Ram Nath Kovind as India's President is a defining moment for Hindutva politics

For a party that was considered 'politically untouchable' after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 till 1996, the wheel has indeed turned full circle.

 |  -minute read |   21-07-2017
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Ram Nath Kovind’s victory in the presidential elections proves - if proof was indeed needed - the BJP and Sangh Parivar’s complete dominance of the country’s political landscape.

For the first time ever, the country has a President and Prime Minister (and will soon have the Vice President as well) with strong moorings in the Sangh Parivar. It demonstrates unmistakably the fact that the BJP has now replaced the Congress as the country's hegemonic party. Prompting many to conclude, with some justification, that the era of the Congress is not only over but has been replaced by the era of the BJP.

For the BJP it has been a remarkable turnaround. For a party that was considered "politically untouchable" after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 till 1996, the wheel has indeed turned full circle. 

Today, it is the country's most sought after party, much like the Congress was till 1989. In the 1990s, the BJP had only the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal as its allies, but in the recent presidential elections it not only had the support of 40 political parties, but Kovind also managed to get more than the alliance’s share of votes in states such as J&K, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, UP, Himachal Pradesh and even West Bengal, where the other three main parties - TMC, Left and Congress – were aligned against him.

"It should prove once and for all that ours is the most acceptable party and ideology in the country. Those who wanted to isolate us have been left isolated," says Rajya Sabha MP Bhupendra Yadav.

The situation today's is a far cry from what it was in the early 1990s. Though the Jan Sangh - the original avatar of the BJP - merged itself into the Janata Party after the Emergency, it was used as the whipping boy and the Janata Party split on the issue of dual membership, leading to the fall of the Morarji Desai-led Janata Party government. 

Though anti-Congressism raged from the late 1970s till 1992, yet political parties were wary of openly tying up with the BJP. The VP Singh-led Janata Dal refused to have an election alliance in 1989, choosing instead to settle for a covert seat adjustment arrangement with the party.

While both the Left and the BJP supported the VP Singh government from outside, there was no direct interaction between the two supporting parties.

Ironically, it was Nitish Kumar’s Samata Party that in a sense bailed out the BJP by aligning with it after splitting from the Janata Dal. It also coincided with LK Advani assuming the presidentship of the BJP.

Kovind’s election as the 14th President of the Indian Republic comes in the wake of the BJP's remarkable winning streak since the 2014 general elections. This indeed has been a time of many firsts for the party.

In the last general elections, it won 282 seats and won a majority on its own for the first time in its history. This is also the first time in its history that the party will have as President, PM and indeed Vice President somebody of its own. 

bjp-embed_072117055918.jpgThe BJP and its supporters cannot be faulted for believing that this indeed is their golden period. Photo: Reuters

It did have Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as Vice-President but never before has somebody posing allegiance to the BJP occupied the top three constitutional positions in the country.

The BJP and its supporters cannot be faulted for believing that this indeed is their golden period. In pure electoral terms, the party has never had it so good. It has emerged as the country's most powerful and largest political party, and has successfully replaced the Congress as the premier pan-India party.

Its footprint is rapidly increasing - it is now part of the government in J&K, and has governments of its own in Haryana, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, UP, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur, Maharashtra, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa.

It has edged out the Congress from most major states barring Karnataka and Punjab. In addition to these two states, the Congress is part of the government in Bihar along with the JD(U) and the RJD and has governments in small states like Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry, Mizoram and Meghalaya.

In pure electoral terms there has been a remarkable upturn in the party's fortunes in the last two decades. It all began in the Lok Sabha elections of 1989, where the party's tally jumped to 85 seats - a quantum jump from the 2 seats it had won in the 1984 elections.  

The next Lok Sabha elections were held in the tumultuous backdrop of the Mandir and Mandal movements. The BJP made the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya a major poll issue and it worked to its advantage as its tally went up to 120 seats - an impressive improvement over its previous performance.

In the elections of 1996, for the first time the BJP emerged as the single-largest party winning 161 seats; this period was also marked by the emergence of regional parties. The BJP quickly seized the initiative and entered into a series of strategic alliances with some of the anti-Congress regional parties.

1998 marked yet another first for the BJP. It formed the government at the Centre under AB Vajpayee, and in the elections that followed in 1999 came to power but lost the next two elections in 2004 and 2009.

The BJP’s performance plateaued a bit and its seat share came down to 138 in 2004 and 116 in 2009. But come 2014 and its fortunes registered a massive upturn led by Narendra Modi - the party won a majority on its own, winning 282 seats in the 2014 elections.

What must be worrying the BJP’s opponents, especially the Congress, is the fact that the BJP’s winning streak and dominance of the country’s political landscape shows no sign of abating. The Opposition has a huge task on its hands to keep its ranks intact from the BJP’s bid to poach.

One of the highlights of the recently concluded presidential elections was the significant number of votes that the NDA candidate got from outside his support base. He polled 65 per cent of the votes and drew extra votes not only from states like J&K, Gujarat, Maharashtra, MP and Goa, where the BJP is in power, but also from states like West Bengal, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, ruled by the TMC and the Congress respectively.

The cross-voting in Gujarat during the presidential election may jeopardise the Congress’ chances of getting Ahmad Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, re-elected to the Rajya Sabha.

Also read: India's next President: Ram Nath Kovind is no APJ Kalam - Modi has made a mistake

Writer

Javed M Ansari Javed M Ansari @javedmansari

The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst.

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