The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under its joint leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah accomplished a historic feat in Uttar Pradesh in the just-concluded Assembly elections in the state. The party, just like it had done in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, blew away all its opponents – including the powerful regional parties like the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party which had been dominating the state's politics for over two decades.
The BJP's tally of 312 is the highest since the Congress had garnered 309 in the Assembly elections of 1980 and also 91 more than its previous best of 221 amassed in the 1991 Assembly election. But there is much more to the victory in 2017 apart from just the quantitative aspects.
The BJP's victories in UP in 1991 and 2017: Quantitatively more, qualitatively different
In 1991, when the BJP was just 11 years old, its electoral success was mainly attributed to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement which had culminated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya a year later. The Congress's tireless politics of minority appeasement over the years had given the saffron party, then led by the likes of Lal Krishna Advani on the ground, an opening to make its mark through the majoritarian politics. The plan was simple: Gather the Hindu votes as a counter-strategy to the 'secular' parties' quest for the minority votes though its execution was not. In those days of unstable politics, religious riots and clashes and loss of lives were a common occurrence in India's political life. In the ruthless pursuit of the vote-banks divided by the parties to suit their own convenience and image, India's soul was allowed to bleed profusely.
The BJP's meteoric rise in a decade earned its the name of a communal party which was ready to divide the nation to grab power. The episodes of riots and the demolition of the Babri in UP were eclipsed by the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 and the saffron party continued to carry the "communal" burden, making it convenient for the opportunistic 'secular' parties to cement their vote-banks among the minorities. The game of social engineering by the regional parties, especially in a complex state like UP, received a boost as the 'messiahs of secularism' had always played the 'fear BJP' factor to keep their vote-banks glued to them. It is how the regional satraps of Bihar and UP continued to dominate their respective states over the years.
BJP, despite its leaders' odd mention about Hindutva, has gone ahead with time
2017 has marked a breach in that tradition. When we see that the BJP has succeeded in annihilating parties that continue to bank on the stitching up social coalitions by means of secular promises and doles and not really laying out a long-term visions for universal development, one can't help but draw the conclusion that the socio-political realities of this country have changed and with it, the BJP, too. But its opponents are not changing, perhaps because they don't understand the shift which is taking place or don't want to understand, thinking just opposing Narendra Modi for the sake of opposing will reach them somewhere.
Just like Modi, his opponents also need to turn smarter
Just like Modi' BJP, the Opposition of today's India also need to undergo a transformation. The idea of resisting Modi as an individual by keeping all focus on Godhra is not going to help any more. The issue is dead and buried. To put Prime Minister Modi under the slightest of challenge, the Opposition needs to think about alternatives to his policies on the basis of merit. It is exactly here where the Rahul Gandhis and Mamata Banerjees are failing. They are clueless about Modi's policy politics. Biggest example? Demonetisation.
The fact that Modi has ruled a state like Gujarat where development is the buzzword has helped him immensely against rivals who are still light years away from development-based ideologies and continue to engage in the same-old divisive planks to remain in power. They say the BJP is divisive but like an ostrich, they fail to see the transformation in the BJP's politics over the years.
Hindutva for BJP: More peripheral than core today
It is true that both Modi and Shah and many of their lieutenants tried to polarise this UP election, especially towards the end of it. But yet, one cannot overlook the fact that Hindutva has become more a peripheral aspect of today's BJP and not the core as it was in 1991. The anti-Modi forces saw both demonetisation and 'kabristaan' remark wrong but they did not see that Modi had only played to the gallery of his party's loyal vote-banks. The actual job of winning the election was accomplished by the gutsy move of demonetisation. It is something that brought Modi more popular blessings, despite the realistic problems on the ground.
Modi understands the pulse of the nation very well. If the Congress was the first-generation political force in this country which was rendered outdated by the regional parties that rose on its ruins as the second-generation force, the current PM belongs to a third-generation leader who is smarter than both his preceding generations.
Time to bid goodbye to secular-communal debates; Indians need jobs and security
Let's face it. The BJP, after its stupendous show in UP, is the party of the future. There will be odd losses here and there but it cannot be denied that it has evolved with time and is winning positive votes, something India has not seen for a long, long time. It is rather uniting the society which was left bruised and battered by the 'secular' forces' sinister designs. Hindutva is no more a bad word in the common man's mind. In fact, it is a secondary thought now. As long as the New India's powerhouse – its burgeoning middle-class is happy, secure and proud and the Opposition has a leader like Rahul Gandhi in their ranks, it's Modi, only Modi.