Assembly Election Results 2022- Whither Pluralism, Democracy?

Yogi Modi Shah

The assembly elections results of UP, Punjab, Uttrakhand, Manipur and Goa have given victory to BJP in 4 states and AAP has come to power in Punjab. In Punjab AAP seems have won as there was a serious in fighting in Congress and the SAD’s poor record of the past. In Goa BJP was greatly helped in overcoming incumbency by the opposition disunity as apart from Congress and AAP; Mamta’s Trinmul threw their hat into the ring. In Uttrakhand and Manipur the massive electoral machine put up by BJP had no competition from the Congress, despite incumbency going against BJP.

UP has been the real battle ground where BJP won convincingly. All over the country and more particularly in UP, the adverse impact of demonetization, loss of employment, farmers issue has broken the back of the people. The mass migration of poor laborers with sudden lockdown due to Corona and lack of Oxygen, proper health care further worsened the plight of the people all over and more particularly in UP. This is also the state where rape and murders in Unnao and Hathras shook the country. This is the state where the farmers were crushed under the SUV by Ashish Mishra, son of the Central minister. This is the state where the new policies and polarization around beef-cow has led to the huge number of stray cattle destroying the crops. This is the state which has slid down badly in the human indices during last few years.

Lot of discussion in the caste equations is done in this state. Before the elections many of OBC leaders left the BJP to join the broad coalition led by Samajvadi Party, Akhilesh Yadav. The crowd at the rallies of Akhilesh convinced most impartial journalists that BJP will be thrown out of power. Many of the ground level journalists got the feedback that Akhilesh is sure to win the elections. Then what happened?

While most of the caste calculations and anti-incumbency were favoring SP, BJP had some deeper factors working for it. These were communal polarization and efficient communication set up by RSS combine. Let us first realize that BJP is part of a larger conglomerate, led by progenitor of Hindu Nationalism, the RSS. Every time there are elections all the Pracharaks (now in thousands) and swayamsevaks (now in lakhs) join in the electoral efforts. RSS Sar Sahkaryawahak Arun Kumar convened a high-level meeting of all the Sangh frontal organizations and asked them help BJP in its poll campaign.

And this time even the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat intervened to ask that Hindutva programs, (Ram Temple, Kashi corridor) and nationalist efforts (Balakot) are highlighted and after second phase of elections he called upon the RSS affiliates to intensify their efforts as BJP seemed to have done very badly in these two phases. Adverse caste equations were undone by deeper polarization. Through social engineering they already have won over substantial number of downtrodden sections. This conglomerate has also developed huge network of communication to reach their message to the last women/man. It is remarkable how in a quiet way their message, countering rising prices, unemployment, farmers travails, the cattle nuisance and constructed fear of minorities passes through various conveyor belts to reach the people in far of places.

During 2017 elections, BJP+ was focusing on BJP being the only party which can take up the cause of Hindus, as SP and Congress both were projected to be working for Muslims. This time around Yogi Adityanath came up with the threat posed by Gazva-E-hind and efforts of Muslims to convert India into a Muslim majority state. Yogi in particular and Modi occasionally kept targeting Muslim minorities. Modi targeted SP by saying that cycle (SP’s election symbol) has been used for exploding bombs. Association of terrorism with Muslims, though untrue, was regularly propagated. Yogi kept harping on the association of SP with Muslims and Muslims with mafia, crime and terrorism. Kairana was used as a dog whistle. Muzzafarnagar violence was deliberately associated with Muslims. His infamous 80% versus 20% was a new low in divisive direction. His use of word Abbajan for Mulayam Singh Yadav was deliberate to promote the divisive agenda.

What will be its impact on 2024 elections is difficult to say despite Modi claiming these results show the pattern for 2024. It is true that at present there does not seem to be a credible national alternative which can halt the rise of divisive politics, erosion of our democratic institutions, growing economic disparity, the increase in unemployment and the worsening plight of farmers. Religious minorities are being forced to live the intimidated life in the proliferating ghettoes with declining citizenship rights.

The overall fall of the indices of the country on scale of democratic freedoms and freedom of religion is alarming. The depth to which communal politics has sunk in the society is very frightening. The mechanisms developed by communal forces to shape the opinions of the people at large are remarkable. The godi media, social media, IT cell and fake news have added on to the foundations dug by the sectarian nationalists.

One of the major lessons of the assembly election results is that fragmented opposition cannot take on the mighty electoral might of BJP-RSS. The claim of every oppositional political force to project her/him as the alternative is the very undoing of the process whereby communal forces can be defeated and country can come on the path laid down in the Constitution. Can all the opposition parties begin to form a coalition with minimum common program based on the values of constitution and the concept of welfare? The leadership can be decided after the elections with the biggest component getting the PM and other components having due presentation in the leadership position. It is time that all those who stand to uphold Gandhi, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh come together in the spirit of accommodation. The interests of the country, the people, the deprived and suffering, the people whose dignity is being trampled day in and day out is to be kept as the major focus in the alliance. It is the test of our leaders, whether they are just for personal self promotion or genuinely care for the people in whose name they swear?

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Dr Ram Puniyani

Dr Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. Email: [email protected]

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