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New Delhi Ups The Game: IMPELS INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVES, By Dr D.K. Giri, 1 November 2019 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 1 November 2019

New Delhi Ups The Game

IMPELS INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVES

By Dr D.K. Giri

(Prof. International Politics, JMI)

 

India experiences a week of hectic diplomacy and international activism. New Delhi ups its game to reaffirm its international position and promote the national interest. Modi’s admirers, and there are a great many, would say in chorus that India is vigorously promoting its national interest and claim its global role. The critics would have a contrarian opinion. Our objective is to objectively reflect on the events of the week.

 

At least three major events are taking place which engage India and evaluate her diplomacy. Twenty seven members of European Parliament are on a study-visit to Kashmir, Modi is on a-day-visit to Saudi Arabia, and the third, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, the strongest economy of Europe landed yesterday for a-day-long visit today (1st November). These three engagements are driven by different objectives, yet, they test New Delhi’s diplomatic acumen as well as resilience.

 

Obviously, the visit by the Members of European Parliament is the most sensitive one in view of the world attention Kashmir draws, especially when Pakistan tries persistently to internationalise the issue. Pakistan is fully aware that it cannot snatch Kashmir from India by a war. New Delhi refuses to entertain any dialogue process as per the Shimla Agreement between the two countries signed in July 1972 until Pakistan stops sponsoring cross-border terrorism. Thus, the stalemate continues.

 

In the meantime, New Delhi abolished Article 370 that kept the State of J&K separate from the rest of the country by conferring it some special status. Pakistan backed by China raised it in the international fora, namely the United Nations, that the action by India amounted to injustice and even oppression of Kashmiris. New Delhi holds that it is an internal issue of India, and no country, let alone Pakistan, should have any opinion on it. However, post-abrogation of 370, two other countries Malaysia and Turkey criticised New Delhi’s action in the last UNGA. Modi government has reacted strongly to Turkey’s criticism. We covered that retaliation last week in this column.

 

Against this backdrop, the visit of 27 law-makers from European Parliament that has representation from 27 member countries bears considerable significance. This is the first foreign delegation after the D-Day, the 5th of August, the day, Parliament nullified Article 370.

 

There is quite a controversy around the high-powered delegation to Kashmir. One British MEP has protested that his name was dropped as he put a small rider to the scheduled programme i.e. he wanted to talk to the locals about how they feel after this drastic step was taken by the Union government. Remember, Britain itself is in throes of a political-diplomatic crisis on its withdrawal from the European Union. So, British MEPs protestation may not bite much.

 

The critics of Modi regime suggest that the delegation is stage-managed, by a social entrepreneur supportive of the government. Also, the MEPs are of a particular ideological shade, the right-wing conservative or neo-liberal. They are largely supportive of the government’s position. Such a perspective may sound cynical. If leaders from abroad support the defanging of Article 370 as internal governance matter of India, we should welcome it. Some of us have endorsed the action of the government while being critical of the manner it was done and the post-370 developments. A new governor has just been appointed, and one hopes that things return to normal sooner than later. What is of critical interest of the country, is what the visiting delegation remarks at the end of their programme.

 

The Home Minister had claimed that ‘not a bullet was fired’ in the valley since 5th August. One could say the ‘peace’ that followed the taking-over of the valley by the Union government accrued from total control of the people and institutions. But, that is also shattered, as bombs have exploded, and people killed. The best way to silence any international criticism is to improve the situation in Kashmir.

 

The second event is the a-day-long visit of Prime Minister Modi to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The NSA Ajit Doval was rushed to Saudi as it had expressed unhappiness over the situation in Kashmir, perhaps for the sake of some solidarity with their Sunni brethren in Pakistan. At the same time, Saudi Arabia is an important ally of USA in the Middle East. Ajit Doval seemed to have cooled the Saudi tempers.

 

However, the current visit by the Prime Minister is for trade and investment, backed by a strategic partnership. India and Saudi Arabia signed up for a Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) to monitor trade and energy. This is a significant move towards deepening the bilateral ties. The SPC will have two mechanisms – one led by the foreign ministers of both countries to cover political and diplomatic ties, and the other under the commerce ministers for trade and energy relations. Modi urged the rich Saudi Kingdom and the companies to invest in India. He promised to create favourable investment climate as India aims to become a $5 trillion economy.

