West Bengal assembly election was the major focal point of Indian politics amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Assembly elections were held in four states and one union territory in 2021 – West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, and Pondicherry. Results of all elections are not different from 2016. In spite of the status quo in result, its romance of an intellectual class to project results in a radical change in Indian politics. For example, Yogendra Yadav writes in the print with the title – “Bengal has stopped BJP’s Ashvamedha Yagna — and given India an opportunity”
Intellectual dishonesty in the evaluation of election results
The Indian intellectual class generally lives in illusion. They are so obsessive with the defeat of the BJP that their intellectual dishonesty appears clear before us. They tried to create a similar narrative in 2018 after the victory of INC in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. I remember a journalist, Ravish Kumar, repeatedly tried to show that INC has won the election in the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and he will be going to a big face in 2019. In 2019, the BJP led NDA came with a greater majority from 282 in 2014 to 303 in 2019 in the general election.
A similar kind of narrative is being created by intellectuals like Yogendra Yadav who claims that Bengal has stopped BJP’s Ashvamedha Yagna. He might be knowing the fact that BJP has only 3 seats in 2016. It was not a player at all. It has now drastically increase seats from 3 to 77 in 2021. In a correct sense, Bengal has put the last nail in the coffin of left politics in India where people have categorically rejected and reduce 34 years rule of left in Bengal to 0 (ZERO) seat. The Bengal has also damaged the INC at a greater level.
Apart from a significant rise in Bengal politics, the BJP led NDA has been successful in retaining Assam even after too much criticism against CAA and NRC. It wins a new union territory, Pondicherry in 2021. The BJP has increased its seat in Tamil Nadu from 0 seats in 2016 to 4 seats in 2021 along with vote %. BJP fought election in alliance with AIDMK. It indicates that the BJP has footprints in the politics of the southern region of India. During Bhumi poojan, Yogendra Yadav confessed in one article in print for turning blind eye to minority communalism. But post-Bengal assembly result, he has been committing the same mistake.
Similarly, professor at CSDS, Hilal Ahmed communally putting an assertion – “Muslim votes matter.” In reality, all votes matter. But putting forward the notion on the basis of religion or caste creates communalism in India. Today’s generation is not ready to digest paradoxical stand where Muslim votes collectively are deemed as empowerment and Hindu votes collectively are deemed as communalism. These things are nothing but appeasement. These people are so clever that they confuse people between two words “appeasement” and “development.”
Shashi Tharoor commented on the Bengal election – “Bengal is a decisive win for the ‘idea of India’, an inclusive, pluralist India where your religion or region don’t matter.” India’s democracy has been much more matured than western scholars think. India celebrates democracy like a festival. But hypocritical statements have no place in today’s India. If a favorite party wins in an election then it is called a victory of the “idea of India” and loss is blamed on the EVM machine and the election commission. I personally believe that the ignorance of opponents of BJP has been making BJP bigger day by day.
The surge of BJP in Bengal
After independence, the right forces were delegitimized in the eyes of people. After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the RSS was blamed unnecessarily which confused the Indian people. Later Kapur commission rejected such a thesis. Vinay Sitapati in his book “Jugalbandi: The BJP before Modi” has rejected such notion. Since then, the BJP struggled to increase footprints in political India. Elites of Lutyen Delhi saw them as untouchables in Indian politics. Hard work and the dedication of the BJP leaders help them to increase from 2 seats in 1984 to 303 in 2019.
Slowly the BJP is rising its footprints in other regions apart from the Hindi heartland. Intellectual class used to taunt the BJP as the party of Hindi heartland. The surge of BJP in Bengal from 3 to 77 seats and successful alliance with AIDMK in Tamil Nadu are examples of the surge of BJP in other regions of India where it was not a player. Regionalism in Bengal has been decreasing. The personality cult of Mamta Benerjee saved Trinamool Congress. The basic feature of any regional party is that it is very centralized and all decision revolves around one face.
