India: A political history, 1947 onwards
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Age of top leadership
2019/ Congress leaders are older than BJP’s
NEW DELHI: The Congress party is in a state of disarray after the crushing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The chaos has worsened following resignation of Rahul Gandhi as Congress president. Dynasty leadership and dominance of the old guard differentiate it from the ruling BJP.
A major change in the BJP which was effected after Narendra Modi became the prime minister and Amit Shah took over as party president in 2014 was the age bar. In an unwritten or unspoken rule, the leaders who touched 75 years of age were not assigned any role in the government or the party.
Some of the aged leaders who have been edged out from ministerial and party posts have been accommodated as governors or in the BJP’s Margdarshak Mandal.
To start with, instead of giving them any ministerial berths in the Modi government in 2014, BJP founding leaders LK Advani, 91, and Murli Manohar Joshi, 85, were made members of the Margdarshak Mandal. The two leaders were 86 and 80 in 2014.
Advani and Joshi had won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Gandhinagar and Kanpur respectively. Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was 89 in 2014 and was not in good health, was also a member of this group till his death on August 16, 2018.
Slowly and gradually, other leaders such as Najma Heptulla and Kalraj Mishra were dropped from the Modi cabinet in 2016 and 2017 respectively on attaining 75 years of age. While Heptulla was the minorities affairs minister, Mishra was the minister for micro, small and medium enterprises.
Heptulla, a Rajya Sabha member then, was made the Manipur governor while Mishra, a Lok Sabha MP from Deoria in Uttar Pradesh, was made the chairman of standing committee on defence and office of profit committee. On July 15, he was appointed as the Himachal Pradesh governor.
These leaders, such as LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Kalraj Mishra did not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. They were replaced with younger candidates such as Amit Shah who contested from Advani’s Gandhinagar seat.
As matters stand now, there is not a single leader above the age of 75 in either Modi cabinet or in the BJP’s highest decision-making body - the Parliamentary Board.
BJP’s Parliamentary Board comprises nine members. There were 10 members till party general secretary (organisation) Ramlal, 66, was sent back to the party’s parent organisation R S S on July 13.
Of the remaining nine members in the Parliamentary Board, Amit Shah is 54, Narendra Modi 68, BJP’s working president JP Nadda 58, defence minister Rajnath Singh 68, former finance minister Arun Jaitley 66, former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj 67, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari 62, social justice minister Thawar Chand Gehlot 71, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan 60.
While the Modi government and the BJP have become younger in 2019 as compared with pre-2014 period, the Congress is constantly aging with little infusion of young blood.
As against the usual 10 members in the BJP Parliamentary Board, the Congress’s highest decision-making body Congress Working Committee (CWC) consists of 25 members.
They are Rahul Gandhi (49), UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi (72), former prime minister Manmohan Singh (86), party treasurer Ahmed Patel (69), former defence minister AK Antony (78), former Union minister Ambika Soni (76), leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad (70), general secretary (administration) Motilal Vora (90), former MP Mallikarjun Kharge (76), general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal (56), general secretary Avinash Pande (61), general secretary Dipak Babaria (68), deputy leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma (66), former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy (75), former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi (84), former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat (71), former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah (70), former Union minister Kumari Selja (56), general secretary Mukul Wasnik (59), Rajasthan Congress vice-president Raghuveer Singh Meena (60), former Manipur deputy chief minister Gaikhangam (68), Chhattisgarh home minister Tamradhwaj Sahu (69), general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (47), general secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia (48) and former Goa chief minister Luizinho Falerio (67). Of these 25 leaders, seven are 75 or above. This constitutes 28 per cent or more than one-fourth of the total number of CWC members. On the other hand, the BJP Parliamentary Board does not have a single leader who is 75.
The seven CWC leaders above 75 are Manmohan Singh, AK Antony, Ambika Soni, Motilal Vora, Mallikarjun Kharge, Oommen Chandy and Tarun Gogoi. These leaders would not have held any ministerial or party post had they been in the BJP.
While the oldest CWC member (Motilal Vora) is 90, the oldest BJP Parliamentary Board member (Thawar Chand Gehlot) is 71 - a gap of 19 years.
In the CWC, one member Motilal Vora is in his 90s and two members Manmohan Singh and Tarun Gogoi are in their 80s.
Further, only Thawar Chand Gehlot in BJP Parliamentary Board is in his 70s, while there are eight leaders - Sonia Gandhi, AK Antony, Ambika Soni, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Oommen Chandy, Harish Rawat and Siddaramaiah - in this age group.
While the average age of BJP Parliamentary Board is 63.7 years, that of CWC is higher at 67.6 years.
No wonder the CWC is perceived to be dominated by the old guard. After the Congress’s humiliating defeat in the recent Lok Sabha elections, the CWC meeting was held on May 25, two days after the results were announced. Rahul Gandhi announced resignation as Congress president in the meeting.
Rahul Gandhi reiterated his decision to quit in the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) meeting held on June 26 and he formally resigned on July 3.
The CWC has not met to decide Rahul Gandhi’s successor despite the lapse of two months after its first meeting, almost a month after the CPP meeting and 22 days after his formal announcement to resign.
However, there are three redeeming factors in the CWC. While the youngest member (Amit Shah) of BJP Parliamentary Board is 54, the youngest CWC member (Priyanka Gandhi Vadra) is 47.
Secondly, while there are three CWC members in their 40s (Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia) while there are none in the BJP.
Third and last, while three CWC members - KC Venugopal, Kumari Selja and Mukul Wasnik - are in their 50s, two BJP Parliamentary Board members (Amit Shah and JP Nadda) are in this age group.
As the CWC readies itself to choose a new party president, it remains to be seen whether it also copies the BJP and drops the members who have crossed 75 years of age.
‘Assembly’ elections (Legislative Assemblies of States)
Population and geography ruled by political parties, 1961-2017
Highest, lowest victory margins
1980-2017: in five states
2008, 2013: How the people voted in the legislative assembly elections in
2011-2016: changing political landscape
The changing political landscape in Indian states, 2011-16
Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal: how the various political parties fared in reserved seats, in seats with a significant Muslim vote and in the tea plantations, in the 2011 and 2016 elections to the state legislative assemblies
2012-16: `Others' got more seats than BJP + Cong in 30 polls
The Times of India, May 21 2016
That BJP has gradually replaced Congress as the dominant party in Indian politics and that recent assembly polls have accelerated that trend is obvious, but the reality is that between them, the two national parties have won less than half the seats and votes polled in the latest assembly polls in 28 states (excluding Telangana, which was part of Andhra Pradesh when the last elections were held there) and two union territories, Delhi and Puducherry . In these 30 elections dating from 2012 and including the fi ve just concluded, a total of 4,117 seats were up for grabs.BJP has secured a decisive lead over Congress by winning 1,051 of them against the latter's 871. That makes a combi ned total of 1,922 seats. But all other parties put together have won 2,195 seats, or more than half the total. Seat tallies can be a mis leading indicator of po litical dominance. This is not only because a party can get a lot of votes but hardly any seats in the first past the post system, but also because an MLA in, say, Sikkim, represents a much smaller population than one in Uttar Pradesh but both count as one in the tally.
A better indicator, therefore, is how many votes each party has won. Here again, BJP's combined tally of 12.6 crore votes from the 30 polls beats the Congress' 11.8 crore, even if the gap seems crore, even if the gap seems much smaller than in the seats. Again, though, the rest with 33.5 crore votes comfortably beat the combined tally of the two big national parties. BJP and Congress put together have won 42% of the votes polled, 58% going to the rest.
Some of this 58% has, of course, gone to allies of BJP or Congress, like Shiv Sena or Akalis in the case of BJP, or DMK and RJD in the case of Congress. Nevertheless, these are not votes won by the two national parties on their own.
More importantly , the bulk of the 33.5 crore votes polled by the rest has gone to parties like Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trinamool Congress, Biju Janata Dal, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Left in Kerala or Tripura which are not aligned with either of the two national parties.
2012-17: State assembly elections
States ruled by the BJP and Congress, 2012-17
Seizures of money and liquor by the Election Commission in the run-up to the assembly elections of 2012 and 2017, UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand
Seizures of money and liquor by the Election Commission in the run-up to the assembly elections of 2012 and 2017, states, Manipur and Goa
Victory margins in the state assembly elections of 2017, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand
Victory margins in the state assembly elections of 2017, Goa and Manipur
The political map of India, 2012, 2017, 2018
The standing of the BJP, Congress and other major parties in the Indian states in 2012, 2017 and 2018
2014-19: BJP won most MLA seats, Cong not far behind
Seats won by Congress in 2014
Seats won by BJP in 2014
Seats won by Federal Front in 2014
Seats won by- Non aligned but won't back BJP; Non aligned and can go either way, in 2014
2018-19: Which party ruled how many states
Seats won by major political parties in 2014;
The timeline for voting for 17th Lok Sabha elections: April 11, 2019 till May 19, 2019.
State assembly election results analysed
The Times of India, Mar 12 2017
BJP Vote Share In UP Rises 25% From '12, Cong's Down In 5 States
Impressive as the BJP's showing was in terms of seats in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur, a look at how vote shares have shifted compared to five years ago makes the performance even more creditable.
In UP, the party upped its share by a jaw-dropping 25 percentage points since 2012 almost equaling its 2014 share. Considering that was in a Lok Sabha poll in which national parties typically perform better than in state elections, it is quite an achievement to have nearly held on to what it got at the peak of the Modi wave.
In Uttarakhand, the party saw its share climb from 33% in 2012 to 46.5% this time. In a state that has always witnessed close contests in the assembly polls since its formation in 2001, this allowed the BJP to sweep the state with a 13 percentage point lead over the rival Congress.The BJP added to its share essentially by eating into the shares of all others.
In Manipur, the saffron party has become the single largest in terms of vote share with 36.3% helped in some measure by a sharp seven percentage point decline in the Congress' share. In comparison to these sharp climbs, the drop in vote share in Punjab and Goa looks trivial.
In contrast, the Congress lost vote share in every one of the five states, the sharpest falls coming in Manipur and Uttar Pradesh, though the latter was partly due to the party contesting much fewer seats.
Akali Dal was another big loser in vote share, shedding close to 10 percentage points compared to the 2012 elections. However, this was just a little lower than its 2014 vote share which suggests that expectations of a complete meltdown of its base were grossly exaggerated. For AAP, a 23.7% vote share in its first foray in assembly polls in Punjab may seem like a promising beginning, but the party would be disappointed that it couldn't better its 2014 performance, when it won 24.4%. With the same share spread thinner this time, it could win just 20 seats while it had led in 33 in the Lok Sabha polls.
Perceived behaviour of castes, communities
Voting behaviour, community and caste-wise, 2017
Assembly elections in 5 states: BJP loses
The results of the state assembly elections of Dec. 2018- Seats won by the major parties in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh
The results of the state assembly elections of Dec. 2018- Mizoram, Telangana
Aam Aadmi Party’s performance
The results of assembly elections were a dampener for AAP, which had put its political aspirations to test in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Chattisgarh. It contested on 482 seats across the four states and lost all of them.
While the party has no base in these states, it maintained that it has only gained strength by contesting there, regardless of the result. The decision to contest, apparently, came after volunteers from these states urged the party to contest there to keep the volunteers motivated.
AAP contested 208 of 230 seats in MP. It announced a CM candidate and also released a manifesto, promising Delhi-like health and education services. AAP leaders extensively campaigned in the state, including the party’s MP in-charge Gopal Rai and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh. Majority of the candidates lost their deposits while the CM candidate, Alok Agrawal, who also heads the MP unit of AAP, finished fourth on the Bhopal South West seat.
The party had big hopes in Rajasthan where its state unit switched to poll mode months before elections were announced. In April, senior leader Deepak Bajpai was appointed the incharge for Rajasthan. Bajpai replaced disgruntled AAP leader Kumar Vishwas who, AAP had said, was unable to devote time for the state.
Bajpai camped in the state to pick candidates and claimed that the party was certain of making a huge debut this time. AAP hardsold its Delhi model of governance through its manifesto and deployed a battery of leaders from Delhi to campaign in the state. Arvind Kejriwal also held one election rally in Jaipur.
AAP originally planned to contest all 200 states in Rajasthan, but eventually contested on 147 and lost on all.
The Chattisgarh results were also disappointing for the party as none of the 85 candidates could win. AAP’ chief ministerial candidate for Chhattisgarh, Komal Hupendi, remained at the third position while many of the party candidates lost their deposits. An almost similar situation was witnessed in Telangana too where the party fielded 41 candidates.
AAP’s Telangana incharge Somnath Bharti blamed the poor performance on the alleged deletion of 22 lakh voters. He also said the purpose was to defeat BJP but AAP found it difficult to beat the money and muscle power it faced.
Assets, age, gender
The MLAs elected in December 2018- average assets, average age and gender
So it turns out that it was not Congress that got bruised by the Mayawati/Jogi alliance in Chhattisgarh. BSP vote share in fact dropped from 4.45% in 2013 to 3.9% even as, without it, Congress romped to a thumping victory.
But had Congress and BSP contested together in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, they would have crossed the finishing line easily – instead of GOP being halted teasingly short of the majority mark on counting day.
BSP attracted 5% vote share in MP and 4% in Rajasthan, compared to Congress’s 40.9% and 39.3%. This should shape alliance talks for the next Lok Sabha elections. Mayawati must accept realistic seat share arrangements, now that Congress has established how strongly it can bat by itself in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and MP.
The lesson for that mahagathbandhan, especially in light of how mahakutami crashed and burnt in Telangana, is that pie-in-the-sky seat sharing where junior allies gobble much more than is healthy, ends in regrets not celebrations. In Uttar Pradesh, in exchange, Mayawati should be able to call the shots rather than Congress.
In other news relevant for mahagathbandhan talks in the Hindi belt, across MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, SP was beaten convincingly by NOTA.
Cong neutralised vote katuwas/ spoilers
In both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Congress’s victory margins were slim, but it was not counting on its luck alone. Here was a party showing a lot of pluck as well.
After a string of defeats since 2014, Congress also appears to have found ways to counter BJP’s strategy of saddling it with ‘vote katuwas’ or ‘spoilers’.
In Madhya Pradesh, the party actually finished with a vote share that was 0.1 percentage points less than that of BJP. Yet, it won 114 seats — just two short of majority — while BJP ended at 109. Congress managed to convert votes into seats more effectively than BJP.
In Rajasthan, Congress’ vote share was just 0.5 percentage points more than BJP. But this made a huge difference in the seat tally.
Congress argues the anti-BJP sentiment was so strong that multiple poles like Bharatiya Tribal Party, 11 of 13 independents with Congress roots, BSP and CPM got some anti-BJP votes as well. Non-Congress, non-BJP votes totalled 21.9%, with 9.5% going to independents.
Luck may or may not have played a part in helping Congress in the first-past-the-post system, but the party did show some nimble-footedness unlike in the past.
As the counting in MP turned into a protracted exercise and the clash turned into a cliff-hanger, Congress stitched up the loose ends, spending the entire day contacting likely winners in BSP, SP and independents. Sources said Congress started to win over the ‘others’ winning MLAs so early it could have formed the government even if it had won fewer seats.
State chief Kamal Nath sought the governor’s appointment on Tuesday while counting was still on, claiming Congress would emerge as the single-largest party and could form the government with others’ support.
It was a marked change from Goa and Manipur where Congress emerged the single-largest party ahead of BJP and barely short of majority, but found that BJP had already bagged the ‘others’.
