The historic tsunami of votes with which PM Narendra Modi and the BJP swept Uttar Pradesh cannot be simply attributed to the aggressive high-profile campaign undertaken by him, or to the caste or communal cards systematically played by him.
There was enough evidence to suggest that each of the factors that remained on the target of the opposition actually led Modi to spring the biggest surprise not only for all and sundry, but probably himself as well.
Be it the surgical strike on Pakistan or the much debated demonetisation drive, both went well with the common masses, including the youth of UP, who went the whole hog to rally behind the man, perceived as some kind of messiah for the nation.
The vote was clearly not for BJP but for Modi, who seemed to have emerged larger than his party - somewhat reminiscent of Indira Gandhi of the late Sixties and early Seventies.
Rahul Gandhi’s outburst against the surgical strikes which he termed as “khoon ki dalaali” hurt the nationalist sentiment (usually visible in any Indo-Pak conflict), even among those who do not subscribe to the saffron ideology. In one stroke, it took away much of the steam generated by his aggressive effort to rejuvenate the dormant Congress in the state.
And perhaps unwittingly, what came as a bigger boon for Modi was the concerted tirade launched by the Rahul-Akhilesh Yadav duo and Mayawati against demonetisation. Like many others, these leaders failed to fathom the divide that his "notebandi" had forged between the "haves" and "have-nots".
What also went unnoticed was the Modi chant that the “have-nots’ had taken to. Significantly, a bulk of these "have-nots" came from those downtrodden sections, who were known supporters of the Bahujan Samaj Party.
While the affluent and well-to-do cursed Modi for making them stand in long queues at banks and ATMs, the poor hailed him in the belief - right or wrong - for taking the black money bull by its horns. That was what carved out a completely new constituency for Modi, who had otherwise taken a beating from his traditional support base of traders and businessmen.
Simultaneously, that marked the beginning of the drift of the non-Jatav Dalits and a chunk of MBCs towards Modi. Perhaps Mayawati was the only one of these three leaders who smelt trouble. She retaliated by making it a point to train her guns at Modi and blasting demonetisation on a daily basis.
A unique social transition was taking place from caste to class, that was bound to hit Mayawati hard. And sure enough it did. After all, Mayawati had continued to take her votebank for granted.
What made matters worse for her was her loud and echoing appeals to Muslims to vote for her party. “Don’t vote for the Samajwadi Party; your vote will go waste as chacha Shivpal and bhatija Akhilesh were busy fighting among themselves,” she said, and went about making appeals to Muslims all across the state.
In an obvious bid to establish her credentials with Muslims she began to blow her trumpet by repeatedly declaring that she had fielded more than 100 Muslim candidates for the 403 member state Assembly.
|The man on the street chose to go with Modi's promises on development rather than with Akhilesh's projects on the ground. Photo: Reuters|
Far from helping her to garner Muslim votes, the ill-conceived and short-sighted move proved counter-productive. Since the bulk of these 100-odd candidates were handpicked on considerations other than merit, they could not attract any significant support from their own community.
In a highly status-conscious state like UP, aspiring politicians do not hesitate to shell out bagfuls of currency to buy a party ticket. It entitles them to first flaunt their status as “pratyashi" (candidate) and then as "poorva pratyashi" (past candidate) for the rest of their life.
Sure enough, such nominees neither have winning potential nor any commitment to the cause for which the ticket-awarding party was raised. And surely, Muslims don’t go about voting blindly for any and every Muslim nominee fielded by any political outfit. In fact, if one looks at history, Indian Muslims, since 1947, have always preferred to acknowledge a Hindu in comparison to any Muslim as their leader.
Akhilesh, apart from condemning Modi for demonetisation also tried to showcase his visible achievements - the six-lane, 301-km Lucknow-Agra access-controlled expressway, the Lucknow Metro, Lucknow's IT City as well as the state's first world-class cricket stadium - under his self-coined slogan "kaam bolta hai". His oft repeated quote - "if you double the speed you can triple the pace of development" - too got a lot of play.
He could not imagine that he would get stumped by Modi's loud talk on development. "After all, I have concrete achievements to show, while Modi is only doing lip-service," was the argument he would give out.
But when it came to brass tacks, the man on the street chose to go with Modi's promises on development rather than with Akhilesh's projects, actually on the ground, far ahead of schedule. Team Modi's well orchestrated campaign to dismiss Akhilesh's "achievements" as "half-baked" ,"incomplete" and "half-done" turned louder and perhaps more convincing than the chief minister's oft-repeated development pronouncements, supported by a sustained high profile multi-billion blitzkrieg, both in print as well as the electronic media.
Apparently, Modi found it easy to spread the word that Akhilesh's development was essentially meant for the privileged and the affluent living in the state capital.
It was also not difficult for Modi to drive home his point that Samajwadi Party’s "samajwad" (socialism) had turned into "parivarvaad" (family affair) - easily visible in the ever swelling members of the ruling Yadav clan clutching on to different political positions.
Akhilesh’s loss of credibility got heightened when, far from taking action against his highly tainted mining minister Gayatri Prajapati, accused of gangrape, he went to the extent of campaigning for him. While the case of rape was registered only after a direction of the apex court, Akhilesh's cops failed to arrest him so far.
Surely, that was bound to raise questions about the chief minister's much-hyped "women helpline 1090" as also about his "dial 100" - that was projected as a parallel to "911" in the United States.
Akhilesh's plea that his development narrative got systematically bulldozed with Modi’s communal chant through all the loud talk on shamshaan, kabristaan, Ramzaan, Eid and Diwali could have got credence if Modi had scored a simple majority over Akhilesh.
What Modi did was like Sehwag’s triple century - most unexpected, yet incredible.