 

The third important event is the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the ‘Iron lady’ of German politics. Despite huge problems of migrants in her own country, and the economic upheavals in the European Union, she survives in leadership of Germany as well as EU. But, what are our expectations and learnings from Germany? In the renewable energy sector, Germany is the world leader. Are we building our own RE infrastructure, reducing our crippling dependence on eh fossil fuel, although India is the convener, International Solar Alliance and so on.

 

To be sure, Germany is an economic power. New Delhi tends to mix-up or mismatch diplomacy and economy. With Germany, we should talk trade, technology and investment. And, if we can persuade Germany for appropriate technological collaboration, while assuring them the market, we would have drawn huge advantage. Talking terrorism and Kashmir in passing may be a good idea, but these should not dominate the agenda with Germans.

 

All in all, a busy week of diplomacy and international relations. The axiomatic truth of any successful foreign policy is having strong and credible domestic determinants or national capabilities. For now, it is our economy, political stability and a healthy society based on harmony, and nationhood. If Modi missed this link, we would have once again missed the bus. – INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

CPI Centenary: COMMUNISM Vs COMMUNIST PARTIES, By Dr S. Saraswathi, 24 Oct 2019 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 24 October 2019

CPI Centenary

COMMUNISM Vs COMMUNIST PARTIES

By Dr S. Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

 

Year-long centenary celebration of the Communist Party of India was inaugurated on 17 October 2019 even as controversies over its date of birth had not ended.  Whether the founding year was 1919 or 1925 as some believe, the fact that it was linked with post- First World War political development and was a movement in India that had to go along with Gandhiji’s Non-Cooperation would not change.

 

In the Ahmedabad session of the Indian National Congress in 1921, communist perspective of complete independence was put forth. This fact goes in favour of celebrating CPI centenary in 2019.

 

Those were turbulent years in the political scene in India. Second and third decades of the last century witnessed the  rise and growth of different streams of nationalist movements led by pacifists, moderates  and also radicals,  a  strong  Non-Brahmin and Self-Respect Movement in the then Madras Presidency,  rise of leaders to champion the cause of depressed classes,  and  the birth of Hindu Mahasabha.

 

According to some records, the Communist Party of India was founded with seven members which included MN Roy and MPT Acharya at Tashkent, which is presently in Uzbekistan. It represented socialist struggle against capitalist and colonial forces during the Freedom Movement.  It was against the zamindari system.

  

The centenary marks the survival of Communist parties against many odds though 2019 has confirmed its downward progress in parliamentary politics which started in 2014. Communist Parties and the Left Front in general   are at crossroads struggling through a conflict between Communist ideology given a burial under liberalisation and globalisation and Communist Parties desirous of retaining a place in Parliament and   elections.

 

In 2019 Lok Sabha election, CPI(M) – the party formed by split in the CPI in 1964 -  put up 70 candidates and won only three seats, and the CPI contested 51 and won two. In their best performance in 2004, the Left parties won 59 seats. From the status of being the main opposition party in the 1950s and 1960s, they declined to near total elimination in the Lok Sabha.  In West Bengal and Tripura, also their strongholds, Communist governments faced defeat.

 

The downfall of the Left parties which wielded considerable influence in the ruling parties in 1990s and early 2000s is rapid and decisive. It even came nearest to wresting the post of Prime Minister in the United Front government, but missed it due to ideological hold failing to accept reality. In 1996, the CPI(M) decided against accepting  the post of Prime Minister in a coalition of  the  United Front which  could not  accept in toto and implement its Marxist ideology. It was nowhere near winning majority to push its agenda.

 

The CPI (M) was fully in parliamentary politics, but was unable to take the road it opened. Left parties cannot take leadership of a coalition at the Centre, but are willing to be part of it. The case of regional governments is different.

