Final results : BJP loses, Corona wins

A. J. Philip A. J. Philip
03 May 2021

RK Karanjia was a great journalist, the only one to be called to the bar of Parliament and rebuked for causing contempt of the House. He edited the weekly newspaper BLITZ, which many bought for a titillating photograph that appeared on the last page.

The name of the weekly was derived from the German word Blitzkrieg. It means an intense military campaign intended to bring about a swift victory. Hitler tried it on London to bring Britain on its knees. It is also called carpet bombing.

In the recent elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala, the little Hitlers in India attempted the same strategy to win these four states and one Union Territory. Like Hitler who could not subdue Winston Churchill, the Indian Hitlers could not do a thing against Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu and Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala, all leaders in their own right.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have been exposed for what they are — empty vessels that make a lot of noise. Their sound and fury, to quote the Bard, signify nothing.

No election, before or after Independence, has cost the nation so much as this one. No, I have not included the cost of electioneering borne by the BJP or the money spent by the Central and state governments on the holding of the election.

The cost should be measured in terms of the adverse impact the election made on public health. Take the case of West Bengal. For the first time, the election commission functioned as if it was an adjunct of the Home Ministry.

The election was held in eight phases over 45 days in West Bengal whereas it was held in one day in Tamil Nadu, which is equally big, and Kerala. An exception was made in the case of West Bengal and Assam to allow the BJP to do relentless carpet bombing.

Modi addressed at least 20 mass rallies in West Bengal, while his Sancho Panza addressed 50 rallies and conducted several road shows. These rallies were noted for the wanton disregard shown to the Covid-19 protocols the Election Commission had itself drafted.

The twosome did not wear masks at times. While concentrating all their attention on throwing Mamata Banerjee into the Bay of Bengal, administration went for a toss in New Delhi with people dying for want of oxygen, hospital beds and medicines. Crematoria and burial grounds were found inadequate to meet the growing need for disposal of bodies.

Modi and Shah were so bothered about West Bengal that they forgot that they had a duty to prevent the sudden surge in Covid-19 cases and control the situation. It may be a coincidence that the day the counting of votes took places came the news that India recorded a first — the largest number of Covid-19 cases detected on a single day. The actual number of Covid-19 cases is much more than the number in government records.

The elections were super-spreaders and the two persons singularly responsible for it are the bosom buddies from Gujarat. At the end of the day, what did they achieve? Other than proving that they were just gas bags? 

Money flowed into West Bengal like the water that flows in the Hoogly when it is in spate. Two five-star hotels in Kolkata were hired to accommodate the chief ministers, central ministers, state ministers and party leaders from Thiruvananthapuram to Timbuktu who descended on West Bengal to campaign for the party.

A journalist friend who attended Modi’s rally in Kolkata said that the most distinguishing feature of the exercise was the shouting of Jai Sree Ram slogans throughout the meeting. The election commission did not have the guts to prevent such blatant use of religious symbols and religious icons in an election.

In the past there were occasions when the courts set aside elections for as minor a crime as printing a religious symbol like the cross or the crescent or the Om symbol in a pamphlet published by a candidate.

Every attempt was made to polarise the voters on caste and community lines. The BJP tried to win over the Scheduled Castes by saying that they have been suffering at the hands of Muslims, who were being appeased by Mamata Banerjee.

They tried to consolidate the Hindu votes by claiming that the Trinamool Congress was a pro-Muslim party. The BJP leaders would often refer to the Chief Minister as Begum, a Muslim queen or woman of high rank. Worse, Modi had the cheek to address the Chief Minister as “Didi-o-Didi” in a taunting and cheap way.

It exposed Modi’s cultural or vultural upbringing. A flowing beard like the one Tagore sported did not make Modi a Gurudev. The BJP’s bombardment had a deleterious impact on the people. They did not like the way a woman leader was addressed.

Modi and Shah might not know that if there is any state in India where women held their head high, it is West Bengal. They would never appreciate anyone ridiculing womanhood. Display of wealth is also something an average Bengali would not accept.

What’s worse, the BJP chief in West Bengal, who started his political career in the RSS as a swayamsevak kept attacking Prof Amartya Sen and his father, the late KM Sen, though neither of them or their relatives were contesting the election in West Bengal. He called them land-grabbers. 

A large section of the Bengali population who venerate them would have been disgusted by such meaningless talk. They, too, would have voted against the party. That is why the BJP could win only 76 seats, against 214 won by the Trinamool Congress in a 292-member Assembly, at the time of writing.

In adjoining Assam, the BJP and its allies were able to retain its hold on power by winning 74 seats. The Congress was defeated but it could almost double its strength from 26 to 51 in a House of 126. The BJP would have done better if the two musketeers from Gujarat, who are the authors of the new citizenship laws, had not campaigned for the party.

