By Sanjay Jha
The brouhaha over the SIT report ( not a court verdict, incidentally) on Gujarat riots exonerating Modi was on expected lines; hard-core supporters of the bearded Narendra Modi celebrated as if it was divine intervention for the beleaguered Chief Minister, like the heavenly benedictions of TIME. Prime Minister Modi, went the collective chorus. But that euphoria overlooked basic math and typically as it were, missed the woods for the trees. Let me explain.
On the day of the great electoral verdict of March 6th 2012 when the earth miraculously stood standstill on its rotating axis, I asked Mr Arun Jaitley of the BJP on Headlines Today if the party had now exhausted the political utility of it’s Ayodhya card given its diminished seats in the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh . At that time, it was reasonably certain that Samajwadi Party was headed north by northwest in a carefree solo race like Forrest Gump. . To the credit of Jaitley, he did not pussyfoot around giving us the benefit of complex nothingness party spokespersons are deemed most qualified for or delved into a brilliant defense of its crumbling fortunes. Instead he candidly uttered that the growth of the BJP in the 1990’s was indeed due to the religious overtones of the Hindutva card which had assumed serious proportions post the Babri Masjid demolition, but which had since been usurped locally by two caste-based political formations who outwitted the national parties through greater ground presence and people contact. None could have disputed with that factual assessment as it unfolded in a second by second update on the giant scoreboard. As the evening drew to a premature close, and everyone serenaded the cycle symbol that became an electoral Harley Davidson, the underlying message from a solitary assembly constituency of UP remained lost, like a kite amidst the wilderness of a dust-storm in Faizabad. The BJP had lost the Ayodhya assembly seat for the first time since 1991.
A momentary flashback will help; in 1984 the BJP had 2, yes exactly like your pair of eyes, 2 seats in the Lok Sabha and the Congress an overwhelming deluge of 83 of 85 seats in UP alone. But by 1991, a remarkable turnaround had happened, and saffron colors robed 57 LS seats in UP. After the dark events of December 6th 1992 the BJP catapulted into being prime contender in mainstream politics, the only single-party alternative to the broad social umbrella of the Congress. Its extraordinary ascent was on account of its singular agenda, Hindutva, which received unanimous approbation from religious diehards post-Babri Masjid. Jaitley even while admitting that Ayodhya is a hackneyed strategy refused to accept that it has an expiry date. Thus, despite the Ayodhya dispute being in the Supreme Court, it still figured in the BJP manifesto as if it was a fait accompli. How can you sunder the hand that helped you from going asunder?
But maybe one local assembly constituency is sensing out a loud message lost amidst the crescendo of Akhilesh Yadav. The BJP had lost the temple town of Ayodhya, its consecrated bastion since 1991, from where it engineered the Ram temple movement which catapulted the party at the Centre. Lallu Singh, who was winning the seat since the 1991 state elections, lost to young student leader Tej Narain Pandey of the Samajwadi Party with a margin of about 5,700 votes. Reacting to his victory, Pandey said, “The common man does not believe in false temple politics. Everybody wants development and good governance.”
Forget the compass-lexicon that we use in our ideological matrix, the right of center claptrap, the fact is that without Ayodhya BJP is like a jockey without a stallion to ride. Its only hope for survival is religious dichotomy ; the fact that it had one Muslim candidate amongst 403 assembly seats in a state that has 39 million Muslims tells the complete story. What does BJP really espouse, given its rigid stance on FDI in retail, obstruction of nuclear deal, , perpetual recalcitrance to matters of grave national security like NCTC, and blatant buttressing of Team Anna ? The party with a difference has humongous corruption cases against all its state chiefs. Its intellectual bankruptcy has been accentuated by pedestrian petty-politicking, it touched the nadir when it indulged as a back-room operator for the irrationally belligerent Team Anna and the colorful fulminations of Baba Ramdev. It looked like a party riddled in self-doubt , scampering about amidst internal power-struggles and rudderless leadership.
The defeat in Ayodhya has wider ramifications and may have worried the man who steadfastly refused to campaign in UP, the increasingly nervous Narendra Modi ( he just lost the Mansa bye-election too) , despite the charitable disposition and sanguine expectations of TIME and Brookings. Modi has no existential dilemmas, his philosophy is pure political polarization. He converted what was actually the stark truth , Maut Ka Saudagar, into an electoral asset. But does the UP election verdict manifest that the rabid insanity is now distant history in neighboring states? And without Uttar Pradesh, the BJP and Mr Modi’s Prime Ministerial ambitions may remain nothing more than a pipe dream. There is life and voters beyond Gujarat, Mr Modi. The celebrations are premature.
Sanjay Jha is author, columnist and Co-Founder, http://www.HamaraCongress.com . He can be followed on Twitter@JhaSanjay