  

However, the moot point is that the rout in Parliament does not signal the disappearance of pro-workers, pro-peasants, and pro-poor policies of Communist parties. Every party and every coalition of parties have to adopt populist policies, inclusive development, special assistance and concessions for the weaker, and actively strengthen their mass base. Consequently, Communist Parties have lost their unique ideological identity and have become one among many parties.

 

In other countries, Communist parties changed with the times. In China, starting as professed Marxists, they expanded to Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thoughts and kept away from Stalinism. Present China is able to adapt to liberalism from its communist base. Rise of radical Left parties became possible in many countries under new strategies of mobilisation and organisational structure. Indian Communists got split and are unable to merge and the two major groups -- CPI and CPI(M) -- have become different political parties, sometimes in the same political alliance and sometimes in different.

 

Communist parties failed to fill the gap between the Congress and the BJP as their political, electoral progress was not steady. Even ideological unity comes under strain due to differences in electoral politics. The label “Communist” became untenable long ago. Leadership is coming more and more from politically inclined people and not from grassroots workers actively involved in people’s problems. The bifurcation is like that between theorists and practitioners.

    

Differences within CPI(M) came into the open as never before on the question of leadership election in 2015. In 2014 election, the Left parties managed to win only 12 seats -- all from Kerala, West Bengal, and Tripura, and got a vote share less than 5 per cent. Shrinking support base of Left parties in general only showed that there were no takers for their ideologies. It had no attractive alternative model of development to attract voters. The CPI lost its status as a national party after 2014 election.

 

Before 2019 Lok Sabha election leadership itself was divided on the question of alliance with the Congress. Kerala and West Bengal units functioned like separate parties – a consequence of politics replacing ideology and guiding the party and taking reins. Though sharing power is not the stated objective, Communist parties want a say in political issues. It is reflective of the prolonged conflict the movement undergoes in transforming to parliamentary politics.

 

The first Communist government was formed in Kerala in 1957 and it was also the first government to fall to Article 356. Land reforms started in Kerala in 1969, and socialist ideas like people’s planning were introduced. Decentralised power distribution for planning and implementation and cooperative movements were introduced. The two, CPI and CPI(M) got into typical party politics and coalition governments in Kerala. At times, they are in rival political alliances.

 

In West Bengal, the Left came to power in 1976 and embarked on land reforms very soon.   CPI(M) rule continued for 34 years till 2011 when it was defeated by TMC. The defeat was not to anti-Communist forces as there was some kind of alliance between TMC and Leftist groups. Communist ideology had to make many compromises on its economic policy for survival in party politics and popular elections.

 

A speciality about the Left parties is the ability of leaders to remain in limelight and retain respect and recognition on the face of electoral defeats. But, membership is declining. Total extinction of Communist parties has not happened in India. Split in the CPI has helped to preserve the movement, while affecting Leftist unity and electoral strength.

 

The ideological battle in the minds of confirmed Leftists is a reason for the survival of Leftism as well as decline of electoral strength. They were in and out of Third Front by holding at times the importance of ideological convergence particularly on economic issues and inadequacy of   coalition of secular forces. The attempts to bring together CPI and CPI(M) have not succeeded in closing their organisational division.

 

There is no meaning in raising the question of relevance of communist ideology today. No “ism” like communism can become irrelevant though parties subscribing to it may become ineffective.  The conflict within and between Leftist parties is common to movements transforming into political parties.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Two State Polls: SIMILAR LESSONS, By Dr S.Saraswathi, 31 October 2019 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 31 October 2019

Two State Polls

SIMILAR LESSONS

By Dr S.Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

 

Haryana and Maharashtra Assembly elections followed barely five months after the amazing victory of the BJP in the Lok Sabha election, but both in campaigning and results, these were different. Though BJP headed alliances are in a position to form governments, it is not a cakewalk for the party that has remarkably grown in its national popularity and global stature.

 

Successful functioning of any coalition in these two States, given the poll results, will depend on several constraints inherent in alliance politics. The BJP will now have to take the allies more seriously and cannot afford to assume a big brother attitude. The States have convincingly proved that Lok Sabha election and State elections are not the same in all places. Federalism has its impact.

