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Wrong Response

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The police should have done a better job of keeping BJP protestors away from the Congress State Headquarters in Dehradun on Wednesday. Protests, allegations, even lying have increasingly become part of the political lexicon these days, but in Uttarakhand at least, there should be zero space for violence. It does not take much for even the most civilised of people to become lumpenised, as has been seen in West Bengal, home of the Indian Renaissance. The Chief Minister and the BJP State President should unequivocally apologise for the lines that were crossed and set a good example.
It is clear that the BJP has been jolted by the recent assembly election defeats. It feels that below the belt politicking by the Congress, particularly its National President, needs to be answered in kind. Taking the high road and appealing for votes on the basis of ‘good work’ does not seem to have worked. However, it must give credit to the electorate of the states concerned for knowing what they want. Most importantly, the results ought not to be looked at as a verdict against Prime Minister Modi’s performance. Instead of responding blindly on the basis of emotion, the actual facts on the ground ought to be studied to obtain an understanding of what led to the setbacks. After all, governments that have been in power for fifteen years would naturally have built up anti-incumbency. It would be foolish to accept Rahul Gandhi’s claims that his campaigning changed the people’s mood, though it may have acted as a lightning rod.
The party must build up a narrative independent of what the opposition says. Inspiration can be taken from former MP Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan, who has already sent shivers up many spines by claiming he would be back earlier than in five years. The party seems to have become lazy, abandoning its much lauded grassroots work in the expectation that PM Modi’s charisma will help win even the municipal level elections. It must consolidate every vote in its traditional vote base and target new voters by identifying their concerns and aspirations. Rahul Gandhi has benefited by hyphenating himself with Narendra Modi, there is no need for the BJP’s response to put wind in his sails. There is a reason why Modi, himself, ignores the Congress President, mocking him only tangentially.
The BJP has a huge majority in the Uttarakhand Assembly and it does not need street level confrontations, as that would only put the Congress back on centre-stage. Merely implementing effectively a few of the PM’s programmes, such as Ayushman Bharat, would get it the votes and support it needs in abundance.