Ever since Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to its unprecedented and impressive victory in the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, there have been allegations from the losers questioning the verdict by suggesting that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) may have been tampered to engineer the outcome. The Election Commission has made it abundantly clear that no manipulation of the EVMs at such a large scale was possible and consequently the charges being made by opposition parties were absolutely baseless.
It is not uncommon for the defeated parties to accuse the winners of wrongdoing. In the early 1970s, when Indira Gandhi led the Congress to an unmatched victory in the 1971 Lok Sabha elections, the then Jana Sangh leaders such as Balraj Madhok had claimed that the Prime Minister had imported a magical ink from Russia that swayed the voting numbers in her favour. Many years later, a similar insinuation was made by some other BJP leaders. The short point is that it is fruitless in putting together allegations till there is substantial evidence and proof to back them. This holds good even in the context of the recently concluded UP elections, where superior strategy and clever campaigning resulted in a podium finish for Modi.
Yes, the results have astonished the political class, which was unable to see the writing on the wall and instead over-emphasised on the minority vote, thus inadvertently serving to facilitate the saffron brigade to consolidate its vote bank. Naturally, there are lessons to learn for everyone and this includes all the secular parties. They must realise that Modi cannot be beaten at his own game and by making loud declarations of secularism they were contributing to reverse polarisation, which suited the BJP.
There have been several attempts to explain how the BJP achieved its most spectacular win in the country following the 2014 Parliamentary polls. The most plausible but hard to believe explanation is that it was the Congress that lent a hand in enhancing the chances of its archrival. There can be no argument that even after the Congress was reduced to two seats from UP in the Lok Sabha, the party continued to have its presence in every nook and corner of the state. There were workers as well as supporters who were expecting that the grand old party would once again return to power and help them to realise their political as well as other ambitions.
However, the decision of the high command to go in for an unholy alliance with the Samajwadi Party must have come as a rude shock for the cadres, particularly because at the grassroots, the workers of these two organisations have always been on opposing sides. The situation was quite similar to what happened in West Bengal in the last elections, where Congress decided to have an understanding with the Communists as a result of which Mamata Banerjee had no difficulty in winning.
In UP, it appears that when the Congress agreed to contest only on 105 seats out of the 403 Assembly segments, the grim reality hit the workers. In political terms, it meant that the Congress activists were expected to work for the Samajwadi nominees in the remaining 298 seats, a matter they were most uncomfortable with. Besides, there were a number of SP candidates contesting on the Congress symbol. While the state leaders accepted the wishes of the high command, the workers were unwilling to obey the diktat. Many of the party’s supporters have been unhappy due to the pronounced tilt of its leadership towards the minorities and thus saw this as an opportunity to assert their anguish by siding with the BJP in a high voltage and surcharged divisive atmosphere.
It is evident that Congress workers and supporters in more than 300 seats revolted and thereby decided to back the BJP in their respective areas, thus boosting the chances of the saffron nominees, who were already buoyant due to the aggressive crusade by Modi. The Congress supporters’ contribution certainly did not take anything away from the superior strategy unfurled by Modi and Amit Shah, but it did help the BJP to escalate its vote share and as a consequence the number of seats.
The workers, of any party, make immense difference. There may be no concrete evidence, but in 1980 and 1984, it was estimated that a large number of BJP supporters and RSS volunteers worked for the success of the Congress. In the 2014 Parliamentary polls and the state elections that followed, several Congress leaders switched over to the BJP, helping it reap electoral dividends. The exodus from the Congress continues, since the party has been unable to set its own house in order. It is therefore natural that political functionaries are keeping their options open. Straight after the Assembly polls of 2017, the undercurrent in the Congress towards the BJP is visible in Goa where a newly elected legislator has abdicated his seat to huddle closer to the saffron brigade.
For workers and leaders, it is perhaps payback time for the RSS-BJP role in 1980 and 1984. A political paradox. Between us.