 

BJP’s individual gains declined in Maharashtra from 122 in 2014 to 105 this time – heavy loss of 17 seats. Shiv Sena’s strength declined from 63 to 56. The ambitious target of 220 seats set by BJP-Shiv Sena pre-poll alliance became a day dream as it won only 161 – a comfortable majority in a House of 288 but not a dominant position for the senior partner of the alliance.

  

A notable feature is that in 2014 Assembly election, BJP and Shiv Sena had no pre-poll alliance and in 2019 they had. But, they issued their separate election manifestoes which had both common and different promises. Though not antagonistic with one another, their priorities varied.

 

BJP contested 150 seats and won 105 with 25.8 per cent vote share; Shiv Sena contested 124 and won 56 with vote share of 16.4 %. The BJP is undoubtedly so much stronger than its ally that observers even comment that it could have won more seats had it contested alone.

 

In 2014, the combined vote share of the two parties was more than 47 per cent whereas it declined substantially when they contested as allies in 2019 to 42.2 per cent. Both BJP and Shiv Sena have lost their vote share as the number of seats they contested was less than in 2014. It shows that alliances are not simple arithmetical matter of combining votes. Sometimes electoral alliance is not popular with the people. BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is continuing with constant unfriendly comments between them confusing the voters. That alliance is pure politics of survival and power sharing and not a strategy to strengthen policies and performance is established beyond any doubt.

 

Region-wise, the allies faced setbacks in Marathwada and Western Maharashtra where NCP registered its presence remarkably.

 

In the UPA, the story is different with the NCP exhibiting better performance winning 54 seats with 16.7 per cent of votes against the Congress securing 44 seats with 15.8 per cent of votes.  NCP has become the major partner of the UPA in Maharashtra, a change very relevant to the future of UPA and to Congress as well as to the Third Front that is playing on and off tricks.

 

In Haryana, the BJP scored only 40 losing 7 seats and falling short by 6 seats to gain majority.   However, it is the single largest party winning 36.5 per cent of votes polled. The Congress won 31 seats with 28.1 per cent of votes. This result allows comfortable bargaining power to other winners representing about 35 per cent of vote share. Among others, the solid group of  Jannayak  Janta Party (JJP) emerged as the crucial supporting actor which the BJP got hold of to form the government. It won 10 seats with vote share of about 15 per cent. There are also 9 Independents most of them willing to go with the front runner.

 

There is a common comment that BJP’s stress on nationalism, which paid huge dividends in Lok Sabha election has not worked this time as expected. The status of Kashmir and reference to abrogation of Article 370, the National Register of Citizens, Uniform Civil Code are no doubt great achievements of the BJP, but as some political analysts think, they are not so relevant to catch votes in State elections. Some party men were also of the opinion that micro-level local issues could shift votes even in national elections and definitely influence State and local elections more than macro national issues. 

 

On many elections, voters have proved that they have considerable knowledge of the powers of the Union and State governments and cannot be sidetracked with irrelevant issues. Day-to-day economic matters bother them more than what happens in the borders. Employment, price rise, debt relief, farmers’ woes, water shortage, women’s safety, pensions are matters that they want the government to deal with effectively and urgently keeping  people’s welfare in normal day-to-day life as the goal of State governments. Hence, they expect leaders to speak on such matters and promise them to improve living conditions rather than abstract issues of uniform law and national spirit. Even important issues like gender equality and freedom of religion take a secondary place when confronted with livelihood issues.

  

Another feature of election outcome is the hard truth that purely local politics and personality clashes often become crucial deciding factor in elections. It is undeniable particularly in places where strong regional parties are in the field which are capable of magnifying local problems and boosting the image of local leaders. It works even in Lok Sabha election.

  

Eight ministers in Maharashtra and seven in Haryana were defeated. Nineteen prominent leaders, who switched sides to join the BJP on the eve of election, were also defeated. Defections may be a simple matter for professional politicians, but may not always help in career building.

  

All these lessons sound logical and election results appear to support them. Still, the fact that electioneering in Maharashtra and Haryana was not as vigorous as in Lok Sabha election was also a factor that must be given due weight. BJP leaders had less time to visit the election field and Congress leadership had pressing organizational problems which must have impacted campaigning. As a contrast, Sharad Pawar’s brisk electioneering brought gains to the NCP.