A noticeable change was Congress’ ability to overcome “spoilers” who threatened to turn a direct face-off with BJP into a triangular contest.
NOTA (none of the above) reflects the public mood
MP: Nota votes dislodge 4 BJP ministers
The roller-coaster ride on counting day and the heart-stopping scoreline had a common factor — tens of thousands of confused and disgruntled voters. In an election supposedly fought on pro- and anti-incumbency, Nota surprisingly had fifth largest tally of votes in Madhya Pradesh.
The number of no-choice votes crossed victory margins in a whopping 22 constituencies, felling four powerful BJP ministers. While the gap between BJP and Congress vote share was only 0.1% (BJP being in the lead), Nota bagged 1.4% of votes polled — over 5.4 lakh.
BJP (41%) and Congress (40.9%) were followed by BSP with 5% vote share and Gondvana Gantantra Party (GGP) at 1.8 %. Nota, at fifth place, polled more votes than SP (1.3%) and AAP (0.7%).
Of the 22 seats, where Nota topped victory margins, there were four constituencies where ministers lost by a whisker. The lowest victory margin was 121 votes in Gwalior South, where Nota got 1,550 votes, leaving MoShome Narayan Singh Kushwaha wringing his hands in despair.
In Damoh, finance minister Jayant Malaiya lost by only 799 votes, while Nota polled 1,299 votes. In Jabalpur North, MoS, health, Sharad Jain lost by just 578 votes while Nota bagged 1,209 votes. In Burhanpur constituency, minister for women and child development, Archana Chitnis, lost by 5,120 votes and Nota’s score was around 5,700 votes.
While BJP bled more due to Nota — ending up on the losing side in 12 of these 22 seats — Congress received some battering as well. In Timarni seat, Abhijeet Shah of Congress lost to Sanjay Shah of BJP by a margin of 2,213 votes while Nota got 4,084 votes. In Nagod constituency, Congress heavyweight Yadvendra Singh lost by a thin margin of 1,234 votes, while 2,301 votes went to Nota.
Bundelkhand and Malwa drew the highest number of Nota votes that triggered upsets. Of the 22 seats where Nota trumped victory margins, nine are in Bundelkhand and eight in Malwa. In Bundelkhand, it is believed that the campaign by some upper caste organisations to vote for Nota, rather than BJP or Congress, may have been a factor. They were upset with both major parties for the SC/ST Act ordinance that bypassed Supreme Court’s directive for investigation before arrest in cases filed under the Act. In Malwa, tribal regions saw most Nota votes, apparently due to lack of awareness. It’s a common feature in tribal areas, but in such a close election, it turned out to be a tipping factor.
Nota costs BJP dearly in Rajasthan
It was a marginal difference in voteshares of the Congress and BJP that sealed the fate of outgoing CM Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan.
BJP secured a voteshare of 38.8% while Congress, which with 99 seats emerged the single-largest party, took 39.3% of votes polled — a difference of a mere 0.5%. A total of 1.39 crore votes went to Congress while BJP bagged 1.37 crore votes. That works out to a difference of about 1.70 lakh votes.
Interestingly, the none-ofthe-above or Nota option accounted for 1.3% of the votes. These figures all go to show how much of a close fight it was between the two major parties in the state.
BJP, which swept the 2013 assembly polls with a voteshare of 46.05% and 163 of the 200 seats, saw a 7.25% dip in voteshare this time. Its tally in 2018 was down to 73. Congress, in 2013, secured a 33.71% voteshare and had 21 seats to show for it.
Even if it were to be believed that BJP lost 5.6% of its voteshare to Congress, the remaining 1.65% may be put down to Nota — which is conventionally seen as a vote
against the ruling party -- the more than 15 rebels who contested as Independents and smaller parties.
Coming to terms with the near miss, state BJP leaders are now claiming a moral victory for the party. “Congress has performed only slightly better than BJP. There was no Congress wave. Even the victory margins for several Congress MLAs have been quite low,” said state BJP leader Jyoti Kiran.
Rural and tribal areas; parliament and assembly seats
What would happen in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls if voters stuck to their party preferences? A mapping of the assembly segments onto the relevant parliamentary seats suggests that the BJP would still win 17 out of 29 in MP and 13 out of 25 in Rajasthan, but get almost wiped out in Chhattisgarh winning just one of the state’s 11 seats.
But does such a mapping make sense? Past experience suggests it is not a bad rough guide. These states have held assembly polls barely six months or less ahead of the Lok Sabha polls of 2004, 2009 and 2014. In each case, their verdict in the parliamentary seats has more or less mirrored the assembly outcome. The sole exception is Rajasthan in 2004, when it gave the BJP 20 of 25 Lok Sabha seats despite having defeated the party in the December 2003 assembly polls.
If the pattern holds, that could be really bad news for the BJP since it had won all 25 seats in Rajasthan, 27 of 29 seats in MP and 10 of 11 seats in Chhattisgarh in 2014. That’s a total of 62 out of 65 Lok Sabha seats. The current mapping suggests that number could come down to 31, half of the 2014 tally. Of course, the Congress tally would rise correspondingly. Given that the 2014 performance would be hard to repeat in Uttar Pradesh anyway, this is a loss the BJP can ill afford.
With the BJP suffering losses in three key states, its vote share has taken a sharp dip in Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh since the last assembly elections in 2013, but all these votes do not seem to have gone to the Congress alone as other players have also reaped the gains.
The vote share loss is even bigger for the saffron party since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, in which it had virtually swept all the three states by winning 62 out of 65 seats, as per the Election Commission data.
In Telanagana and Mizoram, it is the regional parties who have come out with flying colours, a post-2014 trend clearly visible in many states with sizeable presence of non-BJP and non-Congress parties.
Political pundits said this trend indicates that the regional satraps might play key roles in 2019 general elections for which attempts are already underway by non-BJP parties to put a united front against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's bid for a second term.
For Chattisgarh, the latest data showed the Congress getting 43.2% votes in this elections, up from 40.3% in the 2013 state polls and 38.37% in the 2014 general elections, where the party won only one out of 11 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
In comparison, the BJP's loss has been wider with its vote share dipping from 41% in 2013 to 32.9% now. In 2014 general elections, the party had got nearly 49% vote and 10 out of the 11 Lok Sabha seats.
The voting share analysis shows that some smaller parties and independents have managed to get more votes. While BSP had got 4.3% in 2013, its alliance with former chief minister Ajit Jogi's party has now got about 10.7% votes.
Independents have also improved their performance from 5.3% to 6.3%.
Similar trend was visible in Rajasthan where BJP's votes have fallen from 45.2% in 2013 to 38.8% now. It was much higher at nearly 55% in 2014, when the party won all 25 Lok Sabha seats from the state.
On the other hand, the Congress has improved its vote share from 33.1% in 2013 to 39.2% in 2018. It had managed to get nearly 30% votes despite losing on all seats in last parliamentary elections.
Independents have improved their assembly tally from 8.2% to 9.5%, while bagging larger number of seats.
The vote share situation is the most interesting in Madhya Pradesh, which saw the closest fight between the Congress and the BJP. The Congress' share has improved from 36.4% in 2013 to 41.4% in 2018 assembly polls, while that of the BJP has come down from 44.9% to 41.3%, as per the latest update.
The BSP's share here has actually fallen to 4.6%, while that of the independents has remained nearly same at over 5%. However, some other smaller parties have made gains.
In Telangana, the TRS is returning to power with a bigger mandate and a rise in its vote share from nearly 34% last time to about 47%. The Congress has also improved from 25.2% to 28.7%, though its newly-found ally TDP, which was earlier with BJP, has taken a beating.
BJP's vote share has remained almost static at about 7% since last assembly elections in 2014. However, its vote share has come down from 10.4% in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Mizoram is the only state where the Congress has lost its vote share and the BJP has gained. However, the winner there is a third player, the Mizo National Front, which has returned to power with a clear majority by ousting the only Congress government left in the North-East.
The Congress vote share has come down from nearly 45% in 2013 to just about 30%, while that of BJP has risen five-fold from 0.4% to 8%.
The MNF has improved from 28.8% to 37.6%, while its seat tally has risen from five to 26. The Congress seats have come down from 34 to five, while the BJP has won its maiden assembly seat in the state.
While the vote share data for 2018 polls was still being updated by the poll panel, the final figures are expected to remain around these levels.
Winners and losers
The winners and losers of the Assembly elections in 5 states held in December 2018
The meaning of the results
The meaning of the results of the state assembly elections of December 2018
May by-elections: opposition wins 11/14 seats, BJP-allies win 3
The results appeared more slanted against the BJP after taking into account the parties that had won these seats before bypolls were necessitated.
In a big setback to the ruling BJP, opposition parties on Thursday won 11 bypolls, limiting the saffron party and its allies to just three. The opposition made impressive gains in the bypolls to four Lok Sabha and 10 Assembly seats spread across 11 states -- riding high on strengthening non-BJP unity in run-up to the 2019 general elections.
With prestige at stake in every single bypoll, the BJP lost the high-profile Kairana Lok Sabha seat in politically important Uttar Pradesh to a united Opposition after a communally-charged election campaign. The party also lost the Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra.
However, the BJP retained another Lok Sabha seat from Maharashtra, Palghar, where it had faced a challenge from its own ally Shiv Sena. BJP's Rajendra Gavit won the seat defeating Shiv Sena's Shrinivas Wanaga by 29574 votes. In Palghar, the opposition could not pose a united fight.
The fourth Lok Sabha seat, Nagaland, for which bypoll was held earlier this week went in favour of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), a BJP allly in the northeastern state.
While the Lok Sabha bypoll results appeared equally divided at 2-2 between the BJP-plus-allies and the opposition parties, figures for the 10 assembly bypolls came as a big setback for the ruling party which could manage just one (in Uttarakhand), while Congress bagged three (in Meghalaya, Karnataka and Punjab's Shahkot) and others got six -- JMM got two in Jharkhand, while CPM, SP, RJD and Trinamool one each in Kerala, UP, Bihar and West Bengal, respectively.
The results appeared more slanted against the BJP after taking into account the parties that had won these seats before bypolls were necessitated. While the BJP alliance retained two Lok Sabha seats -- one in Maharashtra and another in Nagaland -- it failed to retain two others -- UP's Kairana and Maharashtra's Bhandara-Gondiya.
Similarly in 10 assembly seats, the BJP and its allies failed to retain seats like Noorpur in UP and Shahkot in Punjab, while the opposition parties such as Congress, CPM, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Trinamool retained their respective seats.
The BJP retained Tharali assembly seat in Uttarakhand, but Samajwadi Party snatched Noorpur in neighbouring UP from the saffron party. SP's Naeemul Hasan cruised ahead of his nearest BJP rival Avni Singh to win this seat.
In Bihar, opposition RJD won Jokihat assembly seat by defeating BJP's ally JD(U) by a huge margin. The result was being seen as a big jolt to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who dumped the RJD and Congress last year to join hands with the BJP to form a new coalition government in Bihar.
Rashtriya Lok Dal's Tabassum Hasan, supported by the Congress, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, established an early lead over Mriganka Singh right from the beginning to establish an almost invincible lead by noon. In Maharashtra, the BJP retained Palghar but was staring at defeat in the Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha constituency, which the BJP had won in the 2014 elections. The NCP's Madhukar Kukade was leading over the BJP's Hemant Patle, as per latest trends.
The Congress has won one assembly seat in Maharashtra without any contest after all other parties withdrew their candidates.
Punjab's ruling Congress candidate Hardev Singh Ladi wrested the Shahkot assembly seat from the Shiromani Akali Dal, defeating the party's nominee Naib Singh Kohar with a margin of 38,801 votes, an election office spokesperson said. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh hailed the Congress victory as a "vindication" of the government's people-centric policies, a rejection of the "negative" politics of SAD and "decimation" of AAP.
Trinamool's Dulal Das won Maheshtala assembly bypoll in West Bengal, defeating BJP's Sujit Kumar Ghosh by 62,827 votes.
Kerala's ruling CPI(M)-led LDF's Saji Cheriyan also won the Chengannur Assembly bypoll by a huge margin of 20,956 votes over his nearest Congress rival D Vijaykumar, while the BJP candidate came third.
JMM retained both Silli and Gomia assembly seats in Jharkhand. In Gomia, JMM's Babita Devi defeated AJSU nominee Lambodar Mahto by 13,00 votes while BJP's nominee Madhavlal Singh stood third on the seat.
In Silli, JMM's Seema Mahto defeated AJSU chief and former state Deputy Chief Minister Sudesh Mahto by 13,000 votes.
Worrying as the 3-12 scoreline in Thursday’s bypoll results would be for BJP, what may cause the party even greater concern is that these results are not merely a reflection of opposition unity but of an erosion in its vote share as well.
The result in Kairana best illustrates this fact. In 2014, BJP had polled 50.6% of the votes. Had it been able to repeat that, no amount of coming together by the rest could have defeated the party. But as in Gorakhpur and Phulpur earlier this year, the arithmetic of opposition unity combined with a drop in BJP votes — to 46.5% — to deliver an adverse verdict.
What’s happened to vote shares is more difficult to work out in the other three Lok Sabha bypolls. In the two Maharashtra constituencies, Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya, BJP’s vote share dropped by about nine percentage points and nearly 23 percentage points respectively. But then, its votes in 2014 included Sena’s support base since the two parties had contested as allies. So exactly how much of an erosion there is in the BJP vote is difficult to say. What is certain, however, is an increase in the Congress-NCP combine’s vote share in Bhandara-Gondiya by more than eight percentage points since 2014. In Palghar, in contrast, this alliance was reduced to also ran status as the contest became between the BJP, Sena and BVA.
In the remaining Lok Sabha bypoll, in Nagaland, it was a repeat of a contest between two NDA constituents with NPF and NDPP facing off. As in the assembly polls, BJP backing NDPP seems to have tilted the balance.
Analysing vote shares in the 10 assembly contests shows that in most cases BJP’s vote share has declined. However, it has risen in Maheshtala in West Bengal to the extent that the party has taken second spot ahead of CPM, furthering a trend noticed in the recent local body polls. BJP’s vote share has risen significantly in Noorpur in Uttar Pradesh, from 39% in last year’s assembly polls to 47.2% now. But that was simply not enough to match the united strength of the opposition.
Beyond the big states of UP and Maharashtra, what would cause BJP some concern is the decline in its vote share in Chengannur in Kerala from 29.3% in the 2016 assembly polls to 23.2% now. Seen as a stronghold of the Nair community, BJP would have hoped for a better showing in this seat if it is to make serious inroads in a state that has proved a hard nut to crack for the party.
With the result in RR Nagar in Bengaluru showing an uptick in Congress vote share and in the combined Congress-JD(S) share from the 2013 assembly polls, it would appear that BJP’s hopes that the voters of the state will be disgusted with an ‘unprincipled’ alliance have been dashed.
Akhilesh’s absence, Maya’s silence helped
Party sources said Akhilesh did not campaign in Kairana as that could have brought back memories of the 2013 riots
Likewise, Mayawati’s complete silence after directing party cadres to work in tandem with SP-RLD counterparts was deliberate, claimed sources
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s strategic decision to not campaign in Kairana and Noorpur and the studied silence of BSP supremo Mayawati after directing her party cadres to support SP-RLD candidates paid off for the opposition. In 2014, BJP had pulled off a massive victory in Kairana by consolidating Hindu votes in the aftermath of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
“The riots took place when SP was in power with Jats pitching against Muslims. This time, SP took a conscious decision that Akhilesh would not campaign there so that BJP doesn’t get a chance to polarise,” said party insiders, adding that both the opposition candidates were Muslims.