For example, till Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi maintained internal democracy he was projected as PM face in 2014. But later he showed his dictatorial attitude by throwing intellects like Yogendra Yadav and Parshant Bhushan and ending internal democracy. He reduced himself to a regional leader. Consequently, a few people would have known any other leader in TMC apart from Mamta Banerjee since there is very little internal democracy in a regional party. Suvendu Adhikari was a merely regional leader till he was in TMC but he has now become a national leader after defeating Mamta Benerjee in Nandigram.
One more important thing which dishonest intellectual class won’t tell. CSDS in his study has revealed in even 2019 that the Left has moved toward the right in West Bengal. CSDS Lokniti study shows that the general rise of BJP has been through the upper caste but in Bengal, it is the opposite. The upsurge of the subaltern class has played a vital role in increasing the footprints of the BJP in West Bengal especially in the Matua community. We have seen the same in Bihar where two deputy CM were made from the subaltern class from the BJP.
Apart from decreasing regionalism, the spread of Hindi in other regions, and a surge of subaltern class, other factors have also contributed to the rise of BJP in new regions. It is also true that BJP got foot soldiers from the left party in Bengal as founded in the CSDS study. Poll strategist for TMC in Bengal, Prashant Kishore, in an audio chat leak confessed that appeasement has also contributed to the surge of the BJP in other regions like Bengal. BJP during Atal-Advani tried to make a space in Lutyens’ Delhi. But BJP in the era of Modi-Shah rejected the elitism of Lutyens’ Delhi. Now the BJP doesn’t need any man who uses English toilets.
Why Indian politics need INC?
Indian National Congress (INC) has been facing a crisis of credibility in the eyes of the people. For Indian politics, it has been a matter of grave concern. First, The renowned political scientist Rajni Kothari in his book “Politics in India” had coined the term ‘Congress system’ to describe the party’s ability to assimilate diverse social groups and even dissidents within its fold. Second, INC in India protects Indian politics from extremists. We see the rise of extremist parties like AIMIM just because of the decline of INC. When the congress would surge these parties would return to the conventional single-digit seats.
Third, Indian politics will have no meaning without strong opposition like INC or any other alternative like it. Regional parties lack internal democracy and their attitude is more dictatorial. Thus regional parties can’t replace INC. We also see too much friction between regional parties and the central government. Probably, that could be the reason why Shashi Tharoor wants a presidential system in India. Fourth, Intellectual people in INC had played a vital role during the UPA regime. India witnessed some of the good initiatives like MGNREGA, RTI act 2005, and Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
Then why the INC is performing worst day by day? Pranab Mukherjee in his last book “The Presidential Years, 2012-2017” (2021) recognizes the reasons behind the debacle of congress. First, End of charismatic leadership: “It was difficult to believe that Congress had managed to win just 44 seats.” Second, TMC left coalition: “If I had continued in the government as Finance Minister, I would have ensured Mamata’s continuity in the coalition.” Third, Mishandling Maharashtra: According to him, it was handled badly due to decisions taken by Sonia Gandhi. “I would have brought back Shivraj Patil or Sushil Kumar Shinde.” Fourth, Lost focus: “I do believe that the party’s leadership lost political focus because Sonia Gandhi didn’t manage the affairs of the party.”
The former president of India, Pranab Mukherjee, made valid points behind the debacle of INC in India. Apart from it, today, congress leaders are playing negative politics. They celebrate the defeat of the BJP instead of introspecting their own defeat. Shashi Tharoor made no delay in celebrating the defeat of the BJP in West Bengal. But in reality, Congress has been reduced to 0 (ZERO) seats in West Bengal in 2021 from 44 seats in 2016. Congress leadership lacks unity. Rahul Gandhi needs to re-think the people surrounding him because it has not been giving good results.
Does the victory of regional parties indicate the return of the federal system?
Again some of the news portals are celebrating the victory of regional parties as to the return of the federal system in India. They are again playing with words similar to appeasement Vs development. Appeasement never meant the development of a certain community, instead of it is ignorance and underdevelopment of a certain community. For example, in the context of Indian politics, the Sachar committee report is nothing but an outcome of the appeasement of Indian Muslim elites. It has led to ignorance of the common Muslim population. Similarly, regional politics and federalism have no structural relation. There might be functional relation between them.
