Herald View: Voters are fine with bigotry but a large number want BJP to behave

The message from voters in the five states is mixed but in UP they want a more restrained and responsible BJP

Herald View: Voters are fine with bigotry but a large number want BJP to behave

Herald View

Voters in five Indian states have spoken. In four of them, from Manipur to Goa, voters have voted for status quo and endorsed BJP and its politics. In Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur they have flagged that they are fine with corruption and misgovernance. In Uttar Pradesh they have shown their preference for virulent anti-Muslim propaganda. In Punjab alone they have voted for a clean break from the past, a brave decision the wisdom of which will be tested in the next few years. Voters however have also put a brake on the BJP by ensuring a stronger opposition to emerge in the UP assembly and by resoundingly defeating several established and rabid leaders of the BJP. Both Samajwadi Party and AAP have been trusted by voters to stand up to the BJP. AAP, which was conspicuously silent during the Delhi riots and the farmers’ yearlong agitation against farm laws, will also have to take a stand on the laws which are certain to return. It is too early to divine if the verdict in Punjab means that farmers in Punjab were not wholeheartedly against the laws. The electoral verdict in that sense is a watershed and could well be a turning point. In UP, the Samajwadi Party has been the beneficiary by default of the anger felt by a large section of the people against BJP’s bigotry and strong-arm tactics. Its electoral success is also largely due to the support of minority communities although the party and its leaders were largely inactive during the anti-CAA protests and failed to stand by the minorities. The election result has now ensured that Akhilesh Yadav can no longer afford to keep quiet. He will have to walk the talk and see that BJP no longer gets a free pass in the state.

BJP’s confidence that it can do business with AAP in Punjab and with Akhilesh Yadav as Leader of the Opposition in UP will be tested in the months to come. Meanwhile, it has earned the gloating right at having outwitted the Congress again. Disheartened Congress supporters will ask why the party failed to win despite favourable conditions and considerable discontent among the people. Knives will be out for party leaders and their failure to end the infighting and forge more effective alliances. But while it is easy to mock the Congress, it cannot be denied that Congress alone among opposition parties has consistently raised people’s issues and opposed policies of the BJP and the RSS. It alone has behaved like a responsible opposition and offered constructive support to the Government during the pandemic. It alone was in the forefront in raising issues of unemployment, of economic mismanagement and Chinese aggression on Indian territory. Congress can hardly be faulted if people and the media do not take these issues to be serious. It is also not difficult to see that Indian big business and corporate lobbies are opposed to the Congress for its ‘leftist’ or pro-poor leanings. Their preference is more than obvious. If people of India have no problem with economic mismanagement, crony capitalism, inflation and growing disparity, with the rich getting richer, with bigotry and cronyism, must the Congress abandon these concerns and come to terms with corporate interests? But then Congress will no longer be Congress if it does, irrespective of electoral victory or defeat. It should not therefore abandon what it has been doing, reorganising the party, reaching out to the grassroots and find solutions for people’s problems. That is what politics is all about.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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