Party sources further said Akhilesh did not campaign in Kairana as that could have brought back memories of the 2013 riots.
Likewise, Mayawati’s complete silence after directing party cadres to work in tandem with SP-RLD counterparts was deliberate, claimed BSP sources. They said Mayawati did not openly support SP-RLD to prevent BJP from consolidating Dalit votes — who comprise 15% of the total electorate — along with Jats and Gujjars.
“Mayawati didn’t need to say anything since she had already clarified that BSP-SP alliance had reached the point of finalising seat-sharing,” said a BSP member.
At a presser on Thursday, Akhilesh brushed aside a question on why he didn’t go for canvassing in Kairana with a humorous quip, “I didn’t go to campaign because I got scared of Yogiji’s speeches.” He added, “BJP has been defeated in its own lab and the result is the victory of the people who believe in communal amity and peace.”
States ruled by the NDA
Parties in office in states
The map shows parties in office in the states, as in March 2019
Scramble To Hand Out Goodies Ahead Of Polls
With elections looming, the political class seems to have its priorities sorted out: It’s politics over economics and voter over the exchequer. The Centre and states have been doling out sops — from farm loan waivers and income support for agriculturalists to unemployment doles and even gold.
In BJP-ruled Assam, finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma raised the bar by offering gold, estimated to cost Rs 38,000, for brides from families with annual income of less than Rs 5 lakh. He also promised “e-bikes” for all girls who secure first division in higher secondary examination and a one-time subsidy of Rs 50,000 on all education loans sanctioned during the current financial year.
MP is expected to announce a monthly unemployment allowance of Rs 4,000, going one step ahead of Rajasthan which promised Rs 3,000-3,500 a month.
MP govt to double pension for elderly
The Kamal Nath government in MP will also roll out a scheme guaranteeing 100 days of work for urban youth. Sources said the Congress regime will also double social security pension for elderly from Rs 300 to Rs 600. All three decisions were cleared by CM and finance department.
When it’s poll season, taxes are something that no finance minister wants to raise. Last Friday, the Centre offered 100% tax rebate for those earning up to Rs 5 lakh while offering concessions also to senior citizens and the middle class.
Leftruled Kerala deferred its plan to levy a “flood cess” on GST. It had argued for the cess on the ground that the money thus mopped up would be used for repairing the damage caused by the calamity. There is no clarity whether the state would go ahead with its budget proposal until Lok Sabha elections are over.
The pre-poll gifts come ahead of the general elections, which are expected to be keenly contested, prompting politicians to woo voters with freebies that economists have frowned upon on the ground that they could adversely impact the already-strained exchequer.
Assembly elections, by-elections/ May
Jagan takes Andhra by storm, Naveen gets record 5th term
Jaganmohan Reddy's YSRCP sweeps Andhra, Naveen Patnaik’s BJD wins Odisha for a fifth time, and five-time Sikkim CM Pawan Kumar Chamling loses a cliffhanger.
Odisha: BJD beats anti-incumbency to win 28 seats and lead in 84 out of 146 seats, though BJP makes big gains in assembly (likely to win 23) and Lok Sabha polls. Naveen Patnaik lives to fight another day, becoming the third chief minister to get a 5th straight term, after West Bengal former CM Jyoti Basu and Sikkim’s Pawan Chamling.
Andhra Pradesh: Jaganmohan Reddy will replace Chandrababu Naidu as CM after winning 129 and leading in 21 out of 175 seats. Naidu’s TDP is virtually wiped out, and his national plans are in ruins. The way back will not be easy Arunachal Pradesh: BJP well on its way to retain office with a win in 60-seat assembly. Likely to form a government again under CM Pema Khandu.
TamilNadu:AIADMKsettowin nine out of 22 seats in which bypolls have been held, ensuring the Palaniswami government (123 out of 234 seats) can last its full term.
Goa: BJP loses Parrikar’s Panjim constituency after 25 years to Atanasio Monserrate (Cong), wins 3 other bypolls West Bengal: In keeping with its gains in LS seats in the state, BJP is on its way to win 4 out of 8 bypoll seats, ahead of TMC (3) and Congress (1).
Sikkim: In a huge upset, CM Pawan Chamling’s SDF (part of NDA) loses. SKM leader Prem Tamang likely to be the new chief minister.
Haryana, Maharashtra assembly elections; by elections
Oct 2019: The results of the Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections
What the verdict means
This was not supposed to be a competitive round. After the big BJP wins in Maharashtra and Haryana in the Lok Sabha elections only 5 months ago and the widely perceived support for decisions on J&K, the party’s win was a given. However, voters sprang a surprise by denying BJP a majority in Haryana and restricting its mandate in Maharashtra. The outcome will disappoint BJP and could trigger introspection about the adequacy of its “nationalist” plank in local leagues, especially amid an economic slowdown. It does not undercut its political pre-eminence but sharply underscores the challenges to its bid for countrywide dominance that Congress once enjoyed.
The less-than-impressive saffron show just when it had seemed “unreachable” by a big distance is a tribute to the tenacity of the “local” — short-hand for personalities and factors that influence choices at the grassroots. They may be pushed to the background in an LS poll, yielding an overarching theme or a popular national leader like Narendra Modi, but return with vengeance in state elections. Results of by-elections and, in many cases, success of rebels are also a testimony to the resilience of the rooted. The Indian experience provides validation for former US Speaker Tip O’ Neill, who famously said all politics is local.
A slowing economy, unemployment and rural distress were issues and the jury is out on whether and to what degree they hurt BJP. Opposition parties predictably brought them up and pointed to a sullen mood. But to what ‘extent’ remains unresolved, considering that BJP picked up over 300 seats in the LS election against what some considered a very adverse setting. Also, BJP faced incumbency in both Haryana and Maharashtra and couldn’t have returned the numbers they did if they had faced large-scale resentment. Possibly, the discontent over kitchen table themes kept BJP from fully leveraging its assets CASTE MATTERS: Caste solidarity which yielded to Modi’s personal popularity and the strength of his plank, proved its salience yet again.
The dominant castes of Marathas and Jats, who were feeling downsized, demonstrated their relevance.
The performance of Pawar and Hooda owe a lot to caste support which also boosted new regional satrap Dushyant Chautala. The staunch support from their kin allowed their leaders to forge formidable social constituencies at the local level
Difficult to say to what extent the seemingly popular move to do away with the special status for J&K helped or hindered BJP. For, finding a reliable answer would require complete clarity on how the party would have performed if the ‘nationalist’ issue had not been in play. Also, Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda broke ranks with Rahul Gandhi to back the decision, while NCP’s Sharad Pawar and JJP’s Dushyant Chautala refrained from opposing it. But the slim win in Maharashtra and failure to score an outright win in Haryana will reinforce the view that local can trump national in regional arenas. Opposition parties may feel encouraged to resist BJP’s aggressive posture on the matter
REGIONAL PLAYERS: From Arvind Kejriwal to Mamata Banerjee, regional satraps must be relieved.
For, an emphatic performance by BJP would have left it thirsting for similar feats on their turfs. It could also have lent impetus to JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar’s scarcely concealed plan to keep BJP as his junior partner in Bihar for the coming state elections had he not fared so poorly in the by-polls GRAFT CASES: Whether allegations of corruption influence polls has been debated endlessly with people voting out the allegedly corrupt only to bring them back the next time. This time too, graft charges failed to dent Pawar or Hooda. Pawar, in fact, shrewdly turned a courtdirected ED inquiry to fend off BJP’s aggressive designs
By elections: NDA wons 26 out of 51, Cong 12
Bypolls: NDA wins 26 out of 51, Cong bags 12
BJP and its allies won 26 of the 51 assembly byelections in 18 states for which results were announced on Thursday, winning eight of the 11 contests in Uttar Pradesh but suffering setbacks in Gujarat and Bihar. Congress bagged 12 seats.
In the two Lok Sabha bypolls, NCP’s Shriniwas Dadasaheb Patil scored an upset win over BJP’s Udayanraje Pratapsinghmaharaj Bhonsle in Satara, Maharashtra, while Prince Raj of LJP, a nephew of Ram Vilas Paswan, defeated Congress’ Ashok Kumar in Samastipur (SC), Bihar.
The byelections marked the entry of BJP in the Sikkim assembly — where it won two of the three seats on offer — and that of AIMIM, led by Asaduddin Owaisi, in Bihar.
In UP, NDA retained eight of the nine seats it held but SP was a major gainer, wresting a seat each from BJP and BSP, while retaining Rampur. In Gujarat, BJP conceded three of six seats to Congress. BJP’s Alpesh Thakor, who had defected from Congress, lost.
8 ministers defeated in Maha, 7 in Haryana; turncoats lose
Ministers and turncoats pulled NDA down in the battle to retain Maharashtra and Haryana.
Eight ministers of the Devendra Fadnavis government lost at the hustings, an embarrassment almost matched by the M L Khattar cabinet in Haryana that saw seven out of its nine BJP members biting the dust. Dimming the glow of returning to power in Maharashtra further was the electorate’s rejection of 11 prominent faces from the opposition camp that had crossed over to the BJP-Shiv Sena side just before the polls.
While it was expected that some of Fadnavis’s ministers would lose, the defeat of agriculture minister Anil Bonde was a big surprise, as was that of high-profile rural development minister Pankaja Munde, who lost to her cousin Dhananjay Munde by 31,000 votes.
The others included junior forest minister Parinay Fuke, employment guarantee minister Jaydutta Kshirsagar, who joined the Shiv Sena on the eve of the assembly elections, senior Sena leader and minister of state for textiles Arjun Khotkar, minister for marketing Ram Shinde, junior labour minister Bala Bhegde and MoS for water resources Vijay Shivtare.
Eleven of the 19 prominent turncoats who had switched allegiance to BJP were defeated, too. The list includes Udayanraje Bhosale from Satara, former minister Harshavardhan Patil, Vaibhav Pichad and Dilip Sopal.
In Haryana, the capitulation of ministers wasn’t the only setback to BJP. State party chief Subhash Barala suffered defeat at the hands of JJP’s Devender Babli by a margin of 52,302 votes, leaving him so disappointed that he left the counting hall midway and soon announced his resignation.
Only 2 netas in Khattar cabinet manage to clear the mark
Ministers Anil Vij from Ambala Cantonment and Banwari Lal from Bawal constituency were the only victorious ones for BJP. Khattar had 11 ministers in his cabinet, two of whom — Vipul Goel and Rao Narbir — were denied tickets.
The senior-most minister, Ram Bilas Sharma, who was in charge of education and tourism, lost to Rao Dan Singh, a loyalist of former Congress chief minister Bhupinder Hooda, by a margin of 9,240 votes.
The one outcome that dealt the biggest shock was the defeat of finance minister Capt Abhimanyu, seen by many as the most powerful in Khattar’s cabinet. Capt Abhimanyu lost to ex-BJP stalwart Ram Kumar Gautam of JJP by a margin of 12,029 votes.
BJP’s “farmer face”, agriculture minister Om Parkash Dhankar, lost to Kuldeep Vats in Badli by 11,245 votes. Manish Grover, a junior minister, was defeated by Hooda loyalist Bharat Bhushan Batra in Rohtak city. Three-time MLA and women and child development minister Kavita Jain, whose husband was media adviser to Khattar, couldn’t retain her seat either. Neither could three-time MLA and speaker Krishan Lal Panwar in Israna.
Krishan Kumar Bedi, the minister from Shahbad, also lost, as did Karan Dev Kamboj by a small margin of 560 votes.
Art 370 as a poll issue
BJP’s failure to retain the numbers it had won in Maharashtra and Haryana in 2014 has raised the question whether it became excessively dependent on the popularity of its Article 370 decision, reports Akhilesh Singh. In Haryana, seven ministers, the speaker and state party chief lost. In Maharashtra, BJP suffered an unexpected setback in Vidarbha, home base of Fadnavis and Gadkari. Young leader Pankaja Munde also lost, leading many in the party to question the effectiveness of “nationalist” themes in state contests.
BJP scores betters in NCR
BJP performed better in Delhi’s neighbourhood than in the rest of Haryana, winning 14 of the 25 seats in NCR districts. This was three seats more than its 2014 score of 11 in NCR and accounted for more than a third of its final tally of 40 in the assembly polls.
Congress equalled its 2014 seat count of nine in NCR, including three seats in Mewat, where BJP’s strategy to field veterans like Zakir Hussain did not work. INLD slipped from four seats to nil in NCR and JJP failed to open its account.
But it was an independent who became the day’s talking point, winning a seat that senior BJP leader and cabinet minister Rao Narbir Singh held since 2014. Rakesh Daultabad, the man whose radio ads made his name a familiar one beyond Gurgaon’s borders, won Badshapur, Haryana’s largest constituency by voter numbers (3.6 lakh), by more than 10,000 votes. Badshapur is predominantly urban, includes many of Gurgaon’s new sectors and parts of Sohna Road, and had witnessed a vote boycott call before the elections over poor civic infrastructure and the government’s failure to relocate the toll plaza from Kherki Daula.
Daultabad’s campaign was based on “local connect”, something his opponent struggled with, especially BJP, which denied Narbir a ticket and fielded Manish Yadav, the party’s state youth wing president, in his place. That strategy appears to have backfired.
Haryana, Maharashtra assembly elections; by elections, 2019: the winners
BJP dips in Vidarbha (Maha), Cong rises in Haryana
Haryana, Maharashtra assembly elections; by elections, 2019- BJP dips in Vidarbha (Maha), Cong rises in Haryana
October elections: Five trends
5 Surprises From State Elections
While the election results in Maharashtra and Haryana have dominated the headlines, poll data from the two states along with byelections held in 51 seats across 18 states have thrown up some interesting trends. Here are some unique ones you should know about.
1. A new political star in Odisha?
Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) candidate, Rita Sahu, created electoral history by winning the Bijepur bypoll with a record margin of 97,990 votes— the highest-ever for an assembly segment in the state. Rita’s rival Sanat Gartia of BJP got only 37,967 votes.
The scale of Rita’s victory can be gauged from the fact that she polled more votes (1,35,957 ) than Naveen did in the April assembly polls (1,10,166). The chief minister’s victory margin was 57,000, a little over half of Rita’s. Patnaik vacated Bijepur for Hinjili, his traditional seat — after he won both seats in April — which necessitated the byelection.
Before this, the highest assembly seat victory margin in Odisha was 94,555, achieved by current Andhra Pradesh governor and BJP leader Biswa Bhusan Harichandan against the then Congress rival Jagannath Mohapatra in Bhubaneswar in 2000.
2. A record number of Indians voted for nobody
The None of the Above (Nota) option appears to be gaining traction with voters. Nota got over 5% votes in five constituencies in Maharashtra. It was runner-up in Latur (Rural) and Palus Kadegaon assembly constituencies where Congress candidates Dhiraj Deshmukh and Vishwajeet Kadam emerged winners. In both the seats, Nota fetched 13.8% (27,449) and 10% (20,572) votes, respectively. The Shiv Sena was relegated to third place. BJP workers in both constituencies say they opted for Nota to protest the party’s move to swap seats with alliance partner Shiv Sena. Nearly 1.45 lakh Mumbaikars also expressed their frustration with the government. In Mumbai’s Borivali, Jogeshwari (East) and Palghar (ST) where Nota got 6.1%, 8.1% and 5.5% of the votes, respectively. Experts attribute this to anger over issues like the tree felling for a Metro car shed in Aarey Colony and the collapse of the Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative Bank.