 

It is also proved that while issues like Bharat Ratna for Veer Savarkar and value-based education may not decide voting pattern, promises of populist schemes are also not enough. The Congress-NCP alliance issued a joint election manifesto, which made lavish promises like 22 days of work under MGNREGA, monthly allowance of Rs 5,000 for unemployed youth, minimum salary of Rs 21,000 per month for workers, waiving of property tax for residences below 500 sq.ft. area, reducing fines under Motor Vehicles Act, interest-free education loan, etc. Loan waiver and reduction of penalties introduced in the Motor Vehicles Act were prime promises of the two parties. 

 

In Haryana, the BJP did not promise farm loan waiver, but it was the main focus of the Congress.  Job reservation for women up to 33 per cent was also an attraction in the Congress manifesto – an unrealistic promise, but seems to have increased Congress tally from 17 to 31.

 

The two State elections have yielded similar lessons for both winners and losers. Both have reasons to hope and worry.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

Liberalised Remittance Scheme:LEAKS FOREIGN EXCHANGE?, By Proloy Bagchi, 26 Oct 2019 Print E-mail

Spotlight

New Delhi, 26 October 2019

Liberalised Remittance Scheme

LEAKS FOREIGN EXCHANGE?

By Proloy Bagchi

 

Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi are not the only people who have parked their wealth abroad. They have, however, done so after having cheated the Indian financial system. While Mehul Choksi traded his ill-gotten wealth for an Antiguan citizenship, the two others named above have not been reported to have done so. While Mallya is waiting for an order regarding his extradition, the two others are yet to get into the Indian nets.

 

These three are examples of cheats who bribed their way to build their wealth and are now awaiting retribution. There are, however, others like the film actor Akshay Kumar who charms the Indian film lovers and goes and buys a whole hill in Canada. Many Indians who love his films that are tinged with nationalism perhaps do not know that he is a citizen of Canada and allegedly spreads the lie that he has dual citizenship of India and Canada, when India has no provision for dual citizenship.

 

That does not detract from the fact that he is seemingly honest about his money matters and is a very popular actor, so much so that his brand endorsements make around $35 million (around Rs 250 crore) per annum for him apart from the Rs. 30 crore that he reportedly charges per film. Though he invests most of his money abroad, yet curiously he is in good books of powers that be, including Prime Minister Modi. At the same time, he does take pride in saying that he works in India and pay all his taxes. However, why cannot he spend a few of his millions in India where people seem to be crazy about him? If he does so, the fact is not widely known.

 

Akshay Kumar’s millions are all presumably legitimate, whereas Mallya’s and those of others are not. As it happens there are numerous Indians who are now parking their funds abroad, apparently, preparatory to their own shift in foreign climes. While the government is trying to get as much foreign portfolio investments (FPI) as possible the country witnessed the highest ever monthly remittance abroad of $1.69 billion by resident Indians in July 2019 under the liberalised remittance scheme (LRS). Accounting this with the preceding four months, the outflow of money in foreign exchange has hit $5.8 billion in the first four months of 2019-20. Since 2014 the outflow under LRS amounts to $45 billion (3.5 lakh crore in rupee terms @ Rs 70 to a dollar).

 

Under the LRS resident Indians are allowed to remit up to $250,000 in a financial year for various specified reasons, such as going overseas on employment, studies overseas, emigration, maintenance of close relatives, medical treatment, etc. The resident Indians can also transfer money under LRS for opening foreign currency account overseas, purchase of property and making investments in mutual and venture capital funds. The RBI data reveals that the outflow of funds under LRS during the last 5 years (from 2014 to 2019) has been far more than FPI in the same period, thus negating the latter’s beneficent effects.

 

Various reasons, from economic to social and cultural, have been attributed for the rise of this phenomenon. The reasons are somewhat imprecise and analysts have not been able to pin-point the specific reasons for the (mis)use of the LRS. Investment experts and others in the business of fund management say that the sharp rise in outflow of funds under LRS over the last five years indicates flight of capital and of small and mid-sized businessmen from India. Many of these affluent businessmen wish to shift base to developed countries where work culture is better, profits are high, taxes reasonable and life is hassle-free.