The BJP should thank the stars for the five seats it won in Tamil Nadu by jumping on the AIADMK bandwagon. Otherwise, it would have marked its presence in the 234-member House with a thunderous zero. As predicted by most, the DMK returned to power after about 10 years with a credible victory.

The DMK and its allies, including the Congress and the Left parties, won 158 seats while the AIADMK and its allies, including the BJP, had to remain content with 76 seats.

What’s most significant is that the DMK on its own has won absolute majority in the House. Even if the Congress MLAs are purchased by the BJP, as in Puducherry, in a future deal, MK Stalin will remain insulated from such machinations.

In Tamil Nadu, the real winner is Rajani Kant. He knew it would be a harakiri if he allowed the BJP to project him as its chief ministerial candidate. He had the guts not to give Amit Shah an appointment. He declined the offer, politely but firmly.

Kamal Haasan is an actor who thought that he was like MG Ramachandran, who was the undisputed leader of Tamil Nadu till his death. The pity is that he could not win even the seat he himself contested.

In Puducherry, the BJP was able to purchase the Congress MLAs and bring about the downfall of the Congress government and impose President’s rule on the Union Territory. It may appear that it has won the election as the NRC and its allies, including the BJP, won a majority of seats in a House of 30.

The great party of Modi and Shah would be playing second fiddle to the NRC in Puducherry. In other words, the key to power will not be in the hands of the BJP. As such, there is little to provide comfort to the BJP.

In nearby Kerala, it was a washout for the BJP. It could not retain even Nemam, which the BJP’s O. Rajagopal, represented in the previous House. Party chief K Surendran lost in both Mancheswaram and Konni from where he contested. Neither Metroman E Sreedharan, nor film star Suresh Gopi could win the seats they contested.

Surendran’s pre-election claim that the BJP would form the government if it won 35 seats in a House of 140 exposed the extra-constitutional plans the party had in mind to capture power.

While Pinarayi Vijayan has reason to be happy about the outcome as it is not a mean thing to win consecutively in Kerala, there is a truth which needs to be pointed out. 

The CPM was able to play the religious card, subtly but effectively. In 2016, I was one of the first to point out that the LDF was bound to win as the Muslims would vote for the Marxists as in their perception Pinarayi Vijayan was a more capable person than Oommen Chandy to fight the BJP machinations.

That perception has not changed a wee bit. In fact, it got strengthened in the March election when there was a fear that the BJP would emerge victorious in many seats. In Pathanamthitta,  when Veena George of the CPM won in 2016, some Bishops and priests of the Orthodox Church claimed that it was their victory. 

This time she got more votes than last time, though the Bishops and priests were not repeating their claim. In fact, she was not even once behind her Congress rival Sivadasan Nair in the several rounds of counting.

I am sure Vijayan would have known how valuable politically his challenge to Amit Shah was when he reminded the Union Home Minister that Kerala was not Gujarat. So, to claim that the result was an approval for the last five year’s rule is not all that truthful.

To return to the Congress, Oommen Chandy had no right to contest for the umpteenth time, particularly when he is not in the pink of health. However, the reason why his majority shrunk to nearly one-fourth this time is because the Jacobites, who are cut up with the Orthodox, voted en masse against Chandy. Instead, they voted for the LDF and, to some extent, for the BJP. The Orthodox Church must have got some churches, courtesy Justice Arun Mishra, but their great son lost many votes!

Metroman Sreedharan, who was politically blind enough to believe that he would become the Chief Minister of Kerala, would be ruing the day he decided to contest on the BJP ticket from Palakkad.

BJP chief Surendran has more rightly than wrongly said that the BJP suffered because the Muslims voted for the LDF or the UDF candidates they thought were capable of defeating the BJP.

However, he cannot forget the fact that in states like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh where the BJP is in power, it always sought the votes in the name of Lord Ram. The party has been making it a point that it can win without the votes of Muslims. In Amit Shah’s own constituency, the Muslims vote for him, not because they love him but because of their fear of the consequences of voting against him. I have heard BJP’s Kummanam Rajasekharan saying that the party would study the booth-wise voting pattern!

How could Muslims or, for that matter, any minority community be expected to vote for Surendran’s party when the Centre’s new citizenship laws are religion-based and against the Constitutional principles of equality? His campaign was more about Sabarimala than the bread and butter issues of the people. So, on what basis could the Muslims or a majority of the Hindus could have voted for the BJP?

While the BJP blames the Muslims for its rout, it does not realise that an overwhelming majority of the Hindus, especially the subaltern castes, rejected the party left, right and centre. It is a party of the upper castes, by the upper castes and for the upper castes. Not for the Hindus.

Otherwise, the BJP would not have bothered to defeat Mamata Banerjee when its single-minded attention should have been on fighting Coronavirus and to free the people from the stranglehold of Covid-19. Elections come and go but human life is more precious than a few votes. Now that the elections are over, let the fight against Corona start in right earnest.

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