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Political Line | What the poll results say about Indian politics 

Eight points to note from Assembly elections 

Results of the Assembly elections in five States are indeed a shot in the arm for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won in all four States where it was in power.  The Hindu editorial captures the broad trends that emerge out of these results. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said these results have sealed the outcome of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections too in the BJP’s favour. He said people have rejected caste and dynastic politics.

Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, celebrates with his party members and supporters at the party office in Lucknow, India, March 10, 2022.

Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, celebrates with his party members and supporters at the party office in Lucknow, India, March 10, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

1. This is not the end, but the transformation of caste politics. The dominant communities that mobilised other backward classes (OBCs) and Dalits under the flag of social justice have fallen victim to their own success. The BJP’s decades-long strategy of harnessing the resentment among numerically smaller caste groups against dominant castes such as Yadavs, Jatavs, Jats, Marathas will continue to reward it for a long time. The kind of social justice politics championed by the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal has come to naught. The idea that Hindutva can be challenged by Mandal is no longer valid, if it ever was. Members of all castes seek honour and empowerment by being part of and participant to the larger Hindu ritual and political universe, and not by challenging it. Characterising the BJP as an upper caste party has few takers among voters

BJP women workers during door to door campaign in Hazaratganj Lucknow central constituency ahead of Uttar Pradesh assembly election, in Lucknow. File.

BJP women workers during door to door campaign in Hazaratganj Lucknow central constituency ahead of Uttar Pradesh assembly election, in Lucknow. File. | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

2. Gender politics is playing to the BJP’s advantage. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi’s attempts to overcome caste and religion-based politics by mobilising women, and youth as horizontal categories collapsed, while anecdotal evidence suggest that both women and youth voted for the BJP in large numbers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inspires more confidence among a broad spectrum of voters, and it will remain so in the foreseeable future. In other words, attempts by the Opposition to sidestep religious, regional or caste categories by mobilising them as women or youths, is a non-starter. They have already been mobilised behind Mr. Modi in significant measure. 

Priyanka Gandhi. File.

Priyanka Gandhi. File. | Photo Credit: PTI

3. Mobilisation on class lines has never been easy, in India or anywhere else in the world. The farmers’ agitation that led the BJP to withdraw the three farm reform laws it had enacted created an impression that there could be class politics. But the results showed that it was a chimera. Caste is gone; class could not take its place — as a driver of political choices.

Farmers pose in a mustard fields as they show their inked fingers after casting their vote, during the second phase of UP Assembly polls.

Farmers pose in a mustard fields as they show their inked fingers after casting their vote, during the second phase of UP Assembly polls. | Photo Credit: PTI

4. This marks the end of identity politics for Muslims in the heartland. In the West Bengal and Kerala elections last year, the Muslims played a determining role. In this round, their electoral significance was only as a fear factor. The community will have to look for political options, and the BJP could very well be among the options they will consider. A new terms-of-engagement between the Muslims and the BJP could begin to take shape. 

Indian Muslims display their index fingers after casting their votes during the first phase of Uttar Pradesh state elections in Mooradnagar India. File.

Indian Muslims display their index fingers after casting their votes during the first phase of Uttar Pradesh state elections in Mooradnagar India. File. | Photo Credit: AP

5. The takeover of the Punjab government will likely add a new Centre-State frontier. The Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra has been using its State powers to counter the use of executive power the Centre uses against the Opposition. The Prime Minister warned in his victory speech on Thursday that people who are scared of his anti-corruption drive, are ganging up against him. He was possibly alluding to the moves against the Enforcement Directorate by some State governments, and an ongoing case in the Supreme Court against the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) that the ED uses — in many cases, against political opponents of the BJP.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers take out a victory rally after party’s win in Punjab Assembly elections, in Gurugram, March 11, 2022.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers take out a victory rally after party’s win in Punjab Assembly elections, in Gurugram, March 11, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

6. It is, however, unclear how Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal will relate to the Centre, Mr. Modi and the BJP in the coming days. After his initial confrontations with Mr. Modi, Mr. Kejriwal had made peace with him for two reasons — first, he does not want to be caught on the wrong side of Hindutva/nationalist questions. Second, he has come to accept the popularity of Mr. Modi and does not want to wrestle with him — in fact, he toned down his attacks on the PM as a political strategy. One has to wait and watch how the new frontier of the Kejriwal-Modi face-off takes shape. 

Delhi CM and AAP Convenor Arvind Kejriwal with party leaders Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai celebrates the party’s win in Punjab Assembly polls, at the party headquarters, in New Delhi, Thursday, March 10, 2022.

Delhi CM and AAP Convenor Arvind Kejriwal with party leaders Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai celebrates the party’s win in Punjab Assembly polls, at the party headquarters, in New Delhi, Thursday, March 10, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

7. The presumed caste determinism of electoral mobilisation had made SP leader Akhilesh Yadav so complacent that he thought he did not require to do anything at all to return to power. His cynical approach to people’s choices has now been exposed, after biting the dust in four elections, and trying out various mixes of caste-communal combinations. In the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections and 2017 and 2022 Assembly elections, he led the Samajawadi Party to defeats. There seems little he can do as a challenger to the BJP. 

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav addresses a press conference at party office in Lucknow. File.

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav addresses a press conference at party office in Lucknow. File. | Photo Credit: PTI

8. Yogi Adityanath is now a leader of his own standing. It is not that there are no attempts to rein him in, but any hard push in that direction could lead to serious standoffs. The question, therefore is, whether there will be a Yogi version of the BJP in the making. After all, it was the remaking of the BJP by Mr. Modi that made it into the massive political success that it has now become. Stand by for the Yogi model. 

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Printable version | Mar 13, 2022 9:03:12 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/what-the-poll-results-say-about-indian-politics-political-line/article65216896.ece