The interesting fact about the BJP’s victory in Tripura is not that the CPM lost one of its last two bases of power. It was the annihilation of the Congress which gave a decisive signal. Rahul Gandhi must have known the game was up. That is probably why he was with his naani in Italy rather than facing the music in person in the Northeast.
The excuses given by the Opposition for the BJP’s victory were the usual ones. That the BJP threw money around, were communalist etc. The facts are much more mundane. Rahul finds it difficult to focus on any political chore for a week at a time. Amit Shah, on the other hand, is relentlessly active, fighting election after election. In elections, you need cadres that can work around the clock and leadership which gives them important guidance. The contrast between the two party presidents is telling.
The showing in Gujarat made the Congress complacent. They forgot that it was the two youth leaders Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani who brought the foot soldiers which compensated for the lack of cadres in the Congress. People join the Congress to get tickets, not to work hard at the grassroots to spread the political message.
The penny may have dropped for the other parties that the Congress is not reliable. With its new Hindutva ideology, many opposition parties will be wary before joining it in a coalition. The Trinamool Congress’s Mamata Banerjee has already signalled that she wants a Third Front. This would be a coalition that someone like Mr Asaduddin Owaisi can join with a clean conscience. He will not be comfortable with a party boasting of its pucca Brahmin leadership.
This may also be the attitude of Mayawati and the BSP, as well as the Yadav parties.
It is a whole year till the general elections. One should never take any election for granted. The one loss the BJP suffered was in Rajasthan. In Madhya Pradesh bypolls, the Congress retained its seats; the BJP did not lose any. Add to that the triumph in the Northeast even as the Opposition was trying to connect the Nirav Modi scandal with the Prime Minister because of the similar name. The public is not that stupid. It ignored the bank fraud.
For the government, the economic news will improve as the year goes by. The GDP growth rate is already above 7 per cent. Inflation is under control, but you never know whether another onion crisis would break out. The big challenge is jobs. As I have argued before, there can only be few formal desk jobs. There are other opportunities to earn livelihoods — roji. The pakodawala does not have a job but he earns a livelihood. The government has to show that opportunities to earn livelihoods are being created. As the economy is largely informal and services-oriented, most livelihood opportunities will be informal. NITI Aayog needs to clarify the situation.
The things that could go wrong for the government is the behaviour of its MLAs and MPs. Power may or may not corrupt. It definitely makes politicians in power arrogant. The attacks on the statues of Ambedkar and Periyar show that while Narendra Modi wants sabka saath, many BJP members are still stuck in a Brahminical state of mind. You may beat people up for gau raksha but then don’t expect them to vote for you.
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