In six Haryana seats Nota was either more than or close to the victory margin of the winning candidate.
In both states, NOTA got more votes than what the Aam Aadmi Party could manage. In Haryana Nota’s vote share was 0.53% as compared to AAP’s 0.48% and in Maharashtra, Nota's 1.37% vote share beat AAP’s 0.11%.
3. Big victories got bigger in Maharashtra
In 45 seats, the margin of victory was over 50,000 votes. Of these, the BJP won 19, the Shiv Sena 9, NCP 11, Congress 4 and others 2. Former Maharashtra deputy chief minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar won the Baramati assembly constituency by over 1.65 lakh votes — the highest victory margin recorded by a candidate this election.
4. New MLAs are 50% to 100% richer
In Maharashtra, the average assets of the House rose to Rs 22.2 crore in 2019 compared with Rs 10.84 crore in 2014 — a 104% increase. The average assets of MLAs in Haryana stood at Rs 18.4 crore which was 41.8% more than the average of the House elected in 2014. The richest elected MLA in Maharashtra is Parag Shah from the BJP with total assets worth over Rs 500 crore.
5. From national to local in 4 months
A closer look at how people voted in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the assembly polls clearly shows that people vote differently on national and local issues. While they may prefer a strong national leader like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the state level, local issues and personalities take precedence.
In Lok Sabha polls, the saffron dominance was complete in Haryana, with the BJP winning all 10 seats. In comparison, the assembly election results were a mixed bag for the party.
BJP saw a drastic decline in its vote share in Haryana — from 58% in the Lok Sabha polls, the party’s vote share declined by 22% in the recently concluded state elections.
In Maharashtra, the NDA won 41 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats while the Congress managed just 5. Cut to assembly polls — the BJP-Shiv Sena combine won 161 seats, 24 less than 2014. Both NCP and Congress have made a comeback.
The party’s vote share was 27.59% in the Lok Sabha polls, which fell to 25.7% in the current assembly elections. The Shiv Sena which saw a rise in vote share in the Lok Sabha polls also witnessed a drop in the current polls.
There has clearly been a shift in how voters saw differentiated both parties in the national and the state election.
BJP-ruled states in Nov 2019
BJP-ruled states in March 2018 and Nov 2019 <> Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh were under President’s Rule in Nov 2019
NEW DELHI: With Jharkhand joining the growing list of states slipping out of BJP's rule, the party now governs mere 35 per cent of the country's landmass in comparison to over 71 per cent during its peak in 2017 when it was in power in the entire Hindi-speaking heartland.
Its string of losses in states despite the massive victory in the April-May Lok Sabha elections may force the party's top brass to revisit its strategy for the assembly polls as it prepares for the upcoming battles in Delhi and Bihar. The percentage of population being governed by the BJP in the states, either on its own or with its allies, now stands at around 43 per cent from over 69 per cent two years back, data analysis show.
What may be of more concern to the party is that its graph in state polls has been on a steady decline since 2018 when it lost its bastions of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh besides Rajasthan, and its huge victory in the Lok Sabha elections this year has not translated into gains in states.
Political watchers believe that the BJP may have to reconsider its tactic of backing leaders from non-dominant communities in assembly elections, as consolidation of Jat, Maratha and tribal votes against it is seen to be one of the reasons behind its below par performance in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand respectively.
Opposition parties did much better than expected in Haryana and Maharashtra, even though the BJP emerged as the single largest party in both the states even while losing many seats compared to its previous tally.
The party joined hands with rival Jannayak Janata Party to form the government in Haryana but was outsmarted in Maharashtra by the rival Congress-NCP alliance which joined hands with longtime BJP ally Shiv Sena to come to power at the saffron party's expense.
If the Haryana and Maharashtra results gave the BJP something to cling to, its defeat in Jharkhand was absolute as for the first time since the state's formation the party has not emerged as the single largest party.
The BJP always emerged as the single largest party in Jharkhand, once jointly with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM).
Its face and incumbent chief minister Raghubar Das also appeared headed to defeat to BJP rebel Saryu Roy.
In all three state which have gone to the polls since Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP to a landslide win in the general election, the party's vote share has fallen by big margins compared to the Lok Sabha polls.
The saffron party's vote share was more than 55 per cent in Jharkhand and 58 per cent in Haryana in the Lok Sabha elections. However, it slumped to 33 per cent and 36 per cent respectively in the assembly polls in these two states, held barely a few months after the general elections.
Significantly, the party has suffered losses in states at a time when it has been successful in fulfilling its longstanding ideological promises, including nullifying Article 370, criminalising the practice of triple talaq and enacting Citizenship Amendment Act.
The Supreme Court's verdict in favour of building a Ram Temple in Ayodhaya was also a big boost to the BJP.
Top party leaders in election rallies spoke at length about these "achievements" under the Modi government but the voting returns have been less than what they might have expected.
Congress in power in 7 states
NEW DELHI: The victory of the JMM-Congress alliance in Jharkhand has come as a moral booster for opposition unity and for the grand old party seeking to become relevant again in Indian politics after suffering two successive defeats in general elections.
Party leaders feel that the BJP is not invincible and can be defeated if like-minded parties get together. This, they feel, has been proved right in some states and the experiment can be implemented in upcoming polls.
The poll results indicate that local and real issues of farm crisis, economy and unemployment have found more resonance at the ground and that bodes well for the opposition in future polls to win back states from the BJP.
The Jharkhand poll results also show that the caste equations against BJP are consolidating. A Congress leader said the BJP has lost the support of tribals by installing a non-tribal chief minister in the tribal dominated state.
Tough the Congress has returned to power in seven states with the latest victory in Jharkhand, its last two successes have come primarily with the support of allies.
While Congress is in power in the states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry on its own, it has come to power in Maharashtra and Jharkhand jointly with the support of its allies Shiv Sena and NCP and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
Party leaders feel the latest victory in Jharkhand is a lesson taught by the people of the state to the "arrogance" of the BJP and its leadership. Some feel it is also the defeat of BJP's "corruption".
They feel the alliance of like-minded parties in some states can bring opposition unity in states and oust the BJP from power.
Congress leader and incharge for Jharkhand affairs, RPN Singh said the Congress and the alliance leaders raised the local issues of unemployment, farm distress, economic distress and increased debts and these issues touched the people of Jharkhand, who came out in favour of the alliance.
"We raised the issues of Jharkhand which are also the issues of the people of India. Unemployment, farm distress, economic crisis and rising debts, starvation deaths are issues that touched the people of Jharkhand. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah tried to divert and distract from the real issues but that failed to cut ice with the common people," Singh told PTI.
On opposition unity, he said it worked out well on the ground as workers of the alliance partners performed unitedly at all levels that gave good results.
"The opposition unity and better coordination can be replicated in other state elections too and this will give positive results," he said.
Party leaders feel the opposition needs to work closely and grab power in states through better coordination in state elections.
With Jharkhand joining the growing list of states slipping out of BJP's rule, the party now governs mere 35 per cent of the country's landmass in comparison to over 71 per cent during its peak in 2017 when it was in power in the entire Hindi-speaking heartland.
Its string of losses in states despite the massive victory in the April-May Lok Sabha elections may force the party's top brass to revisit its strategy for the assembly polls as it prepares for the upcoming battles in Delhi and Bihar.
Astrology and politics
Examining rival candidates' horoscopes
Not just their own horoscope, some candidates in UP are checking how deep the competition is for them by getting astrologers to examine their rivals' fortunes as well.
Two prominent astrologers of the city said most of their clients are assuming BJP candidates as their immediate rival. Noted astrologer Fanindra Nath Tripathi said “every candidate wants to know the weak `grah' (planet) of their rivals“. Saying “minor problems can be set right with the help of `havan' and `grah shanti' rituals“, another astrologer is convinced that it is impossible for a candidate to win if the opponent's tars are stronger.“ Netas are known to seek astrologers' help to identify auspicious imes to flag off campaigns, to heck lucky colours, even for heir vehicles and also clothes hat help them impact voters.
But now matters have moved a step further. the trend was also noted by Narendra Giri, mahant, Baghambari Mutt and president, Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad: Many astrologers are exam ning janma kundalis (natal hart) for information of a ontestant's rivals.“ He denies he is advising any candidate.
Forecast of poll results illegal: Election Commission
This amounts to violation of Section 126A of Representation of the People Act, the Commission said
The Act bans dissemination of exit poll results between the start of polling and the end of polling for the last phase
All media are advised to refrain from telecasting/publishing similar programmes in future elections, it added
NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Thursday held that dissemination of forecast of poll results in any manner, including by political analysts, astrologers or tarot card readers, during the period of exit poll ban was prohibited and amounted to violation of Section 126A of Representation of the People Act.
Pointing to some TV channels that broadcast programmes projecting the numbers of seats likely to be won by political parties during recent polls, EC said this was despite the provisions of Section 126A of the Representation of the People's Act that ban dissemination of exit poll results between the start of polling and the end of polling for the last phase. In its order issued on Thursday, EC made it clear that prediction of results of elections in any form, that is, by astrologers, tarot card readers or political analysts during the prohibited period was a violation of the spirit of Section 126A "which aims to prevent the electors of constituencies still going to polls from being influenced in their voting by such predictions about the prospects of various political parties".
"All media (electronic and print) are advised to refrain from telecasting/publishing similar programmes in future elections during the prohibited period under Section 126A to ensure free, fair and transparent election," ruled EC. "...Such attempts... to score brownie points against the competitors for merely commercial reasons do not behove well," it added.
Background of politicians
Data compiled by the state legislature secretariat on legislators elected in the last two and half decades shows that politics overwhelmingly remains the domain of the middle-aged and grey-haired, and the largest cohort of representatives quoted agriculture as their vocation.
From 1995 to 2014, there were less than 10 legislators between 26 and 30 years, while the biggest group was between 51 and 55 (see box). In the last House too, there were only four from the young band and 60 in the older group.
Political analyst Abhinandan Thorat and social worker Vishwambhar Choudhary, associated with the anti-corruption movement, expressed concern over the reluctance of the younger generation to join politics. “The younger generation is not interested in politics and social work, they are not keen on politics as career. Devendra Fadnavis and Nitin Gadkari are exceptions, honest people cannot make money in politics,” said Thorat.
Choudhary highlighted another angle. He said the younger generation is reluctant to take up politics since most of the space has been occupied by the sons and daughters of leading politicians. “Once a person is elected for two to three consecutive terms, he/she is followed by his son or daughter. As a result, there is no scope for an outsider,” he said.
The education standard of MLAs has been improving with the number of graduates and post-graduates outstripping those who have studied till Class X or XII. In 1995, 132 legislators were graduates; the number rose to 141 in 2014. Between 1995 and 2014, 28-40 postgraduates were elected.
So far as the profession of elected representatives is concerned, between 1995 to 2014, on an average, 120 were agriculturists and 66 to 75 were in business and trade. In 2014, the legislature secretariat introduced a category for developers, and 13 legislators submitted that they were in the construction industry. In an encouraging sign, increasing numbers of professionals are plunging into politics. In the last 19 years, 10 to 20 MLAs were teachers, four to six were doctors, 16 to 20 were in the medical profession, and two to 10 were engineers.
Legislature secretariat information and research officer B B Waghmare said it is a welcome trend. “I’ve been associated with the legislature secretariat for more than three decades, and have seen that Maharashtra has had some of the best and most talented legislators. I have seen leaders like Narayan Rane, Ajit Pawar, Devendra Fadnavis, Dilip Walse Patil spending hours in the library, studying speeches of veteran legislators. Now they secure the maximum information electronically,” said Waghmare.
But political analyst Thorat said the people of Maharashtra are now missing well studied speeches of legislators in the assembly. “We are missing good debates on the floor of the House, issues are not being taken to their logical end,” he said.
Activist Choudhury rued that mentoring eligible people for public life is shrinking with dynasty politics on the rise. Politicians like Sharad Pawar and Shankarrao Chavan were instrumental in bringing honest and efficient persons in politics. “Pawar introduced R R Patil, while Chavan was instrumental in introducing senior bureaucrat Raibhan Jadhav and Shrikant Jichkar in politics. That process has ended, politicians are concentrating on urban areas, and have less grassroots connect,” he said.
2014- 2018, May
2014- 2018, May: The results of parliamentary by-elections in India
2018, May: The new MLAs, MPs
2018, May- The newly elected MLAs, MPs;
Congress Breakaways, 1947-2014
Corporates and the political divide
With CAA-NRC, JNU Violence Raising Heat, Cos & Execs Forced To Pick Sides
With the violence in JNU and the CAA-NRC issue reverberating across India, tech giants and startups are getting caught in the crossfire. Policybazaar, Zoho and Accenture are among those who are being forced to take sides.
In Policybazaar’s case, it has, paradoxically, hired actors from opposite ends of the political spectrum — Akshay Kumar and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub — for its ad campaigns. And #BoycottPolicybazaar was trending all morning on Monday after actor Ayyub openly supported the JNU, Jamia, and Shaheen Bagh protests. BJP’s Mumbai spokesperson Suresh Nakhua was among those who called for a boycott and asked the Soft-Bank-backed company if they supported the actor’s stand.
In Zoho’s case, entrepreneurs including Nikhil Pahwa, A Ladak, and Sachin Tandon said they would no longer do business with the company or buy its products after CEO Sridhar Vembu defended his decision to attend an R S S event in Chennai. Accenture India MD Rama S Ramachandran is also in the spotlight for his decision to attend the same event, with some employees feeling his actions are questionable as Accenture’s code of conduct does not allow participation in political events in a professional capacity.
Scheduled on February 2, the two will share the stage with Anirudha Deshpande, the chief of All India Public Outreach at R S S. Some Twitter users wondered if the corporate policy of a global tech giant such as Accenture allowed for its representatives to align themselves with specific ideologies. They also tagged Accenture’s global CEO Julie Sweet, requesting intervention. A few wondered what signals such participation would send to employees from minority communities.
Tandon tweeted, “Not going to call for a boycott, since to each his own. But I’m in a position to cancel all business with @zoho thanks to @svembu’s participation in this event.”
Amid the backlash, Vembu took to Twitter to say that his views do not depend on Twitter attacks. “If you dislike which events I attend, please do what your conscience dictates, and I will do what mine dictates. We earn our daily bread due to our work and we will continue to do quality work. I won’t be responding to attacks,” he wrote.
There was also support for Vembu and Ramachandran, with users saying it was their personal prerogative, and noting that others like Abdul Kalam and Ratan Tata have also attended R S S events.
Last year, Zomato took a strong stand when a user said he had cancelled an order on the platform since the delivery boy assigned was a non-Hindu. Zomato founder Deepinder Goyal said he wasn’t sorry to lose any business from such consumers who come in the way of the company’s values. Likewise in April 2018, when a VHP member cancelled a ride because the driver was Muslim, Ola put out a strong statement saying, “The company is a secular platform and it does not discriminate.” Lloyd Mathias, a business and marketing strategist, said in today’s ‘activist economy’ a brand’s value and values are becoming intertwined and indistinguishable.
2020: Zoho boycotted
Accenture MD Rama S Ramachandran on Tuesday clarified he was not attending an event conducted by the R S S in Chennai on ‘Resurgent Bharath’.
Ramachandran and Zoho Corp CEO and founder Sridhar Vembu were to share the stage with Anirudha Deshpande, the chief of All India Public Outreach, R S S. Vembu, however, has confirmed his participation in the event.