 

Others feel that the taxes now are too high and that on payment of such high taxes in an advanced and developed country they could get a much better quality of life. Then, of course, the social factor, that of a persistent unease in society, bugs many, who increasingly find their universe suffering from lack of societal harmony and cohesion.

 

Expressing their anxiety many investment experts feel that even if 50 per cent of the amounts sent abroad stayed back in the country and got invested in the country it could have resulted in a big multiplier effect in terms of job creation and growth of the economy. Hence many experts in the field think the government should arrest this trend. It seems to be valid proposition as many of us in India are unscrupulous and make dishonest use of facilities extended by the government.

 

Foreign exchange is precious and is hard to come by. Misusing the facility, one should think, is criminal. Analysis of the data has shown that the amounts parked abroad during 2014-19 are almost 9 times more than what was sent abroad during 2009-14.

 

One tends to feel the provisions of LRS are far too liberal than necessary. While the Reserve Bank of India has prescribed the ways to monitor the outward remittances it has also recently redefined the term “relatives”, remittances for the upkeep or medical treatment of whom ballooned in recent years. If the RBI has to be very generous a mechanism needs to be devised to check whether the amounts sanctioned were used for the purpose(s) they were released. The system in existence should not provide for un-noticed leaks of precious foreign currency.

 

Besides, care has to be taken to ensure that outward remittances do not out-strip or negate the inward investments. The health of the economy has to be the prime consideration when the government extends various facilities and offers concessions to the people. Their abuse should be checked and punished wherever noticed. ---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

ABKI BAAR BJP, But….: GAME OF THRONES GOES AWRY, By Poonam I Kaushish, 29 Oct 2019 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 29 October 2019

ABKI BAAR BJP,  But….

GAME OF THRONES GOES AWRY

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

It began as a one horse race. A predictable election with a public relations blitzkriegs leading to a foregone conclusion that the BJP would come up trumps, even as a deflated Congress mounted a half-hearted slow-off-the-block campaign with the Gandhi Parivar barely registering their presence. Yawn. Suddenly two regional satraps Congress’s Hooda and NCP’s Pawar rose phoenix like and led a valiant push back in Haryana and Maharashtra. Yet it came to naught as the Saffron Sangh emerged victorious taking it all.

Leaving hanging the question: At what cost? It exposed that the Modi-Shah matrix was not infallible, despite micromanagement of candidates and campaigns. They could be held down and trounced by a strong regional leader who could exploit their weaknesses. The Maratha supremo Pawar and Jat strongman Hooda did just that.

Winning 54 seats, the NCP underscored its dominance was one of the primary reasons why the BJP-Sena alliance failed to secure a landslide victory.  In Haryana the Congress score of 31 ensured the Saffron needed crutches of Chautala’s JJP to reach a majority of 46 MLAs, way below its call of ‘Abki baar 75 paar’.

Certainly, the Congress-NCP performed better than expected but fell short of posing any real threat to the ruling BJP-Sena combination. The BJP-Sena alliance won 161 of 288 Assembly seats to form the Government comfortably even though their combined tally was less than 2014 when the two Parties stitched a post-poll alliance. The BJP tally fell to 105 from 122 seats in 2014 and way below the halfway mark 144 which it hoped to win.

It will now face changed equations with a more confident Opposition led by Pawar and a more aggressive Shiv Sena already demanding a 50-50 power sharing for all Ministerial berths and rotational Chief Minister. Asserted Thackeray “I am not warning but only reminding of what had been discussed.”

Pertinently, voters gave a thumbs down to turncoats in both States. At least 19 of 35 defectors who left Congress and NCP to join the BJP and Shiv Sena lost as did nine Ministers, two Cabinet and seven junior Ministers. Adding insult, the BJP lost three seats where Modi held rallies. Interestingly, NOTA (none of the above) garnered a large number of voters in several constituencies.  

