Caste, religion politics rejected

| | in Oped
Caste, religion politics rejected

The massive victories have laden the BJP-led Governments with heavy responsibilities. They now have to ensure the growth of all States, particularly Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. These would be showpieces for the country. The faster they do it, the better 

The Indian politico-socio system is complex. The recent five State assembly elections make this more obvious. People have voted for clean polity and fast economic growth. They have voted for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and have also voted against those who had driven the States downhill. Yes, the elections have reiterated Modi’s image as a leader-communicator who connects with the people. The elections also stated that, if the people they have doubts about a political formation, they will vote against it.

It has happened in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where nobody could fathom the expanse of Modi wave — not even the BJP workers. None imagined wins in 300-plus out of 403 seats. The BJP got unexpected support across caste groups. It cut into the caste base of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). As in the 2014 election, the voting pattern in both these States indicates the breaking of stereotypes. It demonstrates synthesis in a complex social system. Is it a reflection of an emerging pan-India phenomenon?

Even a small section of the minorities, particularly women, voted for the BJP. The issue of triple talaq, and the Ujjwala and Jan Dhan schemes, had touched them. Possibly, various issues that spoke of social cleansing weakened the hold of the minority clerics. The party demolished most minority strongholds.

It breaks the myth that Indian voters are parochial. Minorityism is still not passé. But a different thinking is emerging, to the unease of votaries of divisive politics. It is a good sign if the politics of vote is getting inclusive. Parochial regional parties and such national parties who align with them have to learn.

The polls also exemplified, including those in Maharashtra, Chandigarh and Odhisha civic bodies, that demonetisation, despite causing some problems, could not be turned into a political issue — though SP leader Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tried. People believed that Modi is cleaning up the economy.

The vote was not only for Modi’s BJP, it was also a rejection of a divided SP fighting an internecine war, the son deriding the father – a phenomenon Indian society abhors. It is also against a party that is family-oriented in a caste set-up and had made goondaism the State’s culture. The party’s caste supporters also worked against parivarvad, leading to the party’s loss in most of its central Uttar Pradesh bastions. Sops such as laptops do not buy votes. And ‘family welfare’ drives supporters away.

The phenomenon is no different with Mayawati’s BSP. The people had suffered equally during her regime for her extravagance, supporting a different set of bad elements and narrow vision. Minor Scheduled Castes also shunned he, as they had in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, where the BSP got zero seats.

The Congress had made a good beginning with the “27 saal UP behal” slogan that summed up the poor conditions of the State. Uttar Pradesh has had the poorest GDP growth at 5.9 per cent during the past five years. By aligning with the SP, the Congress owned up its sins and was the biggest loser. Had the Congress contested alone, it could have served the State in a different way. Even if it had doubled its strength, it would have further marginalised the SP.

Without a churning within, the Congress will find a bright future to be a mere pipe-dream. Some of its leaders such as P Chidmabaram, are openly praising Prime Minister Modi. Alarm bells must ring.

In Uttarakhand, Congress Chief Minister Harish Rawat was demolishing his own within the party. Rawat, it was stated, was fighting against the Congress since March 2016. The BJP was perceived as the saviour for the State, despite many Congressmen joining it. The vote was against the misrule of an ‘unclean’ and inefficient Chief Minister.

People voted against divided houses too. The Shiromani Akali Dal lost Punjab on account of misrule, nepotism, high-handedness and poor economic performance. In Goa, the BJP had a problem as RSS leader Subhash Velingkar had launched a separate outfit to oppose it (read Manohar Parrikar). It reduced the BJP’s strength and led to the defeat of then Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar.

Prime Minister Modi connected as he touched the hearts of the poor through a number of programmes. It won seats and a Government in Manipur.

His Holi eve speech summed up that: He had targeted the poor and now he would target the middle class. He may reduce taxes in the next two years. Modi says he wants all to be with him. So, the middle class may have better fortunes before the Lok Sabha poll. He proved to be the tireless crusader and campaigner for the party, breaking many traditions and setting new precedents. The election results endorse the path of the Modi Government, though inflation, at 3.65 per cent, is making a slow comeback.

Discontent is growing as banks are being becoming the usurer. People are apparently being punished for parking their money with them. The proposed charges on withdrawals, minimum balance and transactions, may enrich the banks or not, but they may prove to be politically expensive in a society that prefers to keep the money unto itself. If banks do not course-correct and remove the unethical extortive charges, they may end up slowing down the economy. Since the days of UPA, they have been mismanaging the finances. With almost Rs 12 lakh crore of non-performing assets, they have put the nation at risk.

The Prime Minister has to deal sternly with this phenomenon. He must breathe down the necks of PSU bank CEOs for making irresponsible statements (example, ‘farmers’ loan waivers are expensive’). Banks have virtually waived off loans of every big shark.  CEOs should be told to desist from making anti-people statements. These officials will go scot-free, but the Government in power may have to pay a heavy political price. Are the CEOs playing some other game?

The massive victories have laden the BJP-led Governments with heavy responsibilities. They now have to ensure the growth of all States, particularly Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. These would be showpieces for the country. The faster they do it, the better it would be. The States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur are laggards. It is now the duty of the new Governments to put them on the fast track of growth, bring Punjab back to health and Goa on road to progress.

The voters are demanding. Even a small growth in agriculture and industry would earn their gratitude so would increase in jobs, happier law and order situation. People have faith in the Prime Minister. They believe it would be honoured.

(The writer is a senior journalist)

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