“I am not sure how this misunderstanding happened, but I have no affiliation with this group and never agreed to speak at or attend this event,” Ramachandran tweeted from his official handle in response to a copy of the invite circulated by the R S S. But three R S S Chennai office bearers independently told TOI he had given his confirmation of participation in person for the February 2 event. R S S Chennai mahanagar president S Chandrasekhar texted TOI that 600 persons were expected to attend the event.
Some Twitter users had wondered if the policies of a global tech giant such as Accenture allowed for its representatives to align themselves with specific ideologies. They also tagged Accenture’s global CEO Julie Sweet, requesting intervention. In Zoho’s case, more entrepreneurs like Baradari Arts founder Irena Akbar, and Enterprise Monk CEO Aamir Qutubs have joined the ranks of dozens of others who have said they will no longer buy Zoho products. Twitter users took to tagging KPMG, Hyatt, L’Oreal, Mahindra, Tata, Bata, Maruti, Apollo, Renault, Facebook and other corporate clients of Zoho.
During the third Lok Sabha elections, a Poona-based newspaper reported that one of the Hindi slogans shouted in a Jana Sangh procession was “Death to Pandit Nehru ( Nehru ki maut)”. Members of Jana Sangh, the previous avatar of BJP, emphatically denied this, pointing out that the slogan was “ Wah re Nehru teri mauj / gharme hamla bahar fauj”, which “pointed out the paradox of Nehru's policy of sending the Indian army abroad when Indian frontiers were threatened”.
The 1962 incident mentioned in VM Sirsikar’s book, Political Behaviour in India (1965), shows how a poll slogan or its alleged misinterpretation could create a stir even in early 1960s India. After all, slogans encapsulate the distilled vision of a political party. They crisply communicate a party's core stance. For instance, a photograph of the 1951-52 elections published in ECI’s book, Unfolding Indian Elections, shows a Congress poster with the face of Nehru and the phrase “ Sthayi, asampradiyik pragatisheel rashtra ke liye (For a stable, secular and progressive nation)”, underlining what the party stood for.
India enjoys a rich history of fruitful political watchwords. The best among them are pithy, crisp and prompted high recall: Congress’s “ Garibi Hatao” (1971) and BJP’s “ Ab Ki Baar, Modi Sarkar” (2014), to name just two. In recent times, the job of coining slogans is often outsourced to overpaid media planners and smart speech writers. This wasn’t the case in the early post-Independence years, says political scientist C P Bhambri.
A college student in 1951, Bhambri attended an election meeting addressed by Nehru in Kanpur’s Phool Bagh. “In his speech, he said, ‘ Naya bharat banayenge (We will build a new India)’, and ‘ Sampradayikta ko jadh se ukhadh phekna hai (We have to uproot communalism)’. The next day the Congress workers were shouting these lines in their political processions. In those days, slogans emerged organically from the extempore speeches of leaders who knew how to communicate,” says Bhambri, who taught at JNU.
In the 1950s, India’s literacy was 18%. Hence, the spoken word was more important than the printed word. In 1957, as a lecturer at a Meerut college, Bhambri again heard the Prime Minister during the 2nd Lok Sabha polls. “Nehru said, ‘ Humein chhalang marni hai (We must take a leap)’. We must end poverty and backwardness,” he said, echoing the need to accelerate development.
Poverty figures stayed high, nonetheless. As per RBI’s Handbook of Statistics on the Indian economy, 55% Indians were still below the poverty line in 1973-74. Unsurprisingly, the “ Garibi Hatao” slogan had the maximum resonance among 36 slogans used by Congress in Delhi in the 1971 polls. The full slogan, translated from the Hindi, goes: “They say Indira hatao, Indira says, Garibi Hatao.” Twenty-four out of 81 prospective voters recalled this slogan in a poll carried out by Prayag Mehta for his book, Election Campaign (1975). Another 22 recalled the catchline “Vote for Socialism, Vote Congress”. “A large majority of those who recalled these two posters belonged to the low socio-economic group,” wrote Mehta.
Slogans are also tweaked to capture the mood of the times. When the public turned against Indira Gandhi post-Emergency, the Opposition reworked Indira’s 1971 slogan and produced the hugely popular exhortation “ Indira Hatao, Desh Bachao ( Remove Indira, Save the country". When the Janata government imploded after infighting, Congress came up with the 1980 slogan, Sarkar woh chune jo chal sakey (Elect a government that functions). The early 1990s saw the arrival of the coalition era. After National Front’s coalition government, which lasted from Dec 1989 to Nov 1990, political parties felt that the people would like to vote for a stable regime. Consequently, there was an emphasis on stability in the campaign slogans.
Popular Political Slogans Over The Years
1. "Jai Jawanm Jai Kisan
2. Garibi Hatao
3. Indira Hatao, Desh Bachao
4. Sabko dekha baari baari, is baar Atal Bihari
5. Haathi nahin, Ganesh hai, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh hai
6. India Shining
7. Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke saath
8. Achche din aane waale hain
9. Kattar soch nahi, yuva josh
10. Modi hai toh mumkin hai
Meenu Roy’s book, Battle of the Ballot, which examined the 1991 campaign, lists a bunch of slogans that Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress came out with. One, “Vote stability, Vote Congress”; and two, “ Na jaat par, na paat par, sthirta ki baat par, mohar lagegi haat par (Don’t vote for caste or community but for the Hand that brings stability).” The word sthirta, meaning stability, was introduced to rework an old slogan bearing Indira’s name. The expression, na jaat par, emphasising Congress’s attempt to arrest the exit of those voters who were moving towards caste identity based platforms.
The job of coining slogans is often outsourced to overpaid media planners and smart speechwriters. This wasn’t the case in the early post-Independence years
For the same campaign, BJP had the line “ Subko parkha, Humko parkho (You tried everyone, now try us)”. Another catchline went, “ Ram, roti aur sthirta”, which underlined the party’s involvement with the Ramjanambhoomi movement. In 1998, “ Abki baari, Atal Bihari (This time Atal Bihari)” became BJP’s catchphrase.
Now, as the 2019 LS polls loom, parties are again emerging with fresh slogans. BJP already has two: “ Modi hai to mumkin hai” and “Phir ek baar, Modi Sarkar” – the slogans stressing that the party’s campaign will focus on the Prime Minister. Reports say Rahul Gandhi’s Congress is crowdsourcing its catchlines from its party workers and has already received about 15 lakh slogans. Whose “ achche din” they will usher in remains to be seen.
The 5 wackiest slogans of Indian elections
Elections in India seem to stir up the creative faculties of the copywriters of political parties — never mind that slogans on their own have rarely won the elections, though they have made the campaigns fun. Here’re some of the wackiest campaign slogans:
Health awareness: Hindutva politics may split India between the pro and anti camps, but in 1967 Lok Sabha polls, the Hindutva brigade was concerned about the health of Indians — coining the slogan Jan Sangh ko vote do, beedi peena chhod do; beedi mein tambaku hai, Congress wala daku hai (Vote for Jana Sangh, Stop smoking bidi. Bidi has tobacco, Congressmen are dacoits). Did it work? Yes and no — the Jana Sangh more than doubled its tally to 35, from 14 in 1962 but was nowhere close to forming a government while the Congress lost 78 seats.
The rebound: In 1978, Indira Gandhi, still licking the wounds of her electoral loss from Rae Bareli in 1977 in the Janata Party wave, contested from Chikmagalur in Karnataka, with the election slogan Ek Sherni, Sau Langur; Chikmagalur, Chikmagalur (one tigress versus hundreds of chimpanzees) which was a jibe at the infighting that had become public between the various constituent parties of the Janata Party government. Did it work? Apparently yes, as Gandhi returned to Parliament and then engineered the government’s break-up, forcing a midterm election in 1980.
Big guns: The 1989 Lok Sabha elections, which saw former ministers in the Rajiv Gandhi government — V P Singh, Arun Nehru and Arif Mohammad Khan — turn against him on allegations of corruption regarding the purchase of Bofors artillery guns for the army, had Singh’s camp coining slogans against Gandhi and his family like Galon mein jo lali hai, Topon ki dalali hai (the secret of Gandhi family’s prosperity is the kickbacks from the Bofors gun deal). Did it work? The Congress’ defeat was more due to charges of corruption rather than due to campaign slogans. In any case, Singh’s government didn’t even last a year.
Imitation game: Remember the 2014 BJP slogan Ab ki Baar, Modi Sarkaar (This time vote for a Modi government) which was even fancied by Donald Trump for his 2016 presidential campaign (Ab Ki Baar, Trump Sarkaar)? Well, the inspiration for that came from the campaign of another BJP stalwart and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee when the party, in 1996, contested on the slogan Bari Bari Sabki Bari, Abki Bari Atal Bihari (Everybody got their chance. Now, it's Atal Bihari’s turn). Did it work? Not really, considering that Vajpayee’s minority government fell after just 13 days in power, unable to prove majority.
Snack time: The rustic maverick politician from Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, with over four decades of experience of contesting elections — he first contested and won in 1977 — was probably in need of reinvigorating his campaign in the 1990s to offset voter fatigue, which explains the slogan he coined: Jab tak rahega samose mein aaloo, tab tak rahega Bihar mein lalu (As long as there’s potato in the samosa, there’ll be Lalu in Bihar). Did it work? Off and on, though it’s mostly off for the last few elections as Lalu struggles to remain relevant in state and national politics.
Campaign slogans have a colourful history in India, in part because Hindi lends itself to rhyming and word play, and for centuries has been generating catchy phrases and one-liners on just about everything. In politics slogans aren’t enough to secure victory, but our memories of landmark elections are often encapsulated in the catchiest slogan, usually from the winning side. So with Narendra Modi asking for ‘Phir Ek Baar, Modi Sarkar’, and the Congress promising yet more welfare benefits, which side will coin the defining slogan of 2019?
Today’s slogans have a pedigree that dates back to long before I started following Indian campaigns in the late 1990s. People were still talking about how Indira Gandhi won her crushing 1971 victory under the slogan, ‘Garibi hatao, Indira lao, Desh bachao’. When she was assassinated in 1984, her son Rajiv capitalised on the surge of sympathy, winning the election that year under the slogan, ‘Jab tak sooraj chand rahega, Indira tera naam rahega’. Throughout my campaign travels, Congress slogans have been playing up these two themes: the glory of the Gandhis, and their commitment to helping the poor.
Watching from the backbenches, the BJP wrote slogans that tried to tap popular frustration with decades of Congress rule. Atal Bihari Vajpayee captured the frustration in the slogan that swept him to power briefly in 1996: ‘Sabko dekha baari baari, Abki baari Atal Bihari’. Nearly two decades later the BJP was still milking the same impatience, in a 2014 slogan that went viral: ‘Ab ki baar, Modi sarkar!’ Some of the sharpest attacks on Congress came from the street, most memorably a 2002 ditty my companions and I heard in Dehradun, linking Narayan Dutt Tiwari to the Gandhis by scurrilous reference to rumours about his personal leanings: Na Nar Na Nari, Indira Ke Pujari, Sanjay Ki Savari, Narayan Dutt Tiwari.
As the BJP rose, Congress leaders continued to drink from the Gandhi glamour pool in slogan after slogan. No Gandhi has featured more prominently in Congress one-liners than Indira, still a martyr to millions. In the 2009 election, party slogan writers found her reincarnation in Sonia: ‘Sonia nahi yeh aandhi hai, doosri Indira Gandhi hai’. And three years later they saw her in Priyanka: ‘Priyanka nahin aandhi hain, doosri Indira Gandhi hai’.
By then the BJP was starting to build the personality cult around Modi, and establish him as the rising star that could block the Gandhi sun. When he arrived at 2012 rallies in Gujarat the crowds would chant, ‘Dekho dekho kaun aaya . . . Gujarat ka sher aaya’. By 2014, BJP sloganeers were implying that Modi, the challenger, had already won: ‘Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi!’ Meanwhile the regional parties were rising as a third force, building up their leaders’ personas through combative punchlines. None were more revealing than those coined to promote Mayawati in UP: her evolution from angry Dalit champion to friend of Brahmins and back again is documented in the shifting tenor of her slogans — from ‘Tilak, tarazu aur talwar, inko maro joote chaar’ to ‘Sarvajana sukhaya, sarvajana hitaya’ and then ‘Satta ki chaabi hum aise jaane nahin denge’. When she tied up with the BJP in 2002, they tried to sell the deal with slogans like ‘Haathi Nahin Ganesh Hai, Brahma Vishnu Mahesh Hai’. This time, Mayawati is teaming up with Akhilesh Yadav to stop Modi in UP. They haven’t put it in writing yet, but their message evokes a slogan Akhilesh’s father Mulayam used after the destruction of the Babri Masjid: ‘Mile Mulayam-Kanshiram, hawa ho gaye Jai Shree Ram’.
Family dynasties are an integral part of Indian politics and that’s reflected in the slogans. Our election trip group saw that phenomenon play out in its full element during the UP state election in 2017. When we met Akhilesh in his chief ministerial bungalow in Lucknow, he avoided talking about his uncle Shivpal but spoke reverentially of his father. One of his campaign slogans was: ‘Akhilesh ka jalwa kayam hai, uska baap Mulayam hai.’ In addition to establishing powerful personalities and marking caste lines, slogans have often summed up in three words the economic aspirations of the day. The slogan of the 1990s was ‘Roti, Kapda, Makaan’. During our 2002 trip we saw that recast as ‘Bijli, Sadak, Pani’, which was superseded in the next decade by ‘Shiksha, Vigyan, Vikas’. By 2015 Modi had pushed that forward to ‘Padhai, Kamai, Davai’ when we saw him speak at a rally in Muzaffarnagar during Bihar’s state elections. As we travelled back, we wondered whether voters would respond to increasingly ambitious promises when many still struggled to put food on the table, and indeed they did not. The 2015 Bihar election ended in defeat for Modi and the BJP.
This was not the first time BJP slogans had gotten too far ahead of voters. Back in 2004 when pundits around the world were hailing the rise of India, international praise went to the heads of BJP mandarins under PM Vajpayee. The BJP’s boastful English slogan ‘India Shining’ was rejected, particularly by rural voters whose lives were still far from shining. By 2014, the BJP was promising a very different future under the slogan ‘Achhe Din Aane Wale Hain’, and won handily.
Five years later, Congress continues to invoke the poverty-fighting spirit of Indira, and the BJP is still running as the outsider. In its 2019 slogan ‘Ab hoga Nyay’, Congress is making a double play on “justice” and the acronym for its new basic income guarantee.
The BJP responds with ‘Phir ek bar, Modi sarkar’, as if the scales of power won’t be balanced until it has ruled for as many terms as Congress did. That seems risky in a country where voters have been turning against powerful incumbents since the late ’70s. But then Modi has proven to be a master sloganeer like few others in a country obsessed with witty one-liners.
Janata Party's symbols
How the election symbols of the Congress and the Janata Party changed over time
BJP, Congress’ symbols, 1951-2014
How the election symbols of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party changed, 1951-2014
Few elections symbols have been as bitterly fought over as the modest cycle.Much before the father-son duo of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav began their fight-to-the-finish in UP, the cycle was a subject of electoral dispute in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu too.
The 1996 Lok Sabha election campaign in Andhra Pradesh was marked by acrimony between rival Telugu Desam Party (TDP) factions led by the late N T Rama Rao's son-in-law N Chandrababu Naidu and his wife Lakshmi Parvathi. The EC had given the `cycle' symbol to Naidu. At public meetings, Parvati would often tell the crowd that they must vote for the `lion' because “the cycle has been stolen by thieves“.
