Friday, 31 March 2017

Towards a Congress Mukt Bharat?

BJP President Amit Shah clarified about a year ago that his party's vision of a 'Congress mukt Bharat' (Congress free India) meant a break from the decades of disorder under the Congress and not just getting rid of the political party. As it stands now, I strongly believe that the people of India have embraced the idea wholeheartedly. 

Illustrating the point is the evolution of the political landscape of India as shown below. To the left is the landscape as it stood in June 2013 and to the right is the landscape as of March 2017. Witness how BJP (yellow) - singly or in coalition- is rapidly overrunning not only the Congress (Green), but even regional parties (Blue). 

Political Landscape of India (June 2013 v March 2017)

Admittedly, BJP's unprecedented victory in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 confounded all expectations (including mine). However, since then the party has dramatically expanded its footprint across India. Not only has it captured several key states, it has made significant inroads in states like Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Kerala, where it never even had a presence hitherto. Factors like "polarisation" of the electorate or even caste equations cannot adequately explain this phenomenon. The very fact that BJP won in Muslim dominated constituencies in Uttar Pradesh (UP) goes to prove that old electoral logic equations no longer hold true.

The one common thread across all BJP wins has been the fact that they appealed to aspirations rather than fears or grievances. For example, the very first sentence of their election manifesto for UP emphasised "Change", "Development" and "Empowerment". Having interacted with people from nearly every strata of society over the last year or so, I can testify to the desire for a change, for empowerment rather than entitlement. It is precisely this sentiment that the party has repeatedly tapped into. Nearly every other political party speaks the old language of identity or freebies.

Modi: The Disruptor

I do not deny even for a moment that identity politics might have contributed at the individual constituency level. Nonetheless, it is self-serving and patronising to put down BJP's electoral successes to that factor alone. Opponents and political 'pundits' seem unable or unwilling to grasp the fact that BJP has created an electoral space that's exclusively its own through the promise of good governance and better opportunities.

The simple reality is that India is a land of aspirations where the people are tired of the old way of doing things after decades of being denied even the most basic governance. One party has repeatedly promised a break from the past and the electorate has voted on its feet. Congress mukt Bharat is no longer an electoral catchphrase- it is what the people of India want today. Those who comes to terms with changed realities will survive. The rest will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

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