Editorial: Vestigial organs of the polity
BJP’s anxieties north of the Vindhyas are compounded by its utter failure in the south. Best-laid plans to break down the South with the battering ram of communal polarisation have come to nought.
CHENNAI: The rumbles of worry emanating from BJP since its defeat in the Karnataka Assembly elections have now become more palpable. The pointless special session of Parliament, the mystifying loud-think about Bharat that is India, and the after-thought-like women’s quota bill are all pointers to the ruling party’s anxiety to be ever in control of the political agenda. But the furtive haste that marked all those ploys indicates that nerves are very frayed at the moment.
A sign of this is the decision to include as many as three Union ministers, four MPs and a national general secretary in the BJP’s second list of candidates for the upcoming Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections. The presence in the fray of big guns like Prahlad Singh, Narendra Singh Tomar and Faggan Singh Kulaste makes it obvious that Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan is not an automatic choice to lead the government should the party win the election. At his mega rally in Bhopal earlier this week, Prime Minister Modi did not make a single mention of the hapless Chouhan, and kept the speech to his favourite subject, himself.
This signifies a major departure from a signature tactic of the party in the Modi-Shah era. Chouhan has two decades of experience as Chief Minister; to not project him as the chief ministerial face betrays an apprehension that voters have grown weary of him. It’s also a back-handed acknowledgement that voters could very well deliver an adverse verdict, as they did in Karnataka, on what in reality was a mandate-less government propped up by defectors from the Congress.
BJP’s anxieties north of the Vindhyas are compounded by its utter failure in the south. Best-laid plans to break down the South with the battering ram of communal polarisation have come to nought. The Karnataka elections emphatically rejected the saffron party’s shrill Bajrang Bali pitch. Kerala has neither risen to the BJP’s bait nor fallen to the Modi festoonery. In Telangana, all efforts to position the BJP as a who-else-but-us alternative to the BRS have failed to marginalise the Congress, which in fact is now a serious contender for power there.
And now, in Tamil Nadu, the end of the alliance with the AIADMK has left the grand South strategy in tatters. The BJP is now friendless and abandoned in a region it does not understand. But it is the reduction of the NDA to rump status that should count as the BJP’s biggest political failure. The AIADMK is the fourth major ally to desert the alliance, following the Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and Janata Dal (U). Each of these parties was the senior partner in its respective state, and three of them have lost power in their domain while in alliance with the BJP while also suffering a serious erosion of their vote base.
The fact remains that the NDA became a vestige as soon as the BJP won a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha and decided to never let anyone forget it. One by one, the vestiges have fallen off and what remains is a whole brood of very small parties.
But most alarmingly for the BJP, the regional parties it is currently wooing, such as the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, the BRS in Telangana and the Janata Dal (S) in Karnataka, are likely to be deterred by the fate of the NDA vestiges and steer clear of the saffron party’s deadly embrace.