Lok Sabha Election

Turning social consolidation on its head

The States of the ‘Hindi heartland’ have long taken a shine to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But ever since Narendra Modi emerged on the national scene, he has re-energised BJP supporters in these States.

Beginning with the emotive issue of Ram Janmabhoomi and L.K. Advani’s tumultuous rath yatra, it has been a long journey for the BJP in terms of the north moving towards the BJP. In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP posted impressive successes in the 1990s. It was matched both in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the form of strong social formations persuaded by the idea of social justice.

But even during the 1990s, there was an unmistakeable indication that the BJP’s appeal was able to undermine the new bloc that was taking shape called ‘OBCs’, or Other Backward Classes.

Part of the blame would go to the Yadav-centric politics of both Mulayam Singh of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. In Bihar, this and personal idiosyncrasies led to a parting of ways between Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) on the one hand and Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party. The bitter rivalry between Mulayam Singh and Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh surpassed this Bihar syndrome. In the process, consolidation of the ‘Bahujans’ fell by the wayside and even the limited objective of OBC unity remained chimeric.

Felled in Uttar Pradesh

The reason for recollecting this part of political history is to give perspective to the latest outcomes from the northern States. Much hype was generated this time by a renewal of the SP-BSP coalition that was expected to give the BJP a run for its money. The mahagathbandhan did look impressive on paper, the bonhomie between Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav of the SP did appear sincere, and reports of camaraderie between the workers of both parties sounded authentic. But, the final results have proved disastrous for both parties. Indeed, while they have somewhat ensured that they would have a better presence in the 17th Lok Sabha their claim of stopping the BJP’s march has proved entirely untenable.

The word ‘landslide’ would appear inadequate to describe what has happened in Bihar. The State has now joined many other northern States where the Opposition space has almost been wiped out. In fact, with the exception of U.P. and Chhattisgarh, entire central and north India is now firmly in thrall of the BJP leaving no space for any opposition. In three of these States, the BJP was only recently voted out of power while in two it is a ruling party. In Bihar, it continues to be a partner in the ruling alliance. Thus, routine questions about incumbency and satisfaction with the State government are at best peripheral and at worst redundant.

The short pieces on these States by colleagues in Lokniti report on key trends emerging from the survey data. They unequivocally draw attention to one lesson: the OBC or Bahujan social consolidation is out and pro-BJP, pro-Modi Hindu consolidation constitutes the basis of the BJP’s second successive sweep in the region.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 11:42:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/turning-social-consolidation-on-its-head/article27249406.ece

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