he BJP’s rout in West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the recent Assembly polls is symptomatic of the fate of the BJP’s brand of politics centring around communal polarisation and the slogan of “sabka sath, sabka vikas”.
The defeat of the widely respected ‘Metroman’ E Sreedharan, the BJP’s undeclared Chief Ministerial face of Kerala at the hands of the Palakkad sitting MLA, Shafi Parambil, of the Congress symbolizes the rejection of the pseudo-Hindootva that the BJP has been championing for capturing power by manipulating the religious sentiments of the majority Hindoo population. The BJP has suffered crushing defeat in West Bengal and Kerala not because minorities supported the political party or alliance that they felt would protect their interests against the rabidly anti-minority BJP but a bulk of the majority Hindoos too have also realized the false veneer behind which hides the BJP’s corruption and greed.
Sreedharan’s defeat, that too from the Congress, epitomizes this new realization. Despite commanding respect from one and all for his stellar role in providing metro connectivity to people, he lost in a Hindoo-majority constituency. The majority community as well as the minorities stood solidly behind the Moslem candidate belonging to the Congress, seeing through the hollowness of the BJP’s claim of good governance most exposed in its miserable response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In West Bengal the BJP made communal polarization the main thrust of its electoral plank demonizing its arch rival Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress as a friend of the Moslems and enemy of the Hindoos. It made a strident pitch for implementing National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) if it is voted to power. This was directed against the nearly 30 per cent Moslems living in the state. This must have scared the minorities who, obviously, rallied behind the Trinamool Congress without splitting their votes between the TMC and Left-Congress-Indian Secular Front alliance as they clearly felt only Mamata Banerjee is in a position to thwart the BJP’s declared communal agenda.
Many Hindoos in Bengal also found with their own experience that while most parties, including the BJP make only tall and hollow promises, the Trinamool Congress-government implemented many dole-oriented schemes that benefited the poor, especially women, in both rural and urban areas. The BJP government at the Centre, on the contrary, inflicted untold sufferings on the people by way of Demonetisation, skyrocketing prices of cooking gas, petrol, diesel, GST and horrifying healthcare system that collapsed in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In case of the CPI (M)-led LDF’s thumping victory in the Kerala polls, there is also a clear shift of two minority communities, Moslems and Christians, who used to be traditionally the backbone of Congress-led UDF. Both communities seem to have different reasons to rally behind the CPI (M), deserting the Congress.
After the anti-CAA protest of 2019, the Moslem community got closer to the CPI (M) as the party got identified as the force to take on the BJP. The immediate response of the CPI (M) in Kerala – a human chain against the CAA and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s announcement that the amended citizenship law would not be implemented in Kerala – found favour with even pro-IUML Moslem organisations. In the run-up to the elections, Vijayan iterated his party’s resolve not to implement the CAA.
Also, the BJP manifesto in several ways was a cause of concern in the Moslem community. It promised a law against “love jihad”, take steps against foreign remittance that benefits a large population in Kerala and also against religious organisations in the name of preventing extremism. The party mobilised a battery of senior leaders from outside the state to campaign on a strong Hindootva agenda.
The biggest lesson of the Assembly poll results could be that the BJP’s aggressive Hindootva politics will not work anymore without a parallel economic agenda to uplift the poor and deprived. Added to this is the BJP government’s non-performance and hollow promises. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that only the rhetoric and gift of the gab of the BJP’s mascot, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, would not get traction from the people since the pandemic has been ravaging the population irrespective of their religious beliefs and the BJP government has no competence whatsoever to save the people from the scourge.
From now on the dynamics of national politics may not be as it has been since 2014. It may not be the beginning of the end of the BJP but the party has to reinvent itself with much more seriousness and search for moorings beyond Modi-Shah era if it does not wish to crumble like today’s Congress.