If any regional party wins in a state, it doesn’t mean that center devolves more power to the state. The Constitution of India has demarcated power between the center, state, and the local government. First, if the central and the state government are of the same parties, it leads to convenience in governance and put a full stop to the blame game politics. For example, over the oxygen supply, the Delhi government and the central government have been fighting with each other like school boys and the people of Delhi have been suffering due to these frictions.
Second, India’s constitution speaks for a quasi-federal system and not fully federal on the line of the US because it is indestructible. India as a union is indestructible in order to protect sovereignty, integrity, and unity. Third, Federalism will be more cooperative if the center and the state have the same party in power because regional parties are often derived from either regionalism which challenges India’s integrity or communal politics by polarizing the certain community in the name of empowerment.
Overall performance by the states
Post poll survey of CSDS-Lokniti concludes the following – First, Local issues crucial to voters across States. Second, Voters are determining their electoral choice for State and national election distinctly. It means people choose differently for national and state elections. Third, Except for Assam, there was no strong desire of any of the states for a double-engine government. Even in Bengal, more people have opposed this idea than support it. Fourth, Anti-incumbency was seen only in Tamil Nadu but pro-incumbency was seen in Assam, Kerala, and West Bengal. This was the first election for Tamil Nadu after the demise of two figures – Karunanidhi (DMK) and Jayalalitha (AIDMK).
Fifth, In all states party, matters more than the candidate. Sixth, Net satisfaction with the state government has improved considerably in West Bengal, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Seventh, Across all states, complete opposition to CAA was greater than complete support. Eighth, In Assam and Tamil Nadu, people supported NRC but in Kerala people opposed, in WB people have a balanced approach.
The trend of vote% in state elections 2021 has been expressing the limitation of the first past the post system. In Bengal, there is not a very large difference between vote % (BJP got 38.1% votes and the TMC got 47.9% votes) compared to seats (BJP got 77 seats and the TMC got 213 seats). In Kerala, CPI (M) got 25.38% votes and 62 seats. Congress got almost the same vote % (i.e. 25.12%) in Kerala but their seats are merely 21. The BJP got NO seat with 11.3% vote shares. In Assam, NDA got 73 seats with 39.7% vote and UPA got 52 seats with 42.3% votes. In Tamil Nadu, DMK got 37.70% with 133 seats while AIDMK got 33.29% with merely 66 seats. INC got nearly 4.27% votes with 18 seats while the BJP got 2.62% votes with only 4 seats.
Good governance of Mamta Benerjee especially women-centric schemes and fear psychosis among Muslims against the surge of the BJP has helped TMC in crossing the margin of the first past the post system. Similarly, the BJP’s strong welfare push in Assam. The Left’s handling of both public health and natural disasters has helped in Kerala. The anti-incumbency factor and lack of political unity in AIDMK in Tamil Nadu have helped the DMK to get power in Tamil Nadu.
The people of India are much more mature than we think. People have chosen their leaders accordingly. Everybody should accept people’s mandate. It is a poor idea to shift defeat on the election commission of India and the EVM. The political class should refrain from spreading negativity toward institutions like the election commission of India. If it was true then no one could win an election except a certain party similar to Pakistan. ECI is very impartial and autonomous in functioning.
Time has come when congress needs to assess their failures and all political parties should develop cooperation among them in the way of governance. This thing is much needed especially during pandemic days. TMC should control their party workers involved in violence and lynching after the election result. Mamta Banerjee should immediately stop targeting BJP workers and burning BJP offices by their workers. The new generation of India doesn’t want communal politics. It expects better from the current political system.
- Amazon | The Presidential Years: 2012-2017 by Pranab Mukherjee
- Amazon | Jugalbandi: the BJP before Modi by Vinay Sitapati
- Decoding Dream India | Communal outbidding of majoritarianism ends with violence
- The Print | Bengal has stopped BJP’s Ashvamedha Yagna
- The Tribune | BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, who defeated Mamata in Nandigram, ‘attacked’
- Hindustan Times | The return of federalism
- Election Commission of India | Results of assembly elections in May 2021
- News 18 | BJP Gives Ticket to Matua Leader
- The Hindu | The Left moved right in West Bengal