To quote from a surfboard magazine, “Cape Fear – is to talk you through what happens when you nosedive while taking off on the first wave of the set. First, you’re going to get driven into the surgeon’s table, which is a flatbed of reef in front of the takeoff which is covered in razor-sharp barnacles. If you don’t break one (or more) of your limbs on impact, then you’ll certainly have one sliced to shreds. When you eventually surface, bruised and bleeding, you have to deal with four six-to-eight foot waves each with four-foot-thick lips using all their power in a bid to impale you on the cliff face. So, yeah…make the drop.”
All of this has happened to the opposition as the power duo of the BJP dismembered them. Caste arithmetic, which gave swagger to the regional heavyweights in Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and his ally Mayawati, was wrecked by Modi Chemistry.
The alliance would have been seen as a success if it had stopped the BJP at 20 seats in Uttar Pradesh (total of 80 seats). As trends came in, the BJP was leading in 58 seats. So clearly, the Mahagathbandhan did not work. Yadav and Mayawati had included Ajit Singh’s Lok Dal in this “Grand Alliance” in the belief that the Jat vote would desert BJP. Did not happen. In reality, the BJP retained the caste network it had assembled in UP and actually added to it.
The UP voter clearly did not like being treated as the sum total of her caste. Mayawati, whose transactional politics are legendary as is her boast that she can transfer Dalit votes to whoever she teams with, was not able to deliver. She is leading in 12 of the 27 seats she contested, but except for the Jatav vote, which is the caste she belongs to, the BJP managed to attract newbie Dalit voters. Worse for Yadav his party is only leading in seven seats of its family bastions as it had done in 2014.
The results spell finis for Mayawati’s PM dreams and shows how the alliance will have a tough time in the next assembly elections of UP – if it lasts till then.
BJP cleverly pitched the election as Modi Vs Who, recognizing the value of a presidential-type campaign. Rahul Gandhi was pummeled daily. Gandhi saw the danger of this but made it completely personal with the Rafale corruption allegations of “chowkidar chor hai” (the watchman is a thief). Modi grabbed this and ran with it turning his cabinet, the BJP and all its supporters into “chowkidars”.
After Pulwama and Balakot, Modi also turned the narrative to national security which he used to the maximum to project himself as the über strong leader, proclaiming “ghar mein ghus ke mara” (entered Pakistan’s home to defeat them).
There clearly is a “Hindu” voter who is extremely enthused by the prospect of all dog whistles against Muslims and this voter, post expert polarization, is a blind Modi supporter. Modi did not run on his track record and decisions such as demonetization, but on teaching Pakistan a lesson. Much like Indira Gandhi and the 1971 election, post her splitting Pakistan into two halves and the birth of Bangladesh.
The overarching theme of the election was Modi, to whom voters decided to give an overarching mandate to fulfil the extravagant promises he had made in 2014. Modi now has no more excuses left for delivery – he has a dream mandate.
The BJP swept all the states the Congress had won in the Hindi heartland last December. It was as if the voter was clear about a state and national mandate. The Rajasthan slogan “Vasundhara teri kher nahin, Modi tujhse bair nahin (we won’t spare you, Vasundhara, but we have no enmity with Modi)” played out a nightmare scenario for Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath.
The BJP not only held on to what it won in 2014, but actually conquered new states like West Bengal where it has emerged as the principal opposition to Mamta Banerjee and is expecting a double digit debut. The same story was repeated in Odisha with the BJP making inroads but Naveen Patnaik hanging tough.
Punjab was the only holdout from Modi’s inflection point election with Captain Amarinder Singh standing as the last general against the Modi. Also, Rahul Gandhi must be ruing letting go of Himanta Biswa Sarma who has led Shah’s eastern charge successfully. As Jaganmohan Reddy gets ready to take over as the next Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh with a record sweep, parting ways with him reflects yet another mistake by Gandhi.
Today is not the day to be harsh on Gandhi – he worked really hard but is struggling (as I write this) to hold onto even his own seat in Amethi. Recognize this, though: we are now back in a single party rule and the rules of engagement are unkind to dynasty. A fifth-generation dynast has no attraction for the new India voter. He likes ambition and drive.
The Article First Appeared in NDTV