The BJP’s troubles are giving a lot of breathing space to the ruling Congress despite its internal problems.
Some truths hit hard. Notwithstanding plans for a grand inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya in January 2024, Prime Minister Narendra Modi realises that polarisation alone cannot ensure a third term for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.
Mr Modi is no doubt the only “Hindu Hriday Samrat” and the RSS and the entire Sangh Parivar would go to town from early next year to sell “Ram” for the BJP. They would not leave anything to chance to drum up support, but doubts still linger. And these are serious doubts. They are growing by the day.
The BJP and its top brass have become desperate to come up as the winner in all the polls and are using every trick in the trade to bolster up its Hindutva vote bank, as it has nothing new to offer. But it is not having the desired impact.
The polarisation plans are being unfolded non-stop. So, one sees Yogi Adityanath and his Uttar Pradesh government lighting 24 lakh lamps at Ayodhya on Diwali, but the darkness on governance is discernible. In a first, Yogi held his Cabinet meeting in Ayodhya as well. The bulldozer is also deployed wherever possible to tighten the plot.
The Uttarakhand government has announced plans to bring a bill to usher in the Uniform Civil Code. Chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami is Mr Modi’s man who saved his post despite losing his Assembly seat in the elections last year. Such people are extra obedient.
But signs of impending trouble are visible in the Assembly polls in five states. Observers rue that even the manifestos put up by the BJP have nothing much to offer and are virtually copycats of those of its detractors, especially the Congress, sometimes promising more things than others. But that does not mean that the BJP has good prospects in all these states.
The crisis is deepening. With a challenging situation in the South after the defeat in Karnataka, the BJP is fighting feverishly in the Assembly polls, but is groping in the dark for a good result. The BJP needs to win at least two states to send home the message ahead of the Lok Sabha polls that Brand Modi is still intact.
No doubt, the Lok Sabha polls are a different cup of tea. But signs of the polarisation card not working in the Assembly polls are visible.
Take the case of Telangana. The BJP is again playing the card and has brought in controversial leader T. Raja Singh and given him a ticket. But the BJP is looking more desperate despite the PM announcing that the party will have an OBC CM in the state.
In the state, the BJP is shocked over its growing irrelevance happening all of a sudden, and the fortunes of the Congress brightening by the day. As the battle is turning bipolar between K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s BRS and the Congress, observers note that if the BJP collapses completely, it will benefit the Congress more in the keen tussle.
In Madhya Pradesh, Congress CM candidate Kamal Nath has virtually punctured the polarisation card by projecting himself as the most ardent devotee of Bajrangbali and showing himself as a true believer. The focus has shifted to the 18 years of anti-incumbency of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who carries the fatigue factor.
After the abolition of Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP should have won the first election for the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Kargil since Ladakh was designated a Union territory in 2019. But the BJP got just two of the 26 seats in the polls held over two months ago. There is a delay in holding the polls in the new Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Waterloo of the BJP in Karnataka, despite invoking Bajarang Bali and raising controversies like hijab, has shown the limits of polarisation. Bringing in B.S. Vijayendra as state BJP chief is a signal of the defeat of the likes of B.L. Santosh, who were instrumental in showing the door to a veteran like B.S. Yediyurappa. It is a tacit admission that the Basavaraj Bommai experiment was a terrible mistake.
The BJP’s growing nervousness in Karnataka is reflected in the alliance with the JD(S). It could do more harm than good, as is clear from the unease within the state BJP. Two plus two is not always four in politics. It could be zero too. The BJP’s troubles are giving a lot of breathing space to the ruling Congress despite its internal problems.
In Mizoram, where voting is over, a strange thing was seen. The PM, who excels in campaigning unlike any other PM, kept away from canvassing. It was virtually a compulsory sit-out as Christian-dominated Mizoram was shocked by the ethnic violence in neighbouring Manipur and the virtual silence of the PM.
The BJP may not be saying anything, but it is realising that the Congress is gaining strength slowly but surely, notwithstanding contradictions in the INDIA alliance coming to the fore.
The BJP’s problem has been compounded by the developments in Bihar where chief minister Nitish Kumar is doing everything to queer the pitch of the saffron party as well as its allies in the state.
After the caste census and raising the reservation limit to 75 per cent, Nitish Kumar is pitching for the status of “special state” for Bihar for its speedy development. He has even threatened to launch a movement for the purpose. The timing is just perfect.
The ruling party is equally uneasy with the sudden rise of Manoj Jarange Patil in Maharashtra, who is aggressive on the Maratha reservation issue. Despite the Eknath Shinde government being dominated by the BJP, it has been grappling with the sticky situation for long without success. The BJP and its top brass are weary of things getting out of hand. The failure of the Maharashtra government to stabilise is helping the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi to get its act together.
Mr Modi and home minister Amit Shah have painfully realised that Mr Nitish Kumar’s action has made Bihar a harder nut to crack. They also worry about more than a spillover effect in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, the BJP’s Hindutva laboratory after Gujarat.
So, suddenly, it is all things to all people, such as the announcement on extending the free ration scheme to 800 million poor people for the next five years, and the Rs 24,000-crore programme for tribals. It gets even merrier when the chips are down.