BJP gained no electoral dividend after Kargil and may not gain after Pulwama

Wars do not always help ruling parties win elections. BJP in fact lost in UP after Kargil while in the Lok Sabha its number was the same it had won in the poll before the war

BJP gained no electoral dividend after Kargil and may not gain after Pulwama

Soroor Ahmed

The popular misconception that ruling dispensations always gain from war is not supported by history. Winston Churchill lost the election after leading Great Britain to victory in the second world war. And Indira Gandhi won the 1971 election by a landslide long before the Bangladesh war. While the election was held in March that year, the 14-day war broke out in December.

There is also a misconception that the BJP performed very well after the victory in Kargil War in 1999. The truth is that the party won exactly 183 seats in the post-Kargil election, the same number it had won in the Lok Sabha poll in 1998, before the war.

The number of seats the BJP won in UP in 1998 was 58. But after the war in 1999 it went down to 29.

This happened in spite of the fact that the BJP tried its best to exploit the war sentiment. Uttarakhand was then a part of UP and many of the soldiers who lost their lives in the Kargil operation came from this part of the state. The largest number of armed personnel who won gallantry awards hailed from Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP’s figure came down despite all the four major parties having contested separately in 1999. The Samajwadi Party in fact had increased its tally to 26. Interestingly, the Congress which drew a blank in 1998 bagged 10 seats in 1999.

This despite the Congress being organisationally weak in the state and Sonia Gandhi having just taken over the leadership of the grand, old party.

There is no reason to believe BJP doesn’t know electoral history. It probably knows too well that wars do not produce electoral dividend because people do not approve of body bags returning from the front. Wars are expensive and cruel. BJP was helped in 199 to form the government by its allies. And that is why BJP is frantically trying to stitch an alliance everywhere in the run up to the election this year.

Even religious and communal issues have limitations. BJP lost three state elections in December despite playing the religious and communal cards. It is also worth recalling that the BJP lost the Assembly election in UP and Madhya Pradesh after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.

The BJP came to power in the Centre only after it wove an alliance in 1998. It fully exploited the vacuum created by the fall of two successive United Front governments under H D Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral. The Congress then under Sitaram Kesari was in complete disarray and in no position to put up a fight.

2019 is going to be significantly different. This time the socio-political alliances in several states are stacked heavily against the Modi-led NDA government. The incumbency factor too is working against it. What is more, its mishandling of Kashmir and chest-thumping over Demonetisation and surgical strike in 2016 are working against it. Its own constituents are also crestfallen over the Government’s failure to take tough action against Pakistan.

BJP of course has stopped bragging that demonetisation and surgical strike had broken the backbone of the terrorists.

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