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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2831

Can BJP Climb Higher in 2020?

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

If the last few weeks of the year just gone by are set aside, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party can look back to 2019 with satisfaction. The BJP was certainly more than pleased with its thumping victory in the Lok Sabha polls last May in which it exceeded its 2014 performance followed by success in achieving most of the goals of its Hindutva agenda. It was able to sell stories of its success in giving Pakistan the stick. Narendra Modi has remained the most popular leader of the country.

The special status of Jammu and Kashmir has been abolished, perhaps permanently; the orthodox sections in the Muslim community had to swallow the fact that the government was able to bring the law that criminalizes ‘triple talaq’; a Supreme Court order has paved the way for the promised ‘grand’ Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya and the citizenship law has been amended to please the majority community and provide a way to ‘fix’ the ‘others’.

Yet, some signs visible during the last few weeks must have made BJP’s New Year celebrations less joyous. No matter how much the BJP may pretend not to care about it or even acknowledge it, India’s stock in the wide world has gone down. The Kashmir policy of the BJP has been linked to the human rights issue and it has shown an unprecedented fall in India’s image.

The bards at the court of the ruling party have to take note of the fact that the ability of their idol to swing votes of the masses in favour of the Lotus now looks less reassuring. This could well be because the masses are beginning to come out of their slumber of over five years and look for answers to questions that the ruling party refuses to entertain.

The ability to keep the masses under thrall with oratory of Modi and hawking of his brand of nationalism and patriotism do not work to the desired level. Many have started to accuse him of speaking untruths and the negative impact of his misleading claims while avoiding addressing issues of people’s concern was shown by the results of five recent state assembly polls.

Unfavourable winds for the BJP had started blowing soon after the last Lok Sabha polls. The saffron party’s performance in assembly polls saw it losing with alarming regularity. What made it worse was the fact that the BJP allies were either breaking away or singing discordant notes.

For the demoralized Opposition, three recent state elections brought unexpected happiness and surprise which smelt of BJP decline at the cost of the rise of Opposition. The story of BJP’s show in the three states was aptly summed up by the former home and finance minister, P. Chidambaram. ‘The BJP was dented in Haryana, denied in Maharashtra and defeated in Jharkhand’, said he as he asked the Opposition parties to raise their sights.

In Haryana the BJP had boasted that it will bag ‘75+’ seats in the 90-member state assembly; it actually could scrape through with 40 and using its expertise in stealing support from rival camps managed to form the government by getting support of the JJP which had fought the polls on anti-BJP plank.

Maharashtra found the BJP unable to stop its 25-year old ally Shiv Sena snap ties and form the government with the help of the NCP and Congress both of which ideologically as far removed from the Shiv Sena as the BJP. The tested and tried trick of poaching MLAs from the rival camps failed in Maharashtra.

Jharkhand dealt a severe blow to the BJP as it was the second tribal dominated state, after neighbouring Chattisgarh, to reject the BJP. The social engineering of the BJP appeared to be faltering.

Two state polls due in 2020 will be crucial for the BJP and both look difficult to win—Delhi and West Bengal. In Delhi, the popular mood seems to favour the Aam Admi Party. Even if the result is not a repeat of the 2015 polls when the AAP won 67 of the 70 seats in Delhi, the BJP faces an uphill task of winning 36 seats to become the majority party in Delhi.

Till the time the BJP tinkered with the citizenship legislation, the saffron party appeared to be in a position to oust Mamata Banerjee and her TMC in West Bengal. The wide opposition to the CAA and NRC in West Bengal—and the rest of the country—has upset the BJP applecart.

Bihar is also expected to elect a new assembly. The BJP was defeated in the last state assembly poll but Nitish Kumar of JD (U) switched his loyalty from the RJD-Congress alliance to help bring the BJP in power. The JD (U) and BJP will fight the state polls together but the palpable strain in their relations makes it difficult to predict the outcome.

There is an impression that the BJP does not care much about losing the states as long as its position as the ruling party at the centre is assured and Modi remains India’s undisputed mascot. But it can be countered with the argument that Modi’s pull as the unchallenged national leader and his high rating as the prime minister have looked questionable after the adverse poll results in five state assemblies.

He has probably oversold himself. The hollowness of his boasts about all-round progress and development in the country is become apparent by the day as not a day seems to pass without economists sounding less hopeful of continued success of the India story. The impact of the skewed economic polis is beginning to be felt at the popular level, especially because of the utter failure to curb unemployment and rise in prices of essential commodities.

The eruption of poplar movement against CAA and NRC, almost entirely by the youth, has the potential to knock down Modi and his party from their high pedestal. And the number of people disagreeing with the BJP is growing. Polls and surveys conducted by certain pro-BJP media organisations on the issue of CAA and NRC confirm that trend, although these organisations deleted the outcome as soon as it became known that the results would not please the BJP.

The lows to which some of the top BJP leaders fall will make it all the more difficult for the saffron party to enlarge its appeal to the ‘floating’ voters who are often the decisive factor at the time of polling—be it an assembly poll or the Lok Sabha poll.

- Asian Tribune -

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