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Political Reorientation

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Going by the narrative pedaled by the Left, particularly abroad, the ‘Hindutva ideology’ of the BJP has overwhelmed India, leaving no space for dissension or other political beliefs. Many have been taken in by this, even within the BJP and come to believe that this is something to be taken for granted. Unfortunately for them, this is nothing close to the reality. The Indian voter has over the decades learned to exercise his or her electoral choice very adeptly. This does not in any way mean that the choices are very intelligent or beneficial to the general cause, but they are in accordance with an independent perception of self-interest.

The results of the latest round of bypolls to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies bear this out. Nowhere to be seen is anything like the ‘fascist’ steamrolling of opinion as made out by the propagandists. Every constituency contested has its particular tale to tell of the many gives and takes of a free political environment. In fact, the BJP has not fared too well in the polls, taking an outright beating in Himachal Pradesh, a state where it is in power. This may or may not be construed as anti-incumbency but it certainly has to do with constituency-wise configurations. In the Mandi Lok Sabha bypoll, it was a conscious decision to not put up the son of the incumbent that allowed the Congress candidate – another dynast – to win. Elsewhere, a rebel candidate and factionalism prevailed. Actually, it would seem that the Himachal BJP needs to learn from Mamata Banerjee’s TMC on using state power to pulverize opponents.

The results will have caused some consternation within the BJP as elections are due in important states like UP and Uttarakhand. It is important that lessons be learned from the setbacks. Most importantly, the complacent party cadre has to be shown how to interpret Prime Minister Modi’s political and economic philosophy for the common person. In an age when transformative policies are needed to survive basic existential challenges that confront the nation and the world, politics cannot be conducted in socialist vocabulary rooted in the eighteenth century worldview. The format of the discussion has to be changed and mere dependence on Modi’s charisma will not help at the local level. It must be understood that without local grassroots support and representation, merely running the government at the Centre will not suffice. The opposition also must take heart and not believe that its cause is lost. It will, however, require leaders that are Modi’s equal, if not better.