The results of recently held assembly elections in five states of India should worry us. In Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – which has emerged as a third alternative to the BJP and the opposition Congress Party – won with a brute majority, taking close to 90 seats out of the total 117. However, the ruling right wing Hindu nationalist BJP has won in the other four states, including Uttar Pradesh (UP), the largest northern Indian province.
In UP, the BJP has bagged 273 out of a total 403 assembly seats, while in the neighbouring state of Uttarakhand they won 47 out of the total 70. Likewise, in Manipur and Goa, the BJP has won 32 out of 60 and 20 out of 40 respectively, giving enough confidence to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to predict another victory in the next general election of 2024.
It is a separate matter that Modimania did not work at all in Punjab, ever since he first got elected as Prime Minister back in 2014. The only unique thing to happen this time was that the voters in Punjab have given an absolute majority to AAP, making history by rejecting all traditional leaders and parties. Punjab becomes the second state to be governed by AAP, after Delhi.
Although the mood of celebration in Punjab is understandable, the real fight against fascists isn’t over yet.
Under Modi, India has turned into an intolerant and tyrant Hindu theocracy. Attacks on political dissidents and religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, have grown in the last eight years. Unfortunately, AAP has failed to give a strong ideological fight against the BJP and its Hindu supremacist agenda. So much so, it has repeatedly taken a very soft approach against the BJP’s polarization in the name of religion, and its hawkish stand on foreign policies and national security. Many critics in political circles are left wondering whether AAP is a “B” team of the BJP.
It is well established that the BJP has turned the social environment in places like UP highly toxic, by using anti-Muslim rhetoric which has obviously earned it political dividends. AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal has in a few instances remained either meek on such issues, or has tried to outscore Modi in the name of national interest.
The current results only show that Modi isn’t going anywhere soon. Celebration over a victory of AAP in a state which is already against him doesn’t help much. Consider this: Punjab has only 13 seats in the parliament, while UP has 80, which means Modi can afford to ignore Punjab. He will use every tool in his tool box to keep hold of UP, to retain his majority and keep running the country. If the dominant Hindu voters in UP are happy to buy his brand of sectarian politics, which was clearly the case in these assembly elections, there is no way we can assume that the country is going to slip away from his grip anytime in the near future.
Gurpreet Singh is a journalist