The Bharatiya Janata Party may have emerged as the dark horse in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, but the one message that has come out loud and clear from the election results for the legislative assembly is the death of the party's Hindutva politics based ideologically on pitting Hindus against Muslims.
While the party has much to celebrate from the results: it has been able to beat anti-incumbency in Punjab along with its ally the Shiromani Akali Dal, wrest Goa from the clutches of corruption and illegal mining scandals during the just-ended Congress tenure, and is hanging on by a thread in Uttarakhand where it may have saved its government by replacing the corruption-tainted chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, it was in Uttar Pradesh where its stakes were the highest, given its 'weight' in terms of parliamentary seats that will matter in the larger electoral battle for power at the Centre due in 2014.
Importantly, it was in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP launched its major ideological Hindutva battle and successfully polarised votes along Hindu-Muslim lines in the 1990 when it would routinely annexe over 50 of the total 80 parliamentary seats in the state.
Through the Ram temple movement it was able to get a government of its own in the early nineties and, yet, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, and especially after its most influential backward-caste face, Kalyan Singh, left the party, it has steadily gone down the hill.
The BJP leadership knows too well that if it is to win the 2014 Lok Sabha battle, it has to improve its position in UP. This it has singularly failed to do. While even in this election political pundits have repeatedly talked about the Muslim vote and the race between Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati and the Congress for this block, not many have commented on the failure of BJP's kamandal politics that was unleashed in 1989 through the Ram temple movement. Even in this election senior party leader L.K. Advani promised to build a Ram temple.
The result: the BJP is struggling to match its 2007 performance when it garnered 17 per cent of the vote and won 51 seats.
The media focus is on the failure of Congress's Rahul Gandhi to change the fortunes of his party in this state, but the fact remains a dozen or more national level leaders of the BJP campaigned extensively in UP and failed to increase the party's vote share. The hard fact is that in UP, the two national parties were not seen as real alternatives as they were not seen as possible ruling parties, fighting as they were only for the third and fourth places.
The anger against Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party turned into a huge advantage for Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party in 2007 and the reverse has happened in this election. The SP and the BSP have remained on the ground in the state throughout the last five years, while the Congress and BJP leaders are seen as birds of passage visible only when an election was around the corner.
In Uttarakhand, the BJP's campaign got an additional boost from yoga guru Ramdev who had always been in the party's camp and his anger against the Congress heightened after the humiliation he suffered when he had to run away from the Ramlila maidan a year ago. His foray into politics was a disaster but he was working overtime against the Congress. The BJP was also helped by Team Anna with Chief Minister B C Khanduri -- who has lost the election -- quickly adopting his Jan Lokpal Bill.
The Congress has cut a sorry figure not being able to take advantage of the anti-incumbency factor against the BJP.
Overall, while the results have offered no solace to the Congress -- it has lost a government in Goa and has not been able to annexe Uttarakhand or Punjab from the BJP and its allies -- it cannot draw too much solace. It was banking on doing much better in UP, and that has not happened. While the voting percentages will come in later, the number of seats it is getting is somewhere around 40 from the 22 it won in 2007.
In Punjab too, although the Akali-BJP alliance has got a majority and, the BJP itself has dropped seven seats from 2007 -- down to 12 from its earlier tally of 19 -- and its vote share has lowered.
In fact, it would seem that not only has the Congress cut a sorry figure in this election, the BJP has not done much better -- with the exception of Goa, where individuals change parties and loyalties more often than they change their clothes. And of course, the party was helped by the fact that its chief ministerial probable, Manohar Parrikar, enjoys a clean image.
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