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'Ram and Roti evolved into Ram and Ration'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
Last updated on: March 18, 2022 11:26 IST
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'If Mayawati had performed better, then the BJP would have had a much tougher time to win UP.'
'The present gap in number of seats between the BJP and SP would have got reduced.'

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi is feted by Bharatiya Janata Party President Jagat Prakash Nadda, second from left, Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, right, and Amit Anilchandra Shah, left, at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi after the party's spectacular win in the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand, March 10, 2022. Photograph: Kamal Kishore/PTI Photo
 

How did the Modi-Yogi combine deliver a historic win for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Uttar Pradesh assembly election?

Did voters vote on development issues, or was it a Hindu vote?

"I see a greater acceptance of the BJP's Hindutva campaign in this election than in previous ones where there was a greater emphasis on other issues," Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay -- author of The RSS: Icons of the Indian Right and Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times -- tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com in the first of a two-part interview.

This election was held post the Ram Mandir judgment and scrapping of Article 370. These were the BJP's core issues since its origin. Keeping this in mind, would you say the BJP still won without raising communal slogans this time?

On the contrary, I think Ram mandir was definitely the theme of this election, but not in terms of Ram mandir per se.

The ideas that generated Ram mandir over the past 35 years are now articulated in all kinds of ways, whether it is the temple corridor in Varanasi, demand for demolishing the Eidgah mosque in Mathura or thousands of other shrines elsewhere and other issues like love jihad and even the claim of reducing crime which is euphemism for having reined in the Muslims.

And for that matter, controlling the population by limiting to two children per family or multiple issues -- like Yogi Adityanath starting his campaign by saying this battle is between 80:20 and ending his campaign by saying for Akhilesh Yadav development is all about constructing walls of Muslim graveyards.

So, everything has a connect with Ram mandir.

Ram mandir is an ongoing project because it has paved the way for the BJP to paper over caste fissures.

Ram is a metaphor and is not merely in reference to the temple in Ayodhya, but it makes its presence felt in our daily and hourly life.

Do you really think this was a 80:20 election as Yogi Adityanath said? Did the BJP's 41 per cent voters think on these lines rather than governance and development issues?

This election was possibly the most polarised election because it was the foundation on which the BJP erected the pillars of its campaign.

One of the central issues of the BJP's campaign in UP was that the law and order situation has improved.

They repeatedly said so despite data to the contrary and the claim being disputable.

The fact was the BJP was able to make criminals and Muslims synonymous.

This has become the new normal in the country.

I see a greater acceptance of the BJP's Hindutva campaign in this election than in previous ones where there was a greater emphasis on other issues.

In the 2019 (Lok Sabha election), there was a greater importance on hyper-nationalism and in the 2014 (Lok Sabha election), there was emphasis on Vikas, and in the 2017 (Uttar Pradesh) assembly elections there was demonetisation and it was a communally polarised election.

In this election, the most significant aspect from (Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas) Modi's side was that there was no visible face to communal polarisation, but later he did the inauguration of the Kashi Vishwanath corridor project and whatever was said in the course of the campaign.

Into this, they fused welfarism. We have seen the old slogan of BJP, Ram and Roti evolve into Ram and Ration.

This, however, is not good for people in the long run because from being an aspirational society, large parts of India are being reduced to a populace living on doles or handouts.

But the BJP is happy because it enables them to win elections by creating the constituency of labarthis or beneficiaries.

Don't you blame the Opposition parties because they are not working hard to capture the public's trust?

As far as Uttar Pradesh is concerned, it is indeed a paradox.

There is a sense of despondency in people and there is a decline in personal economy.

They faced terrible hardships due to the pandemic on the health front and they had to walk hundreds of kilometres back to their villages, and rising prices.

Voters disregarded all these things.

All these things which I listed did not transfer into a large enough anti-incumbency vote.

Yet, we have to accept the fact that the Samajwadi Party has performed creditably.

If you look at the vote share though, it is higher than in 2019 and 2017.

It is 13 to 14 per cent more. It is also more than what they got in 2012 when they formed the government in UP with only 29 per cent votes.

It means the Samajwadi Party has expanded its social base beyond the Muslim and Yadav combination.

I think this is a singular success of the SP. The BJP was able to escape and win the elections because the election shifted to a bipolar contest.

The Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress vote share has shrunk considerably.

It got divided between the BJP and the SP with the BJP getting 2/3rd and the SP getting 1/3rd of those party votes.

Do you mean to say that if it was a tripolar contest, the BJP would not have won?

If Mayawati had performed better, then the BJP would have had a much tougher time to win UP.

The present gap in number of seats between the BJP and SP would have got reduced.

At this moment, the vote share between the SP and BJP is somewhere around 8-10 percent.

If the BSP and Congress had retained their vote share, then the gap of 8-10 percent between the SP and the BJP would have been much closer.

Lakhimpur Kheri is where Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni's son Ashish Mishra is accused of having mowed down farmers who were protesting against the farm laws. Still, all eight seats in Lakhimpur Kheri were won by the BJP. Where is the anger?

This is a paradox that we have to understand and decode why despite so much happening, there is no anti-BJP or anti-incumbency vote.

We have to look at the caste composition and voter profile in Lakhimpur Kheri and then find out what is the reason.

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
 
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