In Haryana the voters’ disenchantment was stronger as it nixed six top Ministers and booted out defectors. Clearly, the Party’s ‘revolving door’ policy of encouraging defections from other Parties to partake power at all cost has lead to its “Congressisation” and become an albatross round its neck. Not only did it led to discontent among its rank and file but many leaders turned rebels, fought elections as independents thereby hitting the Party's fortune. Putting a question mark against the-anything- goes-in- rajniti

Undeniably, this is a wake-up call for the BJP. The results show that conjuring up mass hysteria of NaMo and ‘All is well’ has its limitations. Of course, one could argue that the Party had set the bar to high and was trying to outreach itself. Of not only a Congress Mukt Bharat but annihilate the entire Opposition and establish its ideological hegemony across the country.

But one thing is crystal clear. Despite its communication skills, adept use of technology in its social and public outreach and managing its image, the Saffron Sangh failed to read the political pulse of the people. The State polls happened under the shadow of economic slowdown, weak consumer demand and rising joblessness.

The results indicate that economic distress has political consequences and has finally started to hurt the BJP. While it fought the election on muscular nationalism including Article 370 and soaring global clout, the final outcome indicates voters, especially in rural areas voted more on local bread and butter issues which were adroitly highlighted and exploited by its opponents.

After all, depending mostly on the personal persona of macho Modi, image building of its Chief Ministerial candidates and booth management has its limitations in State elections where voters are more concerned about roti, kapada aur makaan. Its tirade against “Parivarvaad” too came a cropper. As in both States Pawar, Deshmukh, Thackeray, Hooda, Chautala etc dynasts led the counter charge and won.

At a broader level, though the BJP has strong central leadership it has yet to build State level leaders in States like Maharashtra and Haryana who can dominate the political space. Plainly, it came to power riding on an overarching Modi wave but that wasn’t enough to expand its base.

Perhaps the BJP has shot itself in the foot by being too cocky and overplaying its nationalistic zealousness. Time know for Modi-Shah and the top brass to realize that nationalism has only limited appeal but pitted against hungry stomachs it faces a losing battle. There is no escape from fixing the economy and providing jobs and income. Bluntly, it needs a rapid course correction as it goes to the husting in three States Delhi, Bihar and Jharkhand.

Besides, the elections also highlight the limitations of cocking a snook at deeply embedded caste politics. BJP's strategy of consolidating non-dominant castes has its limitation. Notwithstanding  this strategy successfully worked in UP, Bihar, Assam and West Bengal elections.

By vilifying politically dominant communities Marathas and Jats by rallying numerically smaller and less dominant castes, the BJP got mud on its face. Both Fadnavis and Khattar were no match to tackle Pawar and Hooda’s caste equations. In Haryana, Jat votes consolidated behind the Congress in a much bigger way than in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. Ditto In Maharashtra.

Further, it is a warning that there are cracks in the BJP edifice and it cannot take its winning streak for granted. Given there is something fragile and nothing predictable about it. It is a cue that political dadagiri in a democracy is made of several layers between the voter and Party and needs constant nurturing.

Importantly, the BJP needs to ask itself if Modi’s leadership and popularity alone is enough to win polls? True, it got the Party 303 Lok Sabha seats but the NaMo mascot couldn’t swing a majority in both States, thereby signaling the limits of a personality cult and the dangers of banking on it exclusively and excessively.  

The results hold a flicker of hope that the Opposition is back. It indicates the BJP is unable o improve its tally in States where it is in power and is seeking reelection. Parties need to have smart and credible coordination to convert peoples’ angst into a protest vote for an alternate economic and ideological narrative. The manner in which the interplay evolves will determine the nature of political opposition.

The BJP setback has partially revived a comatose Congress and shown that it is time the Gandhi’s took a back seat and allow local satraps to take charge in States. Honestly answer whether it does better in the absence of its central leadership? It needs to usher in organizational change, structural reforms and give power to leaders who have a direct connect with the masses.  A churn has already began.

Elections are a great leveler of inflated egos and bruised ambitions. It would be a mistake to read the poll verdict as a decline in Modi’s popularity and numero uno status. Yet citizens have emerged victorious as they have shown their power to propel leaders to dizzy heights or expose their feet of clay. More power to the People! ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

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