Bad News Awaits Yogi In Uttar Pradesh

As the dance of democracy rolls on in Uttar Pradesh, it seems bad news has come to stay for the BJP, even as the assembly polls in the spring of 2022 might signal symbolic signs of which way the wind might blow in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. Indeed, for both Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi, the writing on the wall is loud and clear, and, surely, achche din seem nowhere in sight for them, or the BJP.

The seasoned journalists who were predicting only a depletion of 100 seats for the BJP, have now come down to 150. Apparently, certain bureaucrats in the state are calling up Akhilesh Yadav, sensing the mood on the ground. A district magistrate in Western UP, reportedly, refused to order a repoll in certain booths in a constituency despite the ardent pleas of a BJP heavyweight. These are all markers blowing in the wind, like the chronicle of a tale foretold.

While his father remains entrenched in the Union cabinet, despite the angst and anger of the farmers, the release on bail of the principle accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri murder case, with crackers etc to welcome him, has sent waves of disgust and dismay across the rural landscape in the area. Modi’s rally out here therefore might not change the simmering mood on the ground.

Besides, old memories have come to haunt the BJP. The burning pyre of a young Dalit girl in Hathras, with the UP police barricading the site, is etched in the mind of the locals, especially the Dalits. She was brutally assaulted and raped, and her family was not allowed to be part of the funeral of their own daughter. The media was not allowed to report, and, opposition leaders like Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi were stopped at the Delhi-UP border. With massive protests and nation-wide outrage spreading all across, the Yogi regime was compelled to allow the media and politicians access to the mourning family.

Now, Dalits in and around Hathras, are determined to teach Yogi a lesson. Not only here, with Mayawati having disappeared from the scene, Dalits across UP are unhappy with the BJP. In Western UP, anyway, Dalits have consolidated themselves with their Jat and Muslim brothers, in the formidable SP-RLD electoral alliance. The BJP leaders are not even able to visit their own constituencies, or else they have to face the wrath of the farmers. The confluence of Har Har Mahadev and Allah-u-Akbar at the massive Muzaffarnagar rally in the recent past, has all but eliminated the Hindutva card. Polarisation and hate politics just cannot work in Western UP anymore.

There is a noticeable paradigm shift in terms of the dominant BJP narrative in UP. Gone is the belligerent aggression and the strident Hindutva overdrive. The divisive discourse is all but over because communal politics is just not selling anymore in the Hindi heartland.

People have long memories. Bad, sad, bitter memories have a long shelf life. The toxic taste of demonetisation and GST lingers in the back-lanes like ghost stories. The ravaged economic lives of the small-scale industry and petty traders stalk the by-lanes. There is mass unemployment and the economy has gone for a toss. People want development, a better life, food to eat, health and education, jobs for the young. Surely, they don’t want hate politics.

Poor people are not able to have two square meals a day. Poor mothers are eating one meal a day. Women seem to have disappeared from the unorganised work force. The pandemic and lockdown has taken its toll on the poor.

ALSO READ: ‘Why I Don’t Want Yogi To Be CM Again’

The Khatik community of Banda district in Bundelkhand, who backed the BJP in the past, are now terribly disappointed. Poor Khatiks who pick up sand since eternity, for a living, have to spend Rs 200 per day to feed their donkeys. From where will they get this kind of money? ‘‘Badlaav hoga,’’ (there will be change), said a woman to Chal Chitra Abhiyan, an independent news channel run by locals in Western UP.

In the village of Utarva in Banda, according to the news channel, Dalits want jobs. Doors have locks in this village because there is mass migration in search of livelihood. The nomadic community here, who voted for the BJP last time, will not toe the line anymore.

Talking of sand, the memories of the dead buried on the sandy shores of the Ganga, along with scores of dead bodies floating in the river, during the deadly Delta wave in the summer of 2021, haunts the people. People remember the dead cremated in public spaces and the hoardings put up hurriedly in Lucknow by the UP government to block photographers and journalists.

Plus, the memories of the anti-CAA protests have come back. The Supreme Court has recently ordered that the UP government should refund the damages worth crores recovered from the persons accused of destroying public property during the peaceful protests. Several activists, including women, were trapped in false cases.

Besides, the Brahmins, who can sense power from a distance, are waiting and watching. They will certainly vote for the winning alliance. In any case, bereft of political and bureaucratic power, they have been deeply disturbed by the unilateral power enjoyed by the Thakurs under the Yogi dispensation. Across UP, from Lucknow and Varanasi to Saharanpur and Meerut, the disgruntled Brahmin community might mark a decisive shift against the BJP in these assembly polls.

