Modi, Shah beware: This is not 1970 and Kairana was no one-off
In a bid to dismiss the emerging Opposition unity, the embedded media has attempted to compare this unity with the coming together of Opposition parties ahead of the 1970 polls to defeat Indira
Many analysts and mainstream media have dismissed the defeat of the BJP in the Lok Sabha bypoll in Kairana seat in Western Uttar Pradesh as the victory of arithmetic, implying that the coming together of disparate forces with no ideological commitment has only momentarily defeated the BJP.
In a deliberate bid to dismiss the emerging Opposition unity as being of little consequence, the embedded media has attempted to compare the current unity with the coming together of almost the entire spectrum of Opposition parties ahead of the 1970 general elections. At that time, forces from Left to Right with no ideological compatibility came together on the ‘Indira Hatao’ slogan. In the end, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi won an overwhelming victory over the combined strength of Jana Sangh, socialists and even Communists, in particular the nascent but fast growing Communist Party of India (Marxist), rubbishing the ‘Indira Hatao’ slogan.
This in fact appears to be a part of an election strategy of Narendra Modi for 2019 where the grapevine has it that he may even repeat Indira’s refrain then with a minor variation—Woh kehte hain Modi hatao, main kehta hoon Bhrashtachar hatao, reminding of Indira’s cry: Woh kehte hain Indira hatao, main kehti hoon garibi hatao, which became an instant hit in that general election.
There is also this somewhat justified concern among analysts whether and for how long the supposed ideologically disparate if not bereft of any ideology, Opposition could remain together and put up a joint fight against the BJP? The nay sayers cite 1977, 1989-91 and 1996 to remind how the Opposition comprising of various regional forces fell apart within no time. This is the hope, Modi, the BJP and the chatterati is banking on for good reason.
First things first. It is true that the regional parties even the supposed ideologically strong Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (DMK) have shown a propensity to opportunistically align with the BJP whenever the situation demands. “I am secular”, TDP leader N Chandrababu Naidu and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar or a supposed Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan waste not a minute to switch sides, not once but time and again and again.
One time militant Dalit leader from Maharashtra Ramdas Athawale was as vocal a supporter of UPA, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh for 10 years as he is of Narendra Modi these last four years. No amount of torture, humiliation of Dalits, the dilution of SC/ST Atrocities Act or the imminence of watering down if not downright abolition of reservation for the Dalits and OBCs appears to move our Paswans and Athawales. But that is no guarantee which side would they be tomorrow if they perceive Modi’s charisma waning.
Much as Modi and his drum beaters in the media may try to mimic Indira Gandhi, the comparison is at best audacious, if not downright odious, because Indira Gandhi of 1970 was rightly perceived by the masses as a leader sincerely committed to social and economic upliftment of the hungry masses. Whereas Modi for all the chest beating of giving electricity, LPG and homes to the poor, is perceived as someone responsible for denying the poor their rations on the bogus and specious plea of Aadhar card, notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s mild disapproval of it with the slight nod of its head.
The Jats of Kairana who chased out Muslims in 2013 demonstrated how no amount of communal propaganda would make them lose sight of non-payment of their dues by sugar mills whose owners financed first Modi’s 2014 general election and then Yogi Adityanath’s assembly election last year. True till 2017 UP Assembly polls, Love Jihad, Ghar wapsi and cow slaughter did sway the Jats and others who were persuaded by the likes of Yogi Adityanath that Musalman is their real enemy.
But by now Yogi stands exposed as focussed primarily on restoring the pre-eminence of the Aryavrat or the Savarna upper caste and so from day one he has been blasé in targeting Muslims and Dalits by virtually closing down the proliferating meat trade in the entire UP; killing Muslims and Yadavs in fake encounters and as for the Dalits the current Yogi establishment is to show them their place. So for more than a year now the leaders of Bhim Army including their firebrand leader Chandra Shekhar Azad are languishing in jails while the Rajputs who attacked them in Shabbirpur village near Saharanpur are strutting around unchallenged by any law enforcing agency. This did help the BJP for a while. But the Jats really got nothing out of this and a vast population comprising Muslims, Dalits and Yadavs are bearing the brunt of revenge politics of that saffron clad chief minister.
Embedded media (actually Cobrapost.com has shown that with the exception of a handful, almost all media is mentally if not physically embedded too alongside) is speculating that the Mayawati-Akhilesh alliance may break any day now, which will bring cheer to the Modi camp. They forget that be it Mayawati or Akhilesh-Mulayam or other leaders who stood there with HD Kumaraswamy the other day for his swearing in ceremony in Bengaluru, their first and foremost priority is to restore their credibility with their base voter which can come about only if that voter is satisfied that the leader is ready to put aside his personal likes and dislikes and ambition to protect him from the violence and tyranny of a government determined to put him down if not altogether exterminate him.
True, the BSP needs to have a respectable number of seats in the seat sharing arrangement and the seat sharing arrangement will still be a tricky issue, which needs to be tactfully tackled under the overall guidance of leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Lalu Prasad. But then the alternate scenario of the more articulate, vastly more aware and younger leaders like Jignesh Mewani, Kanhaiya Kumar, Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakur replacing them, if they fail to deliver, is staring the older generation in the face and unless they respond positively to the obtaining political situation, they may lose the credibility with their voter. That is a compulsion no serious leader can lose sight of.
Besides let us not forget that for all the supposed differences and later demoralisation, the UPA-I completed its first term 2004-09 successfully and had the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not been misguided by his media manager Sanjaya Baru, the Left and then Lalu Prasad would not have broken and successfully weathered not just 2009 but 2014 as well, Modi or no Modi.
The change in the voters’ mood is remarkable. In 2014 the voters all over the country influenced by the Amit Shah vituperative propaganda against Muslims of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli ensured that not a single Muslim got elected to the 15th Lok Sabha. Four years of Modi/Yogi rule have so revolutionised the voter mood that of all the places the voter of Kairana, sent up a Muslim woman to the Lok Sabha. It shows how despaired and angry the voter who got swayed by communal polarisation in 2014 and 2017, must be to choose to vote for a Muslim woman contesting on a Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), pushed to the margins of obscurity in these two consecutive elections in Uttar Pradesh. It also shows the nervousness on the part of the ruling party led by chief minister Yogi Adityanath, which has started fake twitters in the name of RLD MP Tabassum Begum to polarise the people yet again communally. Some Opposition alliances have already crystallised.
For instance Lalu has succeeded in stitching up a more lasting alliance with the JMM and Babulal Marandi’s JVM along with Congress. In his own home state Bihar too he has with him the Congress party, apart from welcoming back Jitan Ram Manjhi and it is only a matter of time before Upendra Kushwaha too deserts Modi and hops on to Lalu’s bandwagon. For all the media speculation, the Congress-JD(S) alliance has finally been neatly stitched. These glitches will carry on all along. But most Opposition parties and their voter as well have come to realise that for them it is a do or die battle for survival. Together you win or else perish.
After all it is not just one man Modi, the Opposition parties are up against, but Modi plus his huge election paraphernalia, well financed by his corporate friends. It is vastly superior, nationally and internationally well-oiled and ideologically committed fascist RSS that the Opposition has to contend with. For all the disparaging remarks of the media there is an ideological affinity each one of these leaders shares—the desire to save Indian democracy from the looming fascist forces.