Naidu had dethroned the superstar-CM in August 1995; the `coup' being planned in a defunct movie theatre, Basant Talkies, located in a small lane at Narayanaguda crossroads in Hyderabad. NTR's family stood by Naidu, along with a majority of MLAs, giving him the edge in the battle for the symbol. Naidu showed off more than 200 out of the state's 294 legislators which clinched the case in his favour.
In Tamil Nadu, Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), led by G K Moopanar, was allotted the `cycle' symbol after he quit Congress on the eve of the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in 1996. TMC, in DMK's company , romped home with a massive majority in the assembly and bagged all the Lok Sabha seats too.
After Moopanar's death in 2001, his son, former Union minister G K Vasan, merged the party with Congress. In 2014, he walked out of the party like his dad, and tried to revive TMC. Despite desperate efforts, Vasan could not get the `cycle' symbol. “The EC denied us the symbol citing its use in two other states,“ said Vasan. He had to settle for `coconut farm' as TMC's symbol in the 2016 elections, in which he drew a blank. TN chief electoral officer Rajesh Lakhoni said, “The `cycle' symbol was not allotted to TMC as it was allotted to SP, which was also contesting the assembly election in Tamil Nadu.“
In the early decades after Independence, the cycle was a totem of upward mobility in both the hinterland and urban India. Transistor, watch and cycle were three essentials in any wedding shopping list in north India. Even in recent years, it is a preferred gift for political parties. Ask Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, or, even Akhilesh.
It remains a desired election symbol too. Currently , the cycle is SP's symbol in UP and other states like Bihar and Uttarakhand, where the party enjoys a degree of influence.TDP in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Jammu & Kashmir Panthers' Party in J&K, Kerala Congress in Kerala and Manipur People's Party in Manipur also use the symbol.
“While it is reserved for SP in UP , in other states it can be allotted to other parties as SP is not a national party like BJP and Congress, whose symbols cannot be given to any other party in any other state,“ said former CEC N Gopalaswami.
Political scientist Imtiaz Ahmed says that election symbols encapsulate a party's history. “Whoever gets the symbol after an intra-party warfare inherits all that the party has done in the past. Symbols give you legacy ,“ he said. In a country where over 25% are still illiterate, a symbol also becomes part of a voter's hardwired memory . “Many people still put their stamp on the ballot paper without looking at the party's name,“ he said.
In recent years, social media platforms such as WhatsApp are being used to communicate with the voter in remote areas. Yet symbols remain vital even today , says former JNU professor Dipankar Gupta. “Even if 20% of potential voters don't know about a new symbol, it becomes a matter of concern for the party ,“ he said.
Somnath to Ayodhya: 1951-2019
Before Ayodhya, there was Somnath. For many, Mahmud of Ghazni’s destruction of the Shiva temple in Saurashtra, Gujarat, in the 11th century is the foundational crime that still reverberates—the Islamic invasion that can’t be forgiven or forgotten.
The temple was reconstructed in newly independent India, on Sardar Patel’s initiative, and inaugurated by President Rajendra Prasad despite Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘secular’ misgivings about the event. For the Hindu Right, this is a deeply moving story of trauma and belated justice. During the Ram Janmabhoomi movement of the 1990s, L K Advani’s rath yatra was from Somnath to Ayodhya.
But historical memories are not first-hand descriptions, they are a skein of stories from various sources. Historian Romila Thapar has detailed the narratives around this event with context in her book Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History.
Turco-Afghan chronicles embellish Mahmud’s valour and destruction, and local accounts are more subdued. Did the trauma to Hindu hearts across India silently endure for 800 years, or was it fanned by events in the 19th century? The Hindutva camp sees Hindus and Muslims as monolithic communities that have always clashed. Today’s Muslims are identified with medieval raiders and rulers, and today’s Hindus are called to avenge past humiliations. Professional historians disagree. Thapar’s counterview is that in the past, Hindus and Muslims were not all-encompassing categories. Places of worship were targeted for their wealth, and as power-play. Islam was not one entity—Mahmud fought Shias and Ismailis, and Hindu identity was not unified either. While there were clashes, cultures also seeped into each other.
Communalised historywriting began with the British, and was informed by Western stereotypes of Islam. Their division of the complex past into Hindu and Muslim periods to legitimise their own “impartial” administration, deepened the rifts between Hindu and Muslim nationalists.
Somnath became a flashpoint after1842 when Governor General Lord Ellenborough ordered a set of sandalwood gates from Ghazni to be brought back to India, saying “the insult of 800 years is at last avenged”. It caused a furore in the British House of Commons for its communal intentions, and the gates were later found to be fake.
While Thapar is reviled by Hindutva historians, they have not made an alternative case. But as with the Babri Masjid, cold facts don’t seem to matter, because the Somnath Temple acquired huge emotional significance for Hindutva politics in the last century and a half. In 1927, the traditionalist Congress leader from Gujarat, K M Munshi wrote a historical romance called Jaya Somanatha.
Once this story was set in stone, rebuilding the temple was only a matter of time. In 1947, when Junagadh was integrated with India, Patel moved for the reconstruction of Somnath. The newborn Indian state opening old wounds, equating itself with Hindus and casting Muslims as antagonists was a sensitive issue.
There was also a strong sentiment for renovation, for righting an old wrong. Mahatma Gandhi supported the temple reconstruction, but with private funds rather than at state expense — a position that acknowledged the deep feelings around Somnath, but did not associate the Government of India with it. After Patel’s death, with the support of K M Munshi and N V Gadgil, who were ministers in Nehru’s cabinet, a grand new Somnath Temple rose again.
Nehru clarified in a letter to chief ministers that the government had nothing to do with it: “We must not do anything that comes in the way of our state being secular. This is the basis of the Constitution and governments, therefore, should refrain from associating themselves with anything that tends to affect the secular character of our State.”
Munshi countered with a letter to Nehru that he quoted in his book Pilgrimage to Freedom: “Yesterday you referred to Hindu revivalism. You pointedly referred to me in the Cabinet as connected with Somnath… I can assure you that the ‘Collective Subconscious’ of India today is happier with the scheme of reconstruction of Somnath… than with many other things that we have done and are doing.” This confrontation of ideas carried on. Later, Advani approvingly quoted Munshi, blaming Nehru. Advani described the rebuilding of Somnath as the first step in a journey to preserve “the old symbols of unity, communal amity, and cultural oneness”.
Today, with the Ayodhya judgment, the essence of Indian nationhood is being redefined. After all, the destruction of the Babri Masjid by kar sewaks in 1992 is not lost in the mists of time, or a matter of differing accounts — it was recorded by TV cameras. If Somnath was a matter of faith and redress to a religious community, then what of Babri Masjid’s destruction in the modern republic of India?
Clearly, from medieval to contemporary India, power alone seems to be the name of the game.
1984-2019: From Congress to BJP
1984-1998: Ideological changes in India- From the Congress to the BJP
1999-2019: Ideological changes in India- From the Congress to the BJP
BJP has achieved its best-ever showing in the 2019 general elections, posting victories in most parts of the country. The Grand Old Party of India, on the other hand, had to settle with an embarrassing tally of just 52 seats. But it wasn't like this always. An analysis of the India's general elections show that the Congress peaked in 1984, when it won a total of 414 Lok Sabha seats. TDP was the second largest party, with 30 seats. The 1999 elections saw the maximum number of parties (41) winning seats in the Lok Sabha.
The largest political parties
The biggest, 2nd biggest and other (including state) parties in the Lok Sabha, 1952-2019
Lok Sabha elections
Number of seats contested: 2014, 19
In what may be a watershed in Indian politics, BJP would for the first time be contesting more seats than Congress in the Lok Sabha elections.
The reversal of roles as the senior party comes after BJP in 2014 shot to a historic high in the LS tally while Congress slumped to an unprecedented low with mere 44 seats. While for BJP, its highest list of candidates is a sign of its national growth, for Congress, its low tally is sign of pragmatism resulting in wide alliance-making.
This year, BJP has announced 437 candidates in LS polls. In contrast, Congress has named 423 only while there are a couple of more seats to be announced in Uttar Pradesh. It is unlikely that Congress tally can now surpass that of its arch rival.
To observers, these figures are historic since Congress was always a national party, its roots going back to pre-Independence, while BJP, mutating from its forerunner Bharatiya Jana Sangh, was for a long time with minimal national footprint. Though BJP also came to power at the Centre in 1998 and 1999 under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the 2014 contest marked an inflection point when Modi propelled it to a majority of its own with 282 seats. In contrast, Congress plummeted to 44 MPs. It marked the point when BJP became a truly national party with pan-India presence while Congress came face to face with an existential crisis.
However, Congress contesting fewer seats than BJP is reflective of the grand old party learning from its crisis and stitching wide alliances to make up for its lost political muscle. Says Praveen Chakravarty, who heads the AICC’s data analytics department, “BJP contesting more seats than Congress shows how contrary to perception, Congress has been far more successful in striking new alliances this time and the BJP has lost alliance partners since 2014.”
However, BJP spokesman GVL Narsimha Rao said BJP is many times bigger than Congress in terms of membership, electoral base and states under its rule. He said Congress was still contesting a disproportionately higher number of seats than its political strength which was reflective of its failure to stitch good alliances.
Congress’ Chakravarty argued that there is an inverse relationship between the number of seats national parties contest and their strike rate in elections. “BJP contested its least number of seats, 339, in 1999 elections and it won 182. Congress contested its highest tally since 1996, in 2014, and what was the result (44 MPs),” he said.
In 2014, BJP contested 428 seats to Congress’ 464; in 2009, BJP contested 433 to 440; in 2004, BJP contested 364 to Congress’ 414.
Lok Sabha results
Seats won and voters turnout by different political parties in 1951-67
Seats won and voters turnout by different political parties in 1971-84
Seats won and voters turnout by different political parties in 1989-98
Seats won and voters turnout by different political parties in 1999-2014
From the era of Congress dominance in the first two decades after Independence, to the first non-Congress government in New Delhi post-Emergency, to the Rajiv Gandhi years with his party’s brute majority in Parliament, and finally to the era of coalition governments that has now lasted close to two decades, TOI takes you through Indian democracy’s roller coaster ride over the years...
Although Congress swept the first general elections, Left and Socialist parties even at that time had a considerable number of seats and vote share. The Socialist Party led by JP and Acharya Narendra Dev won 12 seats while JB Kripalani’s Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party (KMPP) managed to win 9 seats. Syama Prasad Mookerjee-led Jana Sangh (later BJP) could manage only 3 seats.
Once again Congress won the election by a substantial margin. The undivided Communist Party of India emerged on top in 33 seats while Praja Socialist Party — formed by the merger of Socialist Party and KMPP — won 19 seats. Jana Sangh doubled its vote share but the party remained a minor player in terms of seats. Ambedkar’s All India Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF) won 6 seats.
Although India’s third general election nearly replicated the results of the first two, differences within established political blocs started becoming more evident. Rammanohar Lohia was forced to leave PSP and his followers contested under the born-again Socialist Party. Similarly, the right-wing faction of Congress, advocating free trade, contested under Swatantra Party.
Congress won in these polls held after Nehru’s death, but for the first time it didn’t secure two-thirds majority. The Swatantra Party and Jana Sangh managed to win 79 seats; Left and socialists won in 83, while regional players DMK and the Akalis won 28 seats. PSP split further when George Fernandes and others broke away to form the Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP).
It was a landslide victory for Indira Gandhi in the first mid-term poll ever as assembly polls were held separately from LS polls. Indira was expelled from Congress in 1969, but most party MPs sided with her and EC recognised her faction, Congress (R), as the successor of the previous party. Her ‘garibi hatao’ campaign clicked while Swatantra Party was reduced to a mere 8 seats.
The resentment against Emergency imposed in 1975 was reflected in these polls. Anti-Congress parties (right wing and socialists) merged to form Janata Party and contested under the symbol of Charan Singh’s Bharatiya Lok Dal. Morarji Desai, a former Congressman, became the first prime minister to head a nonCongress government, although for a brief period.
Janata Party, which was the union of left leaning socialists and the right-wing Jana Sangh and Swatantra Party, proved to be an unstable coalition. In 1979, the Charan Singh, Raj Narain, and George Fernandes faction pulled out over R S S membership of their former Jana Sangh colleagues. Morarji retired from politics and Indira Gandhi returned with a convincing victory.
In the election, held immediately after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Congress won over 400 seats and polled more than 50% of the votes, the only time any party had done this. The newly formed BJP, Jana Sangh’s successor, won only two seats and the decimation of the mainstream opposition was so complete that a fl edgling TDP emerged as the largest opposition party.
Bofors scandal, terrorism in Punjab and Rajiv Gandhi’s mishandling of the Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka were the main election issues. The socialists once again united as Janata Dal, but could manage only 143 seats. VP Singh’s National Front minority government was formed with outside support of BJP and Left. Within a year, the Chandra Shekhar faction split away and formed government with outside support from Cong.
Congress missed majority and formed a minority government under Narasimha Rao, who would go on to become India’s first prime minister to complete a five-year term without a majority in the House. Yet, he pushed through liberalisation and drastic economic reforms. His period, however, was tainted by scandals — the JMM bribery and the Harshad Mehta scam. Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992.
BJP emerged as the largest party and was invited to form the government. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government survived for only 13 days as BJP failed to find allies. Congress, the second- largest party, refused to form the government but extended outside support to Janata Dal. In June 1996, HD Deve Gowda was sworn in as PM but lasted barely a year and was followed by IK Gujral, who, too, did not last more than a year.
Although BJP emerged as the largest party, the election hinted towards the growing role of regional players with little national presence. They won 126 seats. Vajpayee was sworn in as the head of a coalition government with 13 parties — the highest till then. The government collapsed as Vajpayee lost the trust motion by 1 vote after 13 months with AIADMK withdrawing its support.
The election marked the beginning of an era of stable coalitions. BJP emerged as the largest party while state parties won 162 seats and polled 29% of votes, higher than Congress. It became obvious that it would be difficult, in future for a single party to have a clear majority. Vajpayee’s NDA government became India’s first coalition government to complete a five-year term.
After the good showing in assembly elections in three northern states in late 2003, BJP sought premature dissolution of Lok Sabha. It appeared to have called it right as the economy was believed to be doing well and there seemed to be no clear anti-incumbency. But the party’s ‘India Shining’ campaign failed to woo voters. It was forced out and Congress returned at the head of UPA.
Congress’s UPA coalition, which formed government in 2004, lost it’s major ally — the Left Front, which withdrew support after the Indo-US nuclear deal. It was also the first election conducted after the fresh delimitation of constituencies. Somewhat surprisingly, UPA won a clear majority, giving it and Manmohan Singh a second successive term and Congress 206 seats.
This was a wave election completely dominated by Narendra Modi, who capitalised on corruption charges that had stuck to UPA-II. For the first time since 1984, a single party — BJP —won a full majority, defying the notion of inevitability of coalitions. Congress was reduced to 44 seats, its worst-ever performance, making it ineligible to get the Leader of Opposition post.
The results of the Lok Sabha elections, 2014.
Are Indian Muslims confronting the void? Political parties are no longer engaging with Muslims like they used to. This process of withdrawal and fracturing began with the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and carries on in 2019.
Globally, the pathologisation of Muslims began after 9/11, which entrenched Islamophobia, and moved the discourse around minorities entirely towards terror, the ‘enemy within’, and ghettoisation. The growing majoritarian impulse in Indian democracy has both facilitated this process, and been a symptom of it: sidelining the political and economic interests of the community. Can India afford to cut off its largest minority from the wider political society? Can it achieve sustainable growth this way? Absolutely not.
