Post Election Musings
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Post Election Musings

June 8, 2024

The Lotus Wilts: A Tale of Humility & Hope

Tuesday brought a humbling reckoning for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a surge of hope for the I.N.D.I.A bloc. Despite a technical victory, the BJP’s performance fell short of expectations, while the I.N.D.I.A bloc found renewed vigour in their unexpected successes.

 Arrogance Meets Reality

 The BJP, confident in their dominance, boldly predicted a sweep of 400 seats but stumbled, failing to secure even a simple majority of 272 seats. This overconfidence, juxtaposed with the spirited resurgence of the I.N.D.I.A bloc, marks a significant shift in the political landscape — the coalition era is back.

 Unforced Errors: A Tennis Analogy

 The timing of this election verdict, coinciding with the French Open, invokes the tennis term ‘unforced error’ — a mistake not forced by an opponent but self-inflicted. The BJP’s campaign was rife with such errors, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan.

 A Fragmented Election

 Unlike previous Lok Sabha elections, this one lacked a cohesive National or Presidential character. It unfolded as a series of State elections, with its prolonged, multi-phase nature intensifying local and casteist dynamics. The Modi magic, which has waned, gave way to regional leaders and caste equations.

 The Uttar Pradesh Mis-step

 In Uttar Pradesh, discontent over unemployment and price rise was less significant than caste miscalculations. The Samajwadi Party’s (SP) strategic pivot to the ‘PDA’ coalition (Pichhada, Dalits and Alpsankhyaks) reaped rewards, securing a diverse array of winners.

Meanwhile, the BJP’s ticket distribution, directed by a Delhi-centric committee, alienated key communities like the Jats, Meenas and Rajputs, echoing similar failures in Rajasthan.

The Gujarati Conundrum

 A pervasive narrative of Gujarati dominance in contracts, combined with rumours of Amit Shah sidelining Yogi Adityanath, fuelled regional resentment. 

A similar sentiment has manifested in Maharashtra. Gujaratis and Maharashtrians have had a long history of discord. 

With Modi and Shah breaking the Shiv Sena, a party built on Maratha Pride, where they even snatched away that party’s symbol, has re-ignited the Gujarati-Marathi divide. 

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The duo from Gujarat have hurt the Marathi ‘manoos,’ and the BJP has paid the price this election, and they will pay the price again in the upcoming State election.

 Rotten Apples in Operation Lotus

 Beneath Modi’s ‘Chowkidar’ rhetoric, the BJP’s ranks swelled with defectors, dampening grassroots enthusiasm. Nearly a quarter of BJP candidates were turncoats, undermining the loyalty and morale of long-standing party workers. 

This lack of enthusiasm among party workers led to lacklustre voter turnout despite stern directives from party leadership to get voters to the booth.

 From Statesman to Fear-monger

 As the campaign faltered, Modi abandoned his ‘Sabka Vikas’ mantra, resorting to fear-mongering tactics. His rhetoric shifted to divisive issues like ‘love jihad’ and economic redistribution to alleged ‘infiltrators’ and ‘those with more children,’ tarnishing his burgeoning Statesman-like image.

Modi was developing a Statesman-like ‘vibe,’ as youngsters would say, as he met world leaders, upped Indians’ status globally, spoke of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas,’ etc. But now, in this election panic, Modi went down a path that may never give him that coveted title — ‘Statesman.’

But the course correction has already begun.  Yesterday, addressing the NDA leaders, Modi said, “They (Opposition) are not against the nation, they are against the BJP” and called for more debates. 

Finally, an acknowledgement that critiquing the BJP does not mean being anti-national. 

Also, NDA member Chandrababu Naidu put a check on the hate rhetoric at the joint meeting. He ended his speech by quoting his father-in-law and TDP Founder, N.T. Rama Rao, saying, “I don’t do any ‘ism’. I know only one ‘ism’ — humanism.”

 Development Vs Electoral Realities

Indian voters are more swayed by caste dynamics than developmental progress and this election highlights the complex and often regressive nature of Indian electoral politics.

Even its harshest critics must concede that this Government has done work. Yes, there have been bad policy matters, but there have been good ones, too, from decriminalising homosexuality to infrastructure development, from digital economy to direct delivery of schemes. But why is this not enough for an Indian voter? 

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Many say this electoral outcome is because the Indian voter was frustrated with price rises, unemployment, hate speeches, etc. In a way suggesting that the Indian voter is intelligent or mature. How we wish this were true. 

The harsh truth is that the Indian voter is more a casteist than a nationalist. 

The voters did not teach the BJP a lesson because of its hate speeches, lack of job creation, price rise, etc… They taught them a lesson for allowing two Gujaratis to hijack a party. It taught the BJP a lesson for not appreciating caste equations. 

With that said, this election outcome may have terrible consequences — forget development, give freebies and play caste politics. 

The Path Ahead: Coalition & Caste

This election underscores a troubling shift towards caste and coalition politics, potentially sidelining development agendas. But also, majoritarian Governments slipping into authoritarianism will now know that such Governments will be changed even if it’s not for the right reasons always. 

As we step back into coalition politics, the BJP will surely do their caste arithmetic better next time. Amit Shah could be relegated to Gujarat as CM, while Shivraj Singh Chouhan could be made BJP President and PM? Well… India, get ready for coalition Governments and a slew of PMs and Deputy PMs. 

 The Silent Victor: EVMs

Amidst the electoral upheaval, one entity emerged unscathed — the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). 

For once, the integrity of the electoral process was unquestioned, providing a rare moment of consensus in a polarised political environment.

In conclusion, this election will be remembered not just for its victors, which was everyone, but for the profound lessons it imparted on the perils of arrogance and the enduring complexities of Indian democracy.

The Only Loser

 This election was such that everyone was a winner, but there was one loser  — Exit polls.

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