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'Like Everything, There's A Limit To Hindutva'

Last updated on: June 13, 2024 10:12 IST
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'The inauguration of the Ram temple was the pinnacle of the BJP's religious politics.'
'Politics is dynamic. What goes up has to come down.'

IMAGE: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Narendra Modi D and Yogi Adityanath campaign in Varanasi. Photograph: Shrikant Singh/ANI Photo

"People were asking, 'You showed us dreams, where are the results?' The general populace across the state celebrated the building of the Ram temple. It did not translate into votes because people thought it was long overdue, yet they did not look upon it as an achievement. Communal politics works best on negative sentiments, it doesn't build momentum on positive sentiments," Dr Shilp Shikha Singh, assistant professor at the Giri Institute of Development Studies in Lucknow, tells's Archana Masih.

Dr Singh's areas of interest include politics of marginalities and governance, changing electoral dynamics among marginalised communities in UP and Indian government and politics.


Uttar Pradesh threw the biggest surprise of Election 2024. How did the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance manage the unthinkable of defeating the BJP in the state?

UP has made overall victory sour and defeat sweet.

The hegemony of the BJP had a long run in UP. The party had already reaped full dividends from the Ram Mandir and by propagating communal politics.

The inauguration of the Ram Temple was the pinnacle of BJP's religious politics. Politics is dynamic and we all know what goes up has to come down. The issue was -- after Ram Mandir, what?

Did the BJP pay the price of ignoring the real issues of the people in the belief that it would ride on the euphoria of the Ram Mandir?

The concerns of the people also have to be addressed. You have to hear the voice and needs of the electorate. You cannot ignore their life issues and superimpose your own agenda.

The BJP was overconfident of its double engine sarkar in UP.

Secondly, the BJP's beneficiary politics has also reached its limit. The party had built a caste coalition through its beneficiary welfare schemes which benefited them in the last election, but this was a small remedy and people were bound to raise questions beyond that.

IMAGE: Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav being welcomed by party workers after his victory from the Kannauj Lok Sabha seat, June 5, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Why did the Ram temple not bring votes for the BJP?

UP is not a nascent state. Anti-incumbency was bound to set in after 10 years in power, no matter how hard you deny it.

People were asking, 'You showed us dreams, where are the results?'

The general populace across the state celebrated the building of the Ram temple, nobody was against it. It did not translate into votes because people thought it was long overdue, yet they did not look upon it as an achievement.

Communal politics works best on negative sentiments, it doesn't build momentum on positive sentiments.

IMAGE: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav arrive for an election meeting in Kushinagar, May 28, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The INDIA coalition spread the message that the BJP would change the Constitution if they won a landslide. How did this message percolate down to those in the lowest social groups on the ground?

Yes, the debate on the Constitution reached the last person on the ground. This agenda was first taken to the people by social activists, therefore, it was already present on the ground in a dormant state.

The collapse of the BSP gave it a push and then INDIA hammered this message into people's minds during the campaign.

The people of UP are politically conscious. The political consciousness of the Dalits has gone beyond their political party.

The message that percolated down was that 'It is a fight to save the Constitution'. No one really knew what the BJP wanted to change in the Constitution. The Opposition did not explain what the danger was, but people translated it in their own way and it did not remain an ambiguous slogan.

Their understanding was that the BJP wants to bring in Manuvad and remove the SC/ST Act.

IMAGE: Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati at an election rally in Moradabad. Photograph: Shrikant Singh/ANI Photo

The BSP did not win a single seat and its vote share has depleted as never before. Why have core voters deserted Mayawati?

A large chunk of Jatavs remained with the BSP, but the rest went with the coalition. The Pasis, which form the largest block of floating Dalit voters, went with the alliance. A small chunk of Pasis that voted for the BJP in the last election either stuck with the BSP or went with the alliance.

Dalits were key players who tilted the balance in favour of the SP and Congress.

Those who stayed with the BSP did so because they thought it was their duty to keep the party alive. They wanted to keep the foundation secure because they fear what if a new wall gets built over it.

They feel indebted to the BSP because it has brought honour to them. This sentiment largely remains with the older Jatavs and some youth from the Bahujan Volunteer Force.

However, there are other core supporters who voted for the alliance thinking that if the Constitution is changed whatever little education and jobs their children have would come to an end if reservation is removed.

How did the SP's Pichda, Dalit, Alpsankhyak or PDA strategy help in the party's success this time?

PDA was implemented on the ground. Except the 5 family members, Akhilesh Yadav did not give tickets to any other Yadav candidates.

SP also gave two general seats to Dalit candidates. It is usually assumed that Dalits do not give tough fights on general seats, but that has been disproved in Faizabad-Ayodhya where a Dalit candidate won.

Even in Meerut, the Dalit candidate gave a close fight to Arun Govil.

SP implemented the PDA agenda seriously and managed the local caste alliances very silently. Akhilesh Yadav's selection of candidates was very good.

The alliance complimented each other.

The Congress also pulled off a tremendous performance by winning six seats considering the fact that it was written off in UP.

IMAGE: Samajwadi Party workers celebrate in Lucknow, June 4, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

How did the BJP and SP-Congress run their respective campaigns this time?

Earlier, the BJP used to set the ground and other parties reacted to it in terms of the narrative. It was the opposite this time.

The exit polls were a surprise, but the result showed that democracy is vibrating.

Did PDA thwart Hindutva in UP?

This has been a people's election. The issues that mattered to people were made the debating points of this election by the people.

Political parties were ignoring issues like inflation, paper leaks, unemployment -- all these issues were brought to the centre not by INDIA or other parties, but by the people.

You cannot ignore those issues by bringing in macro issues like Hindutva. Like there is a limit to everything, there is a limit to Hindutva.

IMAGE: Modi and Adityanath during a roadshow in Ayodhya. Photograph: Shrikant Singh/ANI Photo

Who is responsible for the BJP's poor show in UP? Modi or Yogi?

Both. It is a jolt to the personality cult. It is a breakdown of the charisma of bringing votes in the name of Modi.

This is the phase that Madhya Pradesh is passing through.

The party's own MLAs and MPs are made defunct by centralising power. When you make your own representatives insignificant it will boomerang.

MPs and MLAs can no longer get votes in the name of Modi, but need to work hard and stay connected with the electorate.

This applies to every party; you can't keep showing new dreams without fulfilling the old. The BJP did not talk about development, employment and inflation in the campaign.

They tried to bring about a balance through their beneficiary politics, but that wasn't sufficient. People did not want to become slaves because of free rations and exercised critical consciousness.

The BJP was known for engaging with people's expectations, but this time their 400 plus overconfidence boomeranged.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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