Political observers believe that at least 35 per cent of the BJP support base will shift this time. The backward caste vote base has all but aligned with the SP. Combined with the formidable Yadav-Muslim alliance, this seems a win-win scenario for Akhilesh Yadav. That heavyweights like Swamy Prasad Maurya, a powerful backward caste leader, four times minister with a daughter as MP, has aligned with Akhilesh, is a sign of the times. Like those bureaucrats, he too has sensed the shifting mood on the ground.

The Muslim factor too is crucial. Earlier, sidelining the Muslims, not pitching a single Muslim candidate, and ground level polarization would consolidate the Hindutva votes across the Hindu community. Now no more. This will lead to the Muslim community uniting as one against the BJP. With the backward castes, a section of Dalits and Brahmins too joining the Yadav alliance, the BJP is on a sticky wicket.

The ban on hijab in the schools of Karnataka has shocked the nation. Even BJP supporters can’t understand why school girls with backpacks, chasing dreams, should be unnecessarily targeted. There are reports that there is deep resentment within the BJP, including among Union cabinet ministers, against the move. The ban, which seemed a symbolic sign to polarize in UP, seemed to have boomeranged.

With schoolgirls from the Hindu, Christian and other communities, holding hands with the Muslim schoolmates in hijab, marching in solidarity, hand to hand, a new wave of unity in diversity has brought cheer to the nation. And this is the cheer and optimism which will be blowing in the wind in the state of UP in the spring of 2022. Resurrecting the chronicle of a tale foretold in the summer of 2022.

BJP Shorts the 2019 Campaign Circuit

By Nardeep Dahiya

It was the winter of 2016 when a Supreme Court bench headed by the now Chief Justice directed that the national anthem be played before films are screened in cinemas across the nation. The purpose of the order, the court said, was to instill “committed patriotism and nationalism” and “reflect love and respect for the motherland”.  That order was softened by the court in a week; by January this year the playing of the 52-second anthem was made optional for cinema owners, and an inter-ministerial panel is now examining the entire issue.

All that may be decided soon enough but the big-screen summer of 2018 has seen another pre-feature insertion bundled with the solemnity of the national anthem: short films that showcase the achievements of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government. You could be settling down with popcorn and a fizzy drink to watch Jurassic World or even Veere di Wedding, but these ‘shorts’ will have to be seen in the darkened theatre when the doors have been closed.

These ‘shorts’ are part of the government’s fourth year celebrations; each highlights a specific initiative of the government, like Swachh Bharat or Jan Dhan Yojana, or a sectoral thrust area like agriculture or road-building. All are available on https://48months.mygov.in/, a part of mygov.in, a website launched by the government in July 2014 to engage with citizens.


Setting the Stage
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB8ThHmY-DI  
 

About a minute long each, these are slickly made, with production values far better than is usual in the standard chest-thumping of Indian politics. Modi is the thread that ties all together, appearing in each as the spearhead of all good things coming our nation’s way.

The headline is the same across shorts: Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas. This is the slogan the Bharatiya Janata Party has settled on to ride into the battle of 2019.

It sounds pretty tame at first, but it may just turn the trick that ‘India Shining’ of 2004 could not. The slogan starts with a subliminal anti-Congress message, encapsulating in two words the anti-corruption theme of the BJP’s 2014 campaign. Saaf Niyat: Clean Intent.

Sahi Vikas—Right Development— follows, like an unfinished story, more a continuum of a higher duty than the preceding terse statement of intent, but complementing it like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

The message common to every short: What couldn’t be done in decades has been achieved in four years. As the year rolls by, this will have been drilled and drilled and drilled yet again into India’s crores of cinema-going heads.

Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas may not have the gale force of Indira Gandhi’s punchy and catchy ‘Garibi Hatao’ of 1980, but it does make the BJP’s ‘Achhe Din’ of 2014 a similarly distant memory. It turns the page.

On the negative side, it’s reminiscent of the ‘India Shining’ that put the BJP down for the count in the big surprise of 2004. And spookily so. The economy was spooling into higher gear then, India had gone nuclear, and then sorted out Pakistan in a short but vicious war. But the BJP lost.

In any case, the BJP is off the blocks with a well-crafted message of development and promise of more to come. The Opposition’s order of battle will be in place only when battle is joined; their message till then can only be ‘Oust Modi’.

Built into all this is the possibility of general elections being called early, this winter, with due state elections in BJP-held Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Congress-held Mizoram added to the mix. Then, there’s buzz of the Kejriwal-BJP war endgaming into a climactic dismissal of the Delhi government soon, and recent events in the Capital only strengthen such speculation. On Tuesday, Jammu and Kashmir was added as a possibility as the BJP broke up with its coalition partner, the Peoples Democratic Party.

Saaf Niyat may turn out to be highly miscible with the BJP’s desire to hold simultaneous national and state elections after all. And that would be Sahi Vikas as far as the ruling NDA is concerned.

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