Value of United Flock

There have been very few de­fec­tions from the Congress this time, es­pe­cially in Ra­jasthan and MP, which could mean that lead­ers there do not per­ceive bleak fu­ture for ‘grand old party’

The Day After - - CONTENT - By Asit MAnohAr Feed­back on:re­porter@dayaf­

The BJP pres­i­dent Amit Shah has a very clear head for re­alpoli­tik. It was re­vealed in one of the Man­than ses­sions he had with Ch­hat­tis­garh party of­fice bear­ers re­cently. He is be­lieved to have ad­vised the lo­cal unit to be­come more ac­com­mo­dat­ing of lead­ers who come from other par­ties, es­pe­cially the Congress, as the ul­ti­mate aim is to fin­ish op­po­si­tion off for­ever – ei­ther by ab­sorb­ing them or by crush­ing them.

“The Congress is alive only in states where the BJP is the prin­ci­pal party. Look at MP, Ra­jasthan, Gu­jarat, Ch­hat­tis­garh, Kar­nataka or Ma­ha­rash­tra. It feeds off the BJP. In all other states like UP, Bi­har, south­ern states, Bengal, etc., re­gional par­ties have ab­sorbed Con­gress­men who re­alised that they were on a sink­ing ship,” he told an awed au­di­ence. The thrust of his ar­gu­ment is that the rise of re­gional as­pi­ra­tions has meant that peo­ple do not find the Congress alone ca­pa­ble of ad­dress­ing it any­more. It first hap­pened in Tamil Nadu, then spread to Andhra, etc., but the real de­ser­tion from the Congress be­came a del­uge just be­fore and fol­low­ing the Man­dal Com­mis­sion im­ple­men­ta­tion in late 1980s, when en­tire swathes of as­pi­ra­tional OBCs and Dal­its in UP and Bi­har went with the RJD, the BSP and the SP.

Most im­por­tantly, he told his au­di­ence that the Mus­lims will re­main with the Congress where pos­si­ble but will join any re­gional com­bi­na­tion which they think will look af­ter their in­ter­ests or is likely to win, even if tem­po­rar­ily. The TMC in Bengal is an ex­am­ple as is the AIUDF in As­sam. This has meant fur­ther ero­sion of the Congress base. The re­gion­al­iza­tion suits the BJP as it has the or­ga­ni­za­tion to project it­self as the only na­tional party with the in­ter­est of the ma­jor­ity in mind. He pointed out that the so­cial­ist lead­ers who held sway dur­ing the 1960s and the 1970s have more or less made peace and joined the BJP in most places.

The con­text es­tab­lished, he came to the real point of his ar­gu­ment. “The party has re­mained cadre-based for far too long, and that has been one of the dif­fi­cul­ties in ab­sorb­ing lead­ers who have a good fol­low­ing in­de­pen­dently as the es­tab­lished units have failed to re­spond to ‘out­siders’. Where we have been in power, we have also failed to crush the Congress lead­ers who were per­ceived as cor­rupt. We have not taken up their cases and they have got­ten off lightly,” he is be­lieved to have said. Lead­ers like VC Shukla and Arvind Ne­tam, who had risen to na­tional promi­nence, had joined the BJP with their sup­port­ers but were not made very com­fort­able, re­sult­ing in their re­turn­ing to the Congress.

A lot has changed since then. Af­ter the ad­vent of Modi-Shah, sev­eral Congress lead­ers – from Jagdim­bika Pal and Rita Bahuguna in UP to Narayan Rane in

Ma­ha­rash­tra, Vish­wa­jeet Rane in Goa to Hi­manta Biswa Sarma in As­sam and al­most the en­tire Congress unit in Tripura, to cite only a few ex­am­ples – have not only come into the BJP but have been ab­sorbed and given im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions and as­sign­ments.

Ch­hat­tis­garh may be go­ing the Ma­ha­rash­tra-NCP way, and that may be to the BJP’s ad­van­tage. The emer­gence of Ajit Jogi-led Janta Congress Ch­hat­tis­garh (JCC) and its al­liance with the BSP has meant that, for the first time, a co­he­sive re­gional party has emerged in the state which is lay­ing claim to at least 20% of the votes. It is made up al­most en­tirely of de­sert­ing, am­bi­tious Con­gress­men. If it does well and the Congress does not win Ch­hat­tis­garh, then by the time next elec­tions are held in 2024, JCC will be a force to reckon with and the Jo­gis may emerge in the foot­steps of Pawar and Ma­mata with their own re­gional base and claims to at least 30% seats carved out of the Congress. This will nat­u­rally please the BJP.

The BJP ap­pears to be at an added ad­van­tage in states like Mad­hya Pradesh, Gu­jarat, Ch­hat­tis­garh and Ra­jasthan where it has ruled more or less con­tin­u­ously for the past two decades or more. Any­one be­tween the age of 15 and 35 is not likely to have seen any other chief min­is­ter or rul­ing party. For this gen­er­a­tion to iden­tify with the BJP is eas­ier, es­pe­cially in the face of an in­ert op­po­si­tion like the Congress, which has shown sin­gu­lar lack of drive to un­seat it. This gen­er­a­tion is also free of post-In­de­pen­dence hard­ship sto­ries. For the re­main­ing, Shah’s strong-arm the­ory of pol­i­tics has been use­ful in elec­tions like the re­cent one in Gu­jarat, where it man­aged to quell a ris­ing op­po­si­tion to the BJP.

The lessons in his­tory which the ModiShah duo dole out in­ter­mit­tently, wherein Nehru takes a fair share of blame for per­ceived lack of de­vel­op­ment since In­de­pen­dence, is also meant to in­flu­ence a gen­er­a­tion of vot­ers who have lit­tle or no con­tact with the Congress of yore. Most peo­ple who end up de­fend­ing the Congress or the pre-BJP his­tory of the na­tion on so­cial me­dia, elec­tronic me­dia or pub­lic spa­ces, are well past forty. If they hap­pen to be com­mit­ted Con­gress­men, they are past fifty. That leaves a very wide im­pres­sion­able field for the BJP, which hopes to con­tinue tar­get­ing the youth and col­or­ing their thought pro­cesses. The idea ob­vi­ously ex­tends to univer­si­ties, lo­cal bod­ies and school ed­u­ca­tion.

That would mean that most bases have been well cov­ered by the BJP in the present round of elec­tions. But sur­pris­ingly, there have been very few de­fec­tions from the Congress this time, es­pe­cially in Ra­jasthan and Mad­hya Pradesh. It could only mean that lead­ers there do not per­ceive a sig­nif­i­cantly bleak fu­ture for the Congress for now. Un­like the North East, where a com­bi­na­tion of mis­man­age­ment and an­ti­in­cum­bency meant that the Congress has been washed out, it still has some time left in its last re­main­ing bas­tions. But only if it is alert to what is hap­pen­ing around it. Oth­er­wise, Shah will ei­ther pick or crush.

Prom­i­nent Te­lan­gana lead­ers in­clud­ing for­mer BJP Min­is­ter Dr Nagam Ja­nard­han Reddy and Surya Ki­ran joined the party in the pres­ence of Congress Pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi

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