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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, undoubtedly, is the man of the match and the series. But the massive victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand (which was earlier part of UP) is being read in many ways: as the final consecration of the Hindu vote, the result of polarisation of the electorate or tampering with the electronic voting machine. Is that all? Wasn’t the Hindu vote consecrated in 1991 during the height of the Ramjanmabhoomi campaign? Or even before, in the wake of the assassination of Indira Gandhi? And polarisation, has there ever been an election in north India where there wasn’t an attempt to polarise the polity? And haven’t those offering security to Muslims benefited out of this polarisation?
I feel there were other factors at work. First of all, there was tremendous anger against the incumbent Samajwadi Party government, whose rule normally means Yadav rule over the countryside with no reins on the rural rowdies. But it was impossible to understand this sentiment because of an advertisement blitzkrieg unleashed by the Akhilesh Yadav government. “Government business” effectively drowned real reportage. Outlook was the only national news organisation that was left out of this largesse, out of some old pique. But that doesn’t mean that we could effectively call the polls. I was also misled by “UP ki kahaniyan” and insisted that it is “advantage alliance” in an earlier column on the SP-Congress tie-up.
Mayawati, the one-woman party, was obviously not an alternative this time around for non-Jatav voters. She had cynically added up her 20 per cent Dalit votes and 19 per cent Muslim votes, without visiting the Muzaffarnagar riot camps or the Dadri lynching victim’s house even once. Her lasting legacy as chief minister after four attempts and one full term in office with a simple majority were a slew of corruption charges, a beautiful house in Delhi’s diplomatic enclave and her own statue. She was so completely cut off from reality that she did not even consider offers of alliance from the Congress. Contrast this with another chief minister, Nitish Kumar. He knew that only a bipolar fight will help him and ensured one by embracing his biggest opponent of many decades. Mayawati didn’t have this political sense and worse, she turned out to be a bad loser. She has every right to accuse the BJP of rigging the polls and tampering with the EVMs; after all, didn’t the BJP make similar accusations in 2009? But before undermining the credibility of the democratic process, she should have dug up some proof, at the very least, some circumstantial evidence to make the claims sound credible.
Meanwhile, Modi did offer an alternative. He pitched the poor against the rich with his demonetisation narrative and claimed to be the poor Hindu’s representative, particularly those non-dominant castes who were not represented by an Akhilesh Yadav or a Mayawati: the non-Yadav OBCs, the non-Jatav Dalits and the upper castes—a formidable combination, indeed. And it was a spectacular victory. But his party is not living up to the grandeur of its victory. Such an unprecedented win should have made anyone more generous. The BJP should have let go of Goa. The Congress was the single largest party, the BJP’s chief minister had faced a humiliating defeat and the Goa Forward Party was opposed to the BJP. In such a situation, the BJP could have magnanimously sat out in the Opposition. But then, the Congress had long sucked the last iota of idealism out of our political system and it is absurd now to expect its opponents to set new rules for the old game.