The results of assembly elections which were announced on Tuesday have not come as any kind of surprise to the people of the nation. The common people have seen the kind of governance that the BJP has resorted to. The common people have also seen how the BJP leaders and workers have been behaving since the party came to power at the Centre. Moreover, failure of the BJP to fulfil several of the tall promises that it had made during the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and several crucial decisions the BJP-led government at the Centre took in the past four years and more have also contributed towards the ouster of the party from power in three important states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh. If the promise of bringing back tons of black money from foreign banks was one joke that the BJP had played with the voters in 2014, then demonetisation was another cruel decision it took that had adversely affected the economy of the country. The BJP had become so much intoxicated with power – as used to happen earlier with the Congress party – that it had begun to think that it was invincible. Successive victories in different state assembly elections had led the BJP leaders to believe that the country had really become ‘Congress-mukt’ or free from Congress. Moreover, the kind of intolerance that the BJP has been displaying since it came to power at the Centre, accompanied by the culture of intolerance that it was propagating had gone directly against it. Attempts at imposing hindutva and Hindi across the country, with simultaneous attempts to deny the existence of other faiths, languages and cultures have all worked against the party. A reality check in the three Hindi-heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan on the other hand would probably reveal that governance in the truest sense of the term – of making lives of common people better – was probably in bad shape there during BJP rule. One of the worst things that the BJP probably did in the past few months is spending nearly Rs 3,000 crore for a statue when the country has been struggling to provide basic healthcare to the poor, basic primary education to poor children, and much-needed relief to millions of farmers who have been badly hit by price-rise, poor market and adverse weather conditions. While paying tributes and showing respect to a leader is one thing, spending Rs 3,000 crore for a statue is another; and this too must have worked behind the BJP’s defeat in the three states. What is even more significant is that the BJP could not make any inroads to two states – these being Telengana and Mizoram – where assembly elections were held in the past fortnight. All these and many other factors worked together for the BJP’s defeat, and at the same time the Congress party’s victory in three of the five states. But then the Congress should have no reason to rejoice either; because, if the party had really improved its position, then it should have also won Telengana and retained power in Mizoram.
Will AGP learn?
Two regional parties – Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and Mizo National Front (MNF) – have done exceptionally well in Telengana and Mizoram respectively, and this despite the Congress so successfully ousting the BJP from power in three other states. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which had joined the BJP-led alliance before the 2016 Assam Assembly election, and had significantly contributed towards the BJP’s victory and ouster of the Congress, should now take lessons from the two parties, TRS and MNF. Both parties have done excellent homework, which was followed by really hard work for the past few years in order to win the elections. The two parties did not just bank upon the failure of the BJP or Congress in order to win with negative votes. Instead, both TRS and MNF have won on positive votes. How did they do this? The TRS could have easily considered tying up with the BJP in the wake of the Congress forging an alliance with Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and further wiped out the Congress-TDP combine. Likewise, MNF, which was – and still is, as its supremo Zoramthanga claimed on Tuesday even after winning a clear thumping majority – a partner of the BJP-led North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), could have also joined hands with the BJP and shared seats to defeat Lal Thanhwala and his Congress. But it did not do so. The MNF is a very small political party when compared to the Congress and BJP. It is a small party even when compared to the AGP. But then, it fought and won. It carried out meticulous planning, selected the right kind of candidates, chose the right kind of campaign model, charted out the right kind of manifesto, began working with the voters – especially the young and first-time voters for several years – and won. It is as simple as that. The MNF did not go about begging for an alliance as did the AGP in 2016. The MNF worked with the people, the common people. The MNF worked with students, the first-time voters. The MNF worked with the farmers. The MNF worked with the poor. The MNF worked with women, especially those mothers whose husbands and sons were badly affected due to the lifting of prohibition from the state. Likewise, the TRS also worked with the people. The TRS leaders have remained closely connected with the people, and did not just depend on negative votes as the AGP always does. As media reports have said, the TRS has a strategic team independent of its government that works round the clock to ensure that the party did not get disconnected with the common people. The AGP has none of these things. The present set of AGP leaders does not appear to possess any inclination to learn. It is not just a tragedy for the regional party, but also for Assam.