‘Every Indian who is concerned about the unity, integrity and the map of India should be worried about this growing divide.’
“I do not know what will be the future narrative of the north-south divide and where this will lead,” Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of The RSS: Icons of the Indian Right and Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times tells Rediff.com‘s Archana Masih.
Does Sunday’s outcome mean that the Congress has no chance of revival in the Hindi heartland as long as Mr Modi remains the BJP’s primary campaigner?
One can never say never in politics. No one can predict what the next twist in politics will be.
But yes, the outcome on Sunday has made it tougher for the Congress than what it seemed at the beginning of the election campaign. The party had a good chance in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and was in a tight contest in Rajasthan.
This verdict makes the party’s task of winning sections of north and central India tougher.
What then can the Congress do to regain relevance among this section?
- Congress needs cohesion as a party unit.
- Greater understanding among its leadership.
- Work harder.
The party needs to learn from the BJP. The BJP does not relax even for a moment. In the initial period of the campaign in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, it appeared that the Congress had a head start over the BJP. Perhaps, this made them complacent.
Meanwhile, the BJP remains in poll mood 24 hours x 365 days. It does not take the day or weekend off. It has an obsession with power that the Congress does not.
What factors cost the Congress these elections?
In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the state units were fending for themselves — either the state leaders did not want the central leaders to get involved or wanted them in a peripheral role or the central leadership wanted the state leaders to face the music on their own.
The central leadership was unable to iron out differences between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan.
Before that, it was ineffective in sorting out the power tussle between Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijay Singh in MP.
In 2018, even though the central leadership wanted Scindia as chief minister, it was unable to enforce that decision on Kamal Nath. This ultimately led to Jyotiraditya leaving the party and the Congress losing the government.
Similarly, in 2023, Kamal Nath did not want the central leadership to step into the campaign in a big way.
However, Chhattisgarh has been a surprise. Even the reporters on the ground did not see this coming. It could be because of the Congress’ complacency coupled with a great campaign run by the BJP.
Why did Mr Gehlot and Mr Baghel’s social policies fail to have an impact?
The BJP was also announcing similar schemes at the Centre and people thought why not go with the original rather than the duplicate.
I’m uncertain about why it failed for Baghel because he seemed in absolute command and was all set to return for a second term.
He was already being talked about for a national role. Maybe the conflict between Baghel and T S Singh Deo cost the Congress dearly.
Does this mean that welfare schemes are of no consequence unless in the background of Hindutva like in Madhya Pradesh?
There are four reasons behind the BJP’s tremendous performance.
- Modi’s personality and popularity.
- Ideology of cultural nationalism or Hindutva. Shunning ‘appeasement’, which essentially means that no concessions will be given to Muslims or Christians.
- Welfare programmes.
- The massive party infrastructure drawn from the entire Sangh Parivar assisted by resources far greater than what any party has ever had in Indian politics.
What can be expected from the BJP politically and governance wise in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections?
The BJP will fine-tune its welfare schemes. They have already announced free food to 80 crore Indians for five years.
The party will attempt to disguise the fact that 80 crore Indians will be unable to earn enough to make two or three square meals a day for the next five years. It will try to hide its failure and project what it would like to be seen as its successes.
Free food actually shows the failure of a government, but it will be turned around as depicting Modi as a humanitarian leader.
The Opposition’s job will be to highlight Modi’s failure in reviving the economy that he has to provide free food to nearly 50% of the population. Nowhere in the world have such a large number of people been given free food.
Welfarism along with the Ram temple — are these going to be the two aces that Mr Modi is going to arm himself with going into the Lok Sabha election?
The Ram temple will be one facet of all-encompassing Hindutva within the BJP’s election campaign.
Mr Modi has already said yesterday that there would be no ‘tushtikaran‘ or appeasement. This actually means that no favours will be given to the Muslims. The message has been constantly spread that this government under Mr Modi has ‘fixed’ the Muslims. This is the message that the BJP wants to convey without using those very words.
The north-south divide is another stark outcome of this election. Is that a worrying factor?
The emerging north-south divide is very worrying. The impending passage of the three criminal laws named in Hindi, coupled with the ever increasing drive to use Bharat in place of India, not because of any historical connect, but because it is more Hindi than India is dangerous.
I foresee future historians concluding that this was the genesis of the divide between the north and south. I do not know what will be the future narrative of the north-south divide and where this will lead.
Every Indian who is concerned about the unity, integrity and the map of India should be worried about this growing divide. There is a disconnect between the BJP and southern India regardless of what is happening in Karnataka.
Apart from Mr Modi, what else works for the BJP in the Hindi heartland?
Hindutva and welfare schemes.
‘Welfare’ is a socially and politically acceptable word for doles or handouts. It is ironic because Mr Modi used to say that he does not believe in giving anything free to the people.
Would you say that the BJP will probably win 400 seats next year?
Anything is possible in politics. Nobody could sense in 2004 that the NDA government under Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee would get voted out.
Nobody thought that the Congress would shrink to 45 seats in 2014.
What are the top few takeaways for you from Sunday’s verdict?
The Congress has stolen defeat from the jaws of victory. This is a lesson in how to lose elections for the Congress.
And for the BJP, it is a lesson in how to win an election that was almost lost. The BJP had nearly lost MP and Chhattisgarh.
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