At a little over 14%, India has the third-largest Muslim population in the world. There are 85 Lok Sabha seats and 720 assembly seats where Muslims constitute more than 20%. Muslim electorates are well positioned to change fortunes in many constituencies, with a slight swing in their voting preference.
Muslim voting patterns are not monolithic, uniform or communal. But by and large, they vote for parties and candidates that do not treat them as the ‘other’, that stand with them, and do not doubt their qualifications for citizenship. And yet, Muslims have lost considerable political space since 2014 (see graphic).
State legislative assemblies are no different.For example, in assembly elections held between 2013-2015, Muslim representation declined from 35% to 20%. In 2018, only 1 Muslim candidate won in Chhattisgarh, 2 in Madhya Pradesh, 8 in Rajasthan and 8 in Telangana.
This under-representation of Muslims stems from the growing reluctance of mainstream parties to give them tickets. For instance, in 2009, one Muslim candidate won out of the four fielded by the BJP. In 2014, the BJP fielded 7 Muslim candidates but none won. This year, it had a mere 7 Muslim candidates out of 437.
In 2009, Congress fielded 29 Muslim candidates of whom only 10 won. In 2014, only 7 of the 31Congress Muslim candidates won. In 2019, there were 32 Muslim candidates among its 464 candidates .
Interestingly, regional parties who bank on minority votes exhibit a similar pattern of denial. For instance, there were only 10 Muslims among the 78 candidates declared by the gathbandhan in UP: BSP six and SP four. This is unlike previous elections —BSP had 14 and 19 Muslim candidates in 2009 and 2014, while SP gave tickets to 11 and 14 Muslims. In Bihar, RJD fielded four, JDU and LJP one each this time. Meanwhile, TRS, TDP and YSR Congress, JDS, and BJD did not field a single Muslim candidate in Telangana, AP, Karnataka and Odisha.
This denial of candidacy is a denial of equal opportunity, of the right to take part in policy, law and decisionmaking bodies as citizens. This disenfranchisement will deepen the disillusionment among Muslims and also threaten the fair working of our constitutional and democratic institutions.
There is no doubt that this indifference towards Muslims has been caused by the triumph of Hindu right-wing populism. The so-called minority-friendly parties have reoriented themselves, sidelining potential Muslim candidates in the name of ‘winnability’, given the compulsions of ‘polarisation’.
But were polarisation and winnability not factors before 2014? There are several reasons for this slide. First, the civil-society wing of secular parties weakened over the years, which gradually reduced the possibility of inter-community dialogue and harmony, while that of right-wing parties became hyperactive. Second, parties are failing to recruit Muslims and train them as consensus secular leaders. Third, these parties, and Muslim elites, are more focused on acquiring power through the threat to ‘Muslim identity’ rather than on economic opportunity and equity. Fourth, the community has failed to produce consensus leaders from civic movements.
No matter what form the new government takes, Muslims will remain stuck in the vicious cycle of institutionalised ‘othering’, under-representation and under-development unless they start rejecting the tactical symbolism of their chosen parties, and participate in civil society movements as confident citizens.
If the politics of Muslims does not express itself within the framework of citizenship, rather than the state of being a minority, then their circumstances will be shaped by momentary emotions and physical violence—irrespective of the number of their MPs and MLAs.
Muslim- Scheduled Caste joint fronts
Maharashtra: 1984, 2012
Efforts by Congress and NCP to bring together disparate outfits in Maharashtra under the banner of a united opposition have been undermined primarily by one man: Prakash Ambedkar. Reaching out to Asaduddin Owaisi’s Majlise-Ittahadul Muslimeen early on and renewing the Dalit-Muslim axis, he has set the stage for a three-cornered contest in the state.
The Dalit-Muslim bonhomie in Maharashtra goes back over three decades. In the aftermath of the 1984 Bhiwandi riots, smuggling kingpin Haji Mastan Mirza and Dalit leader Jogendra Kawade made ripples by forming the Dalit Muslim Minority Suraksha Mahasangh. An ageing Mastan was looking to step out of the shadow of the Bombay underworld, which was overrun by the Pathans and mill-land Maharashtrian gangs.
“It was a novel experience in the country’s political history. I was known for launching a march to rename Marathwada university in Aurangabad after Babasaheb Ambedkar while Mirza had given up smuggling, performed Haj and wanted an image makeover,” recalled Kawade, 75, who is now president of People’s Republican Party of India. “I became founder president while he was co-founder of the Mahasangh.”
Disenchanted with Congress and wary of Shiv Sena’s increasingly communal rhetoric, some Muslims saw Mastan as a reformed don who could offer insurance against Bal Thackeray’s majoritarian threats. “Some of us wanted to project him as a Muslim Thackeray. We thought he could respond to Shiv Sena in their language,” said senior journalist Sarfraz Arzoo, who was among those who persuaded him to float the Mahasangh. “It was galvanising Muslims and Dalits and seemed an alternative to Congress.”
The Mahasangh aimed for a vote bank of Muslims and Dalits concentrated in pockets of Mumbai and its suburbs, to start with. Both communities had substantial numbers in Dongri, Nagpada, Byculla, Dharavi and Sion with no legislative representation. Dalits make up 7% of the state’s population and Muslims account for 11%, much of it in urban areas. Neither had a strong voice in the Marathadominated Congress or in the Left,
which anyway shunned all talk of caste or community.
But the Mahasangh faltered when the Congress-versus-Sena debate took a divisive turn and the minorities chose to consolidate behind the ruling party. Kawade said the Dalit-Muslim experiment collapsed after Mastan’s death in 1994. Arzoo said Mastan himself capitulated to pressure from a Congress politician when his properties went into litigation. “The Mahasangh died as we couldn’t find a Muslim leader like Haji Mastan,” said Kawade.
The project saw a brief resurrection when former cop Shamsher Khan Pathan along with Dalit leader Baban Kamble launched the Awami Vikash Party on May 1, 2012. “I launched it because I wanted to empower Muslims. But now I feel the community has no political awareness and is destined to remain slaves of parties which use them as vote banks,” said a bitter Pathan. He is now being approached to be a spokesperson for the Indian Democratic Alliance and Rashtriya Bahujan Aghadi, another alliance of Muslims and Dalits. Electorally though, the best shot may lie with Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi. With Owaisi backing him, he could upset equations for the two mainstream alliances in some seats.
“The Marathas got 10% reservation while the BJP government denied reservation to Muslims. Dalits and Muslims don’t find much space in Congress-NCP,” Owaisi told TOI. After the Koregaon Bhima incident, Ambedkar has emerged a credible Dalit voice while I have never shirked from championing the Muslim cause. We had to come together,” said Owaisi. “The arrogance of Congress and NCP will backfire and Sena-BJP will certainly benefit from any split in secular votes.”
2017: they enter politics
Posters of politics: Photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on hoardings at petrol pumps have been creating controversy before elections in the last couple of years. In January 2017, when the model code of conduct was in place before elections to five states, Congress had petitioned the Election Commission for the removal of PM Modi’s posters at petrol pumps. “This is not permissible under Model Code of Conduct and Election Commission instructions," the commission had then said and asked the cabinet secretary to ensure compliance.
New election, more pumps: This year too, many petrol pumps display huge billboards advertising government schemes in violation of the model code of conduct that came into effect on Sunday. State-run oil companies operate around 57,000 fuel pumps across the country. Late last year, the Centre allowed the expansion of their retail operations by opening close to 56,000 more pumps. The allotments have already begun.
Pumps and ads: In 2018, oil and gas PSUs started 'aggressive campaigns' to publicise the government's flagship schemes. Indian Oil, India's largest petroleum retailer, had issued a Rs 293 crore tender for outdoor publicity for Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
Ads and politics: A consortium representing dealers operating petrol pumps had alleged last year that dealers had received 'verbal advisory' from oil companies to put up posters of PM Modi at their retail outlets ahead of 2019 elections. The president of the consortium was quoted as saying, “those who refuse are threatened with blocking of supplies”.
Meanwhile, several government websites, including that of the Prime Minister's Office, have taken down pictures of the prime minister and other union ministers following the imposition of the model code of conduct. Some ministries, however, are yet to comply. The code states that the party in power should not use its official position for campaigning.
Political parties’ changing fortunes
The Political parties’ changing fortunes in the states, and India as a whole: 1961-2019
See graphics on this page and on the page Samajwadi Party
2019: the new UP of Indian politics
PM Narendra Modi's visit to the southern states of Tamil Nadu + and Kerala on Sunday to address public gatherings and launch new projects could possibly be the BJP's alternative route to sitting on the treasury benches in the 17th Lok Sabha after May 26 - and there are reasons why the party is feeling bullish rather than bluish over its electoral prospects down south.
It used to be said in Indian parliamentary politics that the party which captures a majority of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh (UP) gets to rule at the Centre - the southern states might just provide that extra heft for the BJP which has faced a drubbing in the recent assembly polls in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, along with losing Chhattisgarh.
What's on offer: In total, the five states and one UT (Puducherry) in South India - Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana - offer 130 seats and except for Karnataka, where the BJP has 17 Lok Sabha seats out of 28, it's a non-entity or thereabouts in all other states. It has just two seats - in alliance - in Tamil Nadu, in Kerala, where it was his second visit in less than 2 weeks and just 1 seat in Telangana, a leftover after its alliance partner TDP walked out of the NDA and 2 seats in Andhra Pradesh.
Options open: PM Modi, even while addressing a rally in Madurai where he laid the foundation stone for an AIIMS, refrained from criticising any of the regional parties - reserving his ire only for the Congress and the Communists with indications that the saffron party is considering an alliance with the ruling AIADMK, which won 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. In fact, earlier this year, Modi himself didn't rule out the possibility of allying with the AIADMK. Then of course there's the X-factor, in the form of Rajnikanth, the Tamil superstar whose admiration of Modi is no secret.
The Hindutva factor: The Supreme Court verdict on Sabrimala + - allowing women in the 10-50 age group entry to the Lord Ayyappa Temple - has come as a blessing for the BJP and its core constituency as the decision consolidated the staunch Hindus against the Kerala government of the communists who insisted of implementing the SC order, angering a majority of the Hindus. In fact, at his rally in Thrissur, Kerala, Modi pounced upon the opportunity to accuse the state government of being insensitive to the people's cultural beliefs - a hint at the Sabarimala controversy. He also accused the UDF government of framing former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan for spying - the scientist, who was acquitted of all charges by the SC, was conferred the Padma Bhushan this year.
State parties, state leaders
The state/ regional parties’ electoral performance in the Lok Sabha, 1951-1991
The state/ regional parties’ electoral performance in the Lok Sabha, 1996-2019
TsuNaMo 2.0 Hits Mamata & Naidu
If Congress faced the brunt of the Modi wave in 2014, regional parties Trinamool Congress and Telugu Desam Party faced the storm in 2019, uprooting their plans to be the fulcrum of a coalition at the Centre that could replace the BJP-led NDA.
TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, who undertook a tour of state capitals to sew up cooperation among regional parties and Congress, suffered a serious meltdown on home turf, with the rival Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress wiping the slate in parliamentary and assembly elections. The shock defeat, after exit polls had offered conflicting projections, was a jolt that pulled the rug from under Naidu’s plans.
Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee, another seasoned player, also seems to have misread the reality in her state where the Modi phenomenon worked on the ground, posing the most serious political challenge since she took charge as West Bengal chief minister in 2011.
The BJP threat could grow more potent in the run-up to the assembly elections in 2021, what with NDA now firmly ensconced in Delhi.
Other regional parties like DMK in Tamil Nadu, BJD in Odisha and TRS in Telangana held their ground despite NDA being a challenger, though with varying intensity.
In Andhra, TDP was replaced by another regional player, YSR Congress, and BJP could not make a mark. These parties, however, made no attempt to align with any bloc and stuck to defending or — in the case of YSR Congress — gaining state turfs.
Both Banerjee and Naidu were calculating on BJP falling short of a majority and the possibility of a regional bloc calling the shots. The Trinamool leader, not keen on Congress leading a coalition, was looking to use a regional front to stall the national party. The political strategising was simply swamped by the saffron surge.
A reason for their efforts not bearing fruit was the calls for opposition unity not translating into effective alliances. Congress and the Left failed to tie up in West Bengal, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party fought separately in Delhi and Congress was on its own in Uttar Pradesh. Yet, with BJP’s vote-share crossing 50% in Delhi, being a shade under that in UP and crossing 40% in West Bengal, the party’s challenge took on new dimensions.
While Naidu faced anti-incumbency in Andhra Pradesh, there was no BJP to deal with. But in West Bengal, where Banerjee faced anti-incumbency, the Trinamool chief was seen as pushing the Left and Congress to a corner as a result of which supporters of both parties seem to have helped BJP gain ground.
Student-/ campus- politics
2016; 2019; Jan 2020
Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula committed suicide after he was suspended from Hyderabad Central University in 2016. A complaint was filed by ABVP and a minister from BJP that he had indulged in “anti-national” activities. Fast forward to the complaint by ABVP that “anti-India” sloganeering took place in JNU during an event in 2016, which turned out to be the breakout moment for Kanhaiyya Kumar.
A similar story followed at a seminar in Delhi University.
And now, on Sunday evening, masked armed men barging into JNU campus right under the nose of police and running riot, targeting students and faculty members in hostels and residences.
Over last four years, University campuses have become the front-line of ideological battles — the line-up being the “Hindutva” proponents versus Left-liberal outfits and the saffron trope being that campuses shelter “anti-national” acts. The face-off is a post-2014 phenomenon, with the BJP-R S S, riding on hard nationalism, appearing to have decided to extend their triumph in Parliament and assemblies to the islands of liberal thought like JNU.
In India, the campus faceoffs are not new, a reason why every political party has ensured it has a youth outfit to carry its flag among students.
But what is novel is the overwhelming surge of BJPbacked outfit, on a formulaic pattern of targeting the Left and Congress-affiliated students for “anti-nationalism”. It forced Congress and Left to come out in support of students, like Rahul’s visit to JNU.
As the saffron offensive, clubbing liberals and Muslims to paint them as a nexus, appeared successful over four years, Congress erupted in rethink that the party should be circumspect in lending its support to the varsity youth.
The saffron camp appeared to be on a rampage. Till Parliament on December 11, 2019, passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill, overcoming the vociferous dissent from the Congress-led opposition.
Before BJP could celebrate, university students across states erupted in protests, calling the citizenship law the anti-thesis of the Constitution. This was a bolt from the blue — mainstream youth, largely from majority community, said to be the catchment demographic of BJP, waving tricolour, swearing by the Constitution and appearing implacable.
Jamia Millia Islamia and AMU too broke free.
And as it looks, universities appear set to be the frontline of ideological face-off for years to come.
2014>19: political handles
Social media is going to be an important weapon in the electoral battleground in 2019. This is clear from the rise in the number of verified political handles from 71 to 1,252 between 2014 and March this year, with 78% of these handles belonging to members of BJP, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party.
Research conducted by students and scholars at the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Delhi, and the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, also found that 37% of the verified handles originated in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, making them the hub of online realpolitik.
The research was initiated in IIIT-D in September 2018 by eight students and a principal researcher to assess the impact of social media on the 2019 general elections. “We analysed over 21 million posts by roughly a million handles since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls,” said Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, associate professor in both the institutions.
He added that he and his team then covered the data related to 2,585 Twitter handles that were affiliated to an Indian political party. “This list was manually curated and we have been collecting data for these handles from late 2018 through the Twitter Application Programming Interface,” Kumaraguru said.
