Sunday, June 3, 2018

The after-effects of Karnataka. By Arati R Jerath

The message from Bengaluru reverberated in the results for four Lok Sabha and 11 Assembly seats as the BJP wilted in front of a combined Opposition onslaught to suffer costly losses in its bastions. Although these were by-elections, with the exception of one Assembly seat in Karnataka where polling had been deferred, they are crucial markers for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls which will see a high index of Opposition unity challenging the BJP in key states.

One such state is UP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his chief strategist BJP president Amit Shah should be deeply worried by the united Opposition’s thumping victories in the Kairana Lok Sabha constituency and the Noorpur Assembly seat. Coming as they do within weeks of similar triumphs by a combined opposition in UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s Gorakhpur and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Maurya’s Phulpur parliamentary constituencies, a distinct pattern is emerging. Arithmetic is heavily weighted in favour of an SP-BSP-RLD-Congress alliance. The BJP is severely handicapped by being in majestic isolation, however grand it may sound.

It is to the Opposition’s credit that they fought Kairana creatively and with a pragmatic spirit of give and take. The decision to let the RLD fight the seat with a Muslim candidate was a stroke of genius. As RLD chief Ajit Singh and son Jayant Chaudhry went door-to-door with folded hands and an emotional appeal to Jat pride and identity, they seem to have managed to heal, at least partially, the wounds of the 2012 communal riots in neighbouring Muzzaffarnagar and in the process, revived late family patriarch Charan Singh’s winning Jat-Muslim-Dalit alliance. 

The Opposition’s campaign took the BJP by surprise. The party that boasts of the most formidable winning election machine failed to think up a counter-strategy to prevent the coming together of a formidable arithmetic of castes. The Kairana result proves that the communal card does not work every time. As we have seen in the past, Mandal usually trumps Kamandal, except in the context of perceived minority appeasement. This is no longer a top-of-the-mind issue with the BJP in power both at the Centre and in the state. Bread and butter issues and caste identities have come to the fore now.

Since UP gave Modi and the BJP 73 seats in 2014, they will have to do some serious introspection about their three successive Lok Sabha bypoll defeats in the state. They have not only spooked sworn enemies Mayawati and the Yadav clan to bury the hatchet and weld an alliance, but also seem to have scared off their voters too, particularly Mayawati’s Dalits. Police encounters in Yogi Adityanath’s UP are increasingly targeting Yadavs and Dalits and the Chief Minister’s Thakur caste bretheren has let loose a reign of terror among lower castes, particularly Dalits. The most recent Thakur-Dalit clash was over a Dalit bridegroom’s baraat which was not allowed to pass through a Thakur-dominated village in Kasganj in western UP… read more: