What is the mood of the voter in India? I’ve been asking many people this question. If you consider Gujarat Assembly elections, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan bypolls to deliver one kind of message, Tripura delivered quite a different message. Maybe Karnataka will send a different message altogether. But question is, is the voter happy with the government, displeased with it or angry at it?
Why Is the Public Angry?
The answer could be seen in the results of Gorakhpur, Phulpur, Araria and Jehanabad bypolls. It can be seen as a survey of the mood of the people. The answer is that public displeasure is slowly mounting to anger. It has sent a strong message to the governments in Delhi and Lucknow. The message is ‘You are not running a government, but a mere election campaign. You are imposing an agenda on us which we don’t buy. You had made some promises to us in 2014, it’s time to fulfill them. It’s time to come out of the echo-chamber of campaign and propaganda.’
This stern message has been sent by the voter to the BJP in Northern India where they won as many as 232 seats of their 282 tally.
They have breached the bastion of Gorakhpur, where the current chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath was a Member of Parliament for the last 20 years. The city that is said to be in the grip of Yogi Adityanath.
The BJP-Nitish alliance was dealt with a similar blow in Bihar. If they thought that the battlefield was clear after Lalu Yadav was jailed, his son Tejashwi emerged a formidable opponent.
The myth that Mayawati would succumb to CBI pressure has also been dispelled in this election, when the BSP supremo decided not to field a candidate to ensure that anti-BJP votes aren’t split. Just one year ago, the candidates from Samajwadi Party were badly defeated in the Assembly constituencies that fall under Gorakhpur and Phulpur.
What changed in that one year that the public who had outright rejected Akhilesh in 2017 had now awarded him Lok Sabha seats that were once held by top BJP leaders?
It can only mean that the next election is an open game and that there is no guarantee that BJP will achieve a majority in 2019 on its own. The summary of all the elections post 2014 is that the voter wants to return to the era of coalition politics.
BJP’s pet narrative of Hindu vs Muslim and India vs Pakistan may not work anymore. But it would be wrong to anticipate that the BJP will budge from this path. They did have the intention to increase their support base by focussing on the poor, the underprivileged, rural voters, Dalits, farmers and youth. For that, they have to take a stand which is anti-rich, anti-corrupt and may lead them away from the middle class. But this may simply result in the BJP losing on both fronts.
The BJP may decide to sideline the questions that are being raised about its delivery on campaign promises. But what the BJP is claiming and what the voter feels in real life are two very different things. A proxy approach won’t work here. Mere stats on employment creation and development will not help the BJP and that, is the message.
(This copy was originally published on Quint Hindi. It has been translated by Anubhav Mishra.)