He said that of the chosen handles, 1,252 political handles were found to be verified. “It is interesting to see such a large number of verified accounts for this year’s election,” the professor said. “In comparison, when we analysed the Twitter data for the 2014 elections, we found only 71 verified Indian political handles. This shows how big a jump there has been in the number of such handles.”
Kumaraguru said that the team also examined the handles for their state representation, party affiliation and Lok Sabha /Rajya Sabha affiliations. “We found that more than 70% of the verified accounts of BJP and Congress accounts put together. If AAP is included, the figure goes up to 78%,” he explained. “This indicates social media is important for the national parties. We are keen to analyse the data to study interesting patterns like diversity of topics and the manner in which the campaigns are carried out.”
Congress, which has lagged BJP on social media, picked up its game last year when its leaders created 35 new Twitter handles in a single day and which were later verified.
Please see: Women in politics: India
1980: Zia, Deng made US believe Indira would be pro-Soviet
The US acceded to Pakistan’s demand to overlook its secretive nuclear weapons programme following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 70s after Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping convinced Washington to support Islamabad for the “stability” in South Asia, according to latest declassified State Department documents.
The documents reveal that the then Pakistani dictator General Zia-ul Haq and Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping were successful in extracting this price from the US in lieu of Islamabad’s support to America against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
In addition to the US turning a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, Deng also convinced the US to start giving more military and financial aid to Pakistan, according to the US Foreign Relations 1977-1980 volume on Afghanistan.
The voluminous document indicates that both Zia and Deng successfully convinced the then Jimmy Carter administration that India under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi would be pro-Soviet.
“There are limits on our ability to aid Pakistan because of their nuclear explosive programme. Although we still object to their doing so, we will now set that aside for the time being, to facilitate strengthening Pakistan against potential Soviet action,” the then US Defence Secretary Harold Brown said in a January 8, 1980 meeting with Deng.
“...India is not a stabilising factor. Perhaps you already know the general election results,” Deng said. He was referring to the then just-concluded parliamentary elections in which Indira Gandhi came back to power with a majority. Observing that Gandhi had got 70% of the vote, Deng said it was very difficult to judge that time how India will go.
`Cong pulled down Gujral govt as Kesri wanted to be PM'
Sitaram Tried To Exploit Anti-BJP Sentiment, Writes Pranab
The Congress under the late Sitaram Kesri pulled down I K Gujral's United Front government in 1997 for his refusal to drop the DMK from his cabinet because of Kesri's personal ambition to become Prime Minister, former President Pranab Mukherjee suggests in his latest book.
“So why did the Congress withdraw support? What did Kesri mean by his oft repeated comment `Mere paas waqt nahi hai' (I have no time)? Many Congress leaders interpreted as his ambition to become Prime Minister. “He tried to exploit the rarching anti-BJP senti overarching anti-BJP sentiment while simultaneously undermining the United Front Government with the aim of thrusting himself as the head of a non-BJP government,“ Mukherjee says in his latest of the trilogy `The Coalition Years: 1996-2012'. The first two volumes of his autobiography dealt with the Indira Gandhi era and the turbulent decade post-Indira.
The demand for withdrawal of sup port to the I K Gujral government under the United Front came after the pre liminary report of the Jain Commission -set up to investigate Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in Sriperumbudur in May 1991by the LTTE -gave its report in August 1997. The interim report of the Commission suggested that the DMK and its leadership had been involved in encouraging LTTE leader V . Prabhakaran and his followers. While the report did not refer to any particular leader or involvement of any political party, it was a problematic situation for the UF government in which the DMK was a constituent.The Congress was supporting the government from outside.
Mukherjee recalls that the Winter Session of Parliament in 1997 witnessed hectic parleys in an attempt to de fuse the crisis. Congress leaders including Kesri, Jitendra Prasada, Arjun Singh, Sharad Pawar and Mukherjee were invited by Gujral for dinner at his official residence. The Prime Minister said there was no direct evidence of the involvement of any particular leader of the DMK, let alone any minister.
Gujral went on to say that in such a situation, it would send a wrong message if he were to take action against the DMK.The government would be seen as succumbing to the pressure of a supporting party and its capacity to govern would become extremely limited.
“Gujral was firm in his view that the credibility of the government could not be undermined. We told him we would like to take the issue and his point of view to the Congress Working Committee which would finally take a decision,“ Mukherjee writes.
BJP did not expect to win, so it made tall (false) promises: Gadkari
Senior BJP member and Union minister for road and surface transport Nitin Gadkari’s comments on a television show aired recently may cause the ruling party much embarrassment, giving ammunition to the opposition to target it for having made “tall promises”.
“We were very confident that we would never come to power, so we were advised to make tall promises,” said Gadkari during the show. “Now that we are in power, the public reminds us of those promises made by us. However, these days, we just laugh and move on.”
The interview was aired on a Marathi channel a few days ago.
Gadkari appears to say on the show that BJP won the polls on the basis of unrealistic promises.
2016: Highlights of the year
The Times of India, January 1, 2017
1. India-China relationship: Relations between India and China in 2016 continued to be complicated. China's protection for Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar, its opposition to India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, its plans to construct dams on upper reaches of the Brahmaputra, and territorial disputes at the Line of Actual Control are among the contentious issues that strain the China-India relationship.
Former Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry's (right) ouster, and the ongoing feud between Mistry and interim Tata chairman Ratan Tata, are two other major events that occurred in 2016.
2. Demonetisation: Demonetisation, note ban, currency ban - whatever you wish to call it, this was easily the most significant event of 2016 in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the nation on November 8 that the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes (picture) would be removed from circulation. The move created a cash crunch, which the government made efforts to ease - by releasing new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes, and creating incentives for digital transactions. A 50-day window during which citizens could deposit old notes at banks ended on December 30.
3. Cashless economy: Ever since demonetisation was announced, the government has taken steps to promote digital transactions and a cashless economy. For example, it launched lucky draws with prizes for both consumers and businessmen who use cashless transactions, and doubled the balance limit of Prepaid Payment Instruments. The Finance Ministry announced eleven mesures to promote digital payments, including discounts on purchases of petrol and diesel. And finally, Prime Minister Modi launched a digital payments app, Bharat Interface for Money or BHIM, on December 30.
4. GST: In August, the Parliament passed the landmark Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, which aims to create a unified market by doing away with inter-state tax barriers. However, there's been an impasse in the GST Council (picture) over the division of authority between assessing authorities of centre and states, and the issue will be taken up together at the council's meeting on January 3-4, 2017.
5. Fast end by Iron Sharmila: In August, Manipuri human rights activist Irom Sharmila ended a 16 year fast that she'd begun to protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. She later created her own political party - the People's Resurgence and Justice Alliance.
6. Death of J. Jayalalitha: Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munntra Kazhagam supremo J Jayalalithaa, an icon of Dravidian politics, breathed her last on December 5. She was buried next to her mentor, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M G Ramachandran, who also starred in several films with her during her glittering Kollywood career. After Jayalalithaa's demise, her close friend and confidante Sasikala Natarajan (left) took over as general secretary of the AIADMK on December 31.
7. Terror in Kashmir valley: The Kashmir valley witnessed several months of unrest after Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces on July 8. The unrest affected normal life, and resulted in shutdown of schools and death of 86 people. The government had also to grapple with the NIT unrest, mysterious school burning incidents and blinding due to pellet gun firing issues.
8. Legion: Legion, a group of hackers, was in the news for compromising e-mail and Twitter accounts of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi (picture), liquor baron Vijay Mallya, and two prominent senior journalists. A member of the group shared with TOI a list of what he claimed are email addresses and passwords of nearly 74,000 chartered accountants in the country. He said he had compromised the accounts of former Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi, and the sansad.nic.in domain, though the data is yet to be dumped.
9. PM Narendra Modi: It's been an eventful year for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was declared Person of the Year by the readers of TIME magazine. His government implemented demonetisation, and the Army conducted surgical strikes across the Line of Control after the Uri attack. He made several state visits, made a historic speech in the US Congress in 2016.
10. Olympics: It was a special year for India at the Olympic Games and at the Paralympic Games in Rio. PV Sindhu clinched the silver medal in the womens' singles badminton final, and Sakshi Malik won the bronze medal in the women's wrestling event. Dipa Karmakar became the first Indian gymnast to reach an Olympic final. Four Indian Paralympians - Mariyappan Thangavelu (gold, men's T42 high jump), Devendra Jhajharia (gold, men's F46 javelin throw), Deepa Malik (silver, women's F53 shot put) and Varun Singh Bhati (bronze, men's T42 high jump) - also made the nation proud at the Rio Paralympics.
11. India-Pakistan relationship:Pakistan's relationship with India has deteriorated significantly in 2016, after Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks in Pathankot (Punjab) and Uri (Jammu and Kashmir), the unrest in the Kashmir valley after the death of terrorist Burhan Wani (whom Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called a 'martyr), India's surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and diplomatic efforts made by India to isolate its neighbour on the world stage.
In September, the US and China - the world's top two emitters of greenhouse gases - ratified the Paris Climate agreement - which was approved by 195 countries, including India, in December last year.
12. RBI: Raghuram Rajan, the former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, made way for currenct RBI chief Urijit Patel on September 4. Rajan's resignation came earlier in the year after BJP leader Subramanian Swamy wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accuse Rajan of "harming the nation's economy." Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said he was "profoundly saddened" by Rajan's decision, and blamed the BJP-led government for his exit.
The RBI was often in the news in November and December, as it announced frequent rule changes after Prime Minister Modi announced demonetisation.
13. Surgical strike: Just days after the September 19 terrorist attack in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, India's Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Ranbir Singh announced that the Army had conducted surgical strikes' on terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control. Surgical strikes are military operations undertaken by forces across the world to move on the offensive, hit enemy targets and installations, and return to primary positions - all with lightening speed and with the added precaution of suffering limited casualty.
14. Uri attack: On September 19, terrorists crossed the Line of Control and attacked an army camp in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, killing 19 jawans. The attack sparked outrage across the nation, and just days later, the Indian Army responded by conducting surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the LoC. The Uri attack was just one of several events in 2016 that have led to a marked deterioration in the India-Pakistan relationship.
15. Vijay Mallya: Beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya owes over Rs 9,000 crore to a consortium of banks. The United Breweries boss left India in March this year, and has received several summons from the Enforcement Directorate in connection with its money laundering probe. However, he has avoided personal appearance so far.
16. India beat Belgium 2-1 to win the 2016 Hockey Junior World Cup at Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in Lucknow. The last time the Indian junior team had won the title was in 2001.
17. Sawajwadi Party: A feud within the Yadav clan headed by Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav reached boiling point on December 30, when Mulayam expelled his son, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, from the party for six years. However, Akhilesh was reinstated the very next day.
BJP: The new Congress
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a ringing speech earlier this week in the wake of BJP's spectacular victory in Uttar Pradesh. He almost singlehandedly obtained for BJP, after all, the sort of majority in UP that no other party has come close to achieving in over three decades.
One of the key elements of Modi's victory speech was the idea that the election result laid the foundation of a `new' India where development is the key mantra. There was also an appropriation of the pro-poor rhetoric that has always been a staple of Congress, with a subtle twist.
This was driven home by BJP president Amit Shah, the other architect of the UP victory , who claimed that the Modi government has been one for the poor, Dalits, tribals and farmers. Indeed, there is more than a hint in the `new' India of the sort of rhetoric and style of politics that defined Indira Gandhi, the only figure comparable to Modi in India's political history.
But more than the comparison to an older style practised by Indira, there are several elements in BJP's brand of politics drawn from the Congress playbook. This has been more than apparent in the BJP's eagerness to take on board individuals of various stripes from other parties with the sole aim of winning elections, something that Congress used to practise under Indira.
In the 2014 general elections and most of the state elections that have followed BJP has been boosted by defectors, many of them from Congress. Some like Himanta Biswa Sarma in Assam have proved critical to BJP's electoral success while others have had a marginal impact.
In the just-concluded elections there were several such defectors who were given tickets by BJP, from BSP's Swami Prasad Maurya in UP to Congress's N Biren Singh, who is the new chief minister of Manipur. This has not only diluted any ideological coherence that BJP might have had but also given lie to the claim that it is a party with a difference.
The way BJP rushed in to form governments in Goa and Manipur, despite being well short of a majority , too was reminiscent of the Congress of yore. In Manipur BJP has, at least, taken on board three smaller parties which are allies along with other individual MLAs. In Goa, however, BJP has tied up with opponents such as the Goa Forward Party (GFP) to form the government.
During the recent election campaign in Goa GFP and its leader Vijai Sardesai campaigned on a plank of ousting BJP from the state. But as soon as results were announced BJP did not hesitate a moment to tie up with GFP which had won three seats. All three GFP MLAs have been rewarded with ministerial berths in the Manohar Parrikarled government, which was sworn in Tuesday and won a vote of confidence subsequently .
Significantly, GFP's president resigned in protest soon after its newly-elected MLAs decided to support BJP. Indeed, the way the government was formed in Goa exemplifies the no-holdsbarred approach of the BJP under Modi and Shah. It has also taken much of the sheen off what was supposed to be the triumphant homecoming of Parrikar after resigning as defence minister.
BJP's efforts have been aided by pliant governors, yet another legacy of Congress days. The institution of state governors had been systematically subverted by Congress to appoint party loyalists and has-beens, who were often partial to Congress interests.
This was especially so during sensitive moments like formation of government and imposition of President's Rule.BJP has continued this policy of treating the governor's post as a sinecure for loyalists or R S S veterans. It might be added that BJP , like Congress, has not been averse to using Article 356.
One of the professed goals of BJP is to have an India mukt (free) of Congress. In the brave new world of the prime minister Congress has become virtually extinct, but many pernicious elements of the Congress system are still very much alive.
The writer is senior research fellow, National University of Singapore
The `high-command syndrome', once Congress's disease, now seems to have afflicted BJP as well. And it is tormenting BJP legislators who feel that despite having won 312 seats out of 403, they didn't have much say in the selection of the new CM. None of the three -the CM and two Deputy CMs -are legislators. While CM-designate Yogi Adityanath and one deputy CM Keshav Maurya are MPs, the other deputy Dinesh Sharma is Lucknow mayor.
“What's the difference in BJP and Congress as both are ruled by the invisible high command ,“ said an MLC, asking, “Despite so many experienced leaders among MLAs, why are none of them being elevated as the CM?“ It is not only the CM's name that was finalised by the high command, most ministers would also be picked up in Delhi.“It was for this reason majority MLAs had been camping in Delhi since March 11,“ he said.
“It was the Congress cul ture that the high command would make or mar the fortunes of regional leaders. The same is gripping BJP as well,“ says another UP leader.
P Chidambaram’s 106-day jailing vs. cases against BJP leaders
Barely hours after the Supreme Court granted bail to former finance minister P Chidambaram, Union minister Nitin Gadkari alleged that false cases were filed against him, PM Modi and home minister Amit Shah during the Congress leader’s term as home minister. He said Chidambaram should do “introspection” on the wrongs he did.
“We have never been vindictive, rather he was vindictive as Union home minister when Congress was in office. He had got false cases filed against me, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Later, we all were proved innocent,” Gadkari told TOI over phone from Nagpur. The minister also alleged that there is evidence for the cases against Chidambaram.
BJP’s national spokesperson Sambit Patra said Chidambaram has joined the “Out On Bail Club” and the bail to the former minister in a money laundering case was a “classic case” of Congress celebrating corruption.
India: A political history, 1947 onwards