what a swing!

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Dec 2018 12:10:56

INDIA’s domestic politics has seen a major sign of change with the outcome of the elections to the legislatures of five States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram. The details be left to news columns for full description of what actually happened where and how, but a dispassionate analysis of the massive change that hit the electoral arena now points to the mood of the electors. The change indicates a decline in acceptance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and hike in the acceptance of the Congress party. This swing is not normal, to say the least. Much to the contrary, this is an abnormal shift in public perception about who has almost lost the grip of political reality and who has signalled a near-return to national centrestage. If this is a very serious setback to the BJP and also a loud-and-clear wake-up call, it is an energising sign for Congress to feel good about its own electoral prospects in the Lok Sabha polls four months later. 

Since the outcome in Telangana and Mizoram was almost fully predictable, there is no need to factor it in the overall analysis at this moment. The discussion, therefore, must be restricted to the three States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Some may be tempted to use the term ‘anti-incumbency factor’ to explain the shift in public opinion in these States. But let us go beyond that shallow temptation, and delve into issues that could be cited as reasons for the decline in BJP’s electoral appeal despite the good work its Governments have done undoubtedly in the three States.

One of the most critical factors is the inability of the BJP’s rank and file to realise that the party has been losing its connect with the grass-roots. Beyond doubt, its Governments did launch many great projects, but could not communicate their benefits appropriately to the masses. In sharp contrast, the Congress party adopted a rather cantankerous approach to its propaganda, which the BJP could not match, let alone outsmart. This lack of public connect, no matter claims to the contrary, perhaps stemmed from arrogance that may accompany long periods in power. The BJP’s think-tank and rank and file could not sense even the perceptible shift in public choice.

In sharp contrast, Congress was fully alert, and willing to take the plunge into any issue, arousing not just its own cadres but also popular opinion against the BJP. The Congress propaganda was noisy, boisterous, and relentless, whereas the BJP’s efforts were marked by certain sedateness that could be read even as diffidence -- though very much without valid reason. In all the three States where the BJP looked so soundly ensconced, the party appeared fractured by mutual distrust and absence of unity in talk and the walk.

Again, the electoral details apart, it is necessary for the BJP to realise that it has failed itself, and therefore, must start the process of rebuilding its electoral edifice ahead of the Lok Sabha elections just a few months away. There is little doubt that the BJP’s national leadership is alert to the changing situation. Yet, it is necessary to remind the party that its continuance in power at the Centre is a national necessity. Therefore, its efforts must be geared back to full throttle from that point of view.

True, for the Congress party, its overall performance is worth patting its own back. It has shown a very commendable resilience in bouncing back into contention in just four years after losing power at the Centre. It is a party with great history, and possibly a promise for the future. If it manages to navigate the arduous path of a united front of Opposition parties, it may enhance its own chances in the Lok Sabha polls. Beyond the details, this mid-term mandate has given the Congress party something to feel good about, and for the BJP a time to snap up to alertness.