a real sense the candidate of I.N.D.I.A., as he was supported by Congress, CPI, Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Apna Dal (K). The significant feature of the election was that the Dalits, EBCs and OBCs have rallied behind Rajput candidate Sudhakar Singh of Samajwadi Party. They refrained from supporting Dara Singh, an OBC candidate.
The by-polls to seven assembly segments across six states can be said to be the first electoral challenge for the opposition front, I.N.D.I.A. Still in an embryonic stage, it has to take the mighty opponent head on in some of its strongest pocket boroughs. However, the alliance indeed passed the test rather well, and sent out a strong message that secular and democratic forces are still quite strong in India.
The two other important victories for I.N.D.I.A. happened in Jharkhand and West Bengal. In Dhupguri, Trinamool Congress wrested the seat from the BJP. The RSS had deputed a strong army of its cadres and pracharaks drawn from other states to fan identity politics and boost the demand for a separate state, Gorkhaland, cutting out a big chunk of north Bengal. But this trick failed. The TMC victory in BJP’s biggest stronghold in the state is an important milestone. Once again, the people of Bengal rejected the BJP’s secessionist politics.
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha winning the Dumri seat from Jharkhand has been the most important gain for I.N.D.I.A. The BJP, especially Amit Shah, had made the fight a matter of prestige. It is really beyond comprehension how could the union home minister stake his prestige for a single seat. The reason has been that he wanted to dethrone Hemant Soren and put him in jail on the charges of his being involved in corruption. The need to defeat Soren is so acute that even in the midst of the electioneering, the ED continued to issue summons and asking Soren to appear before it. Bebi Devi won the Dumri bypolls by a margin of over 17,000 votes, defeating AJSU Party’s Yashoda Devi.
The Dumri victory of JMM will not only elevate the stature of Soren, but it would also arouse the Adivasi aspiration. On ground sources maintain that the election had come to symbolise the aspiration of the adivasis fighting against the BJP design to usurp their lands. This victory, the activists confide, would provide more impetus to the struggle going on in the state against the politics of loot by the big industries and corporate houses, for which the BJP is the political front. A tribal activist from Godda said that they would further intensify their struggle against Adani in the state, who is out to grab their lands for his power project.
In down south, the victory of Chandy Oommen, son of former Kerala Congress chief minister Oommen Chandy, has created some amount of apprehension about the viability of INDIA in Bengal and Kerala. Chandy Oommen registered a comprehensive win over the Left Democratic Alliance’s candidate in Puthuppally, improving upon even his father’s performance. The seat was vacated by the veteran Congress leader’s death earlier this year.
However, the BJP has some consolation in retaining Dhanpur and wresting Boxanagar from the CPI(M),source of political solace in the otherwise increasingly bleakening scenario. Though in Boxanagar, the combined opposition was pitched against BJP, the fact remained that the combination was not coherent. The CPI(M) is the strongest opposition party, but ironically the leadership did not make a serious effort to evolve a closer cooperation. BJP candidate Taffajal Hossain secured 66% of the vote share, defeating CPI(M)’s Mizan Hossain who got merely 3,909 votes.
The results of the by-elections indicate that I.N.D.I.A. could emerge as the most effective potent force to challenge the hegemony of NDA in 2024. But before that, it would need to iron out some of the state-level differences between its constituents and arrive at a mutually agreed upon formula to successfully and smartly contest the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. (IPA Service)