Shiv Sena leader Mr. Udhav Thackeray advanced the same arguments for debunking the so-called Modi wave as this writer did immediately after the parliamentary elections results were declared. He had pointed out that the results reflected more the strong anti-incumbency Congress wave than a pro-Modi wave. The BJP won only in states where the main opposition was the Congress. Regional parties of Orissa, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and other states performed as well if not better than the BJP.
The one exception was Uttar Pradesh.
The spectacular BJP victory against Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) earned Mr. Amit Shah who masterminded the poll his formidable reputation. The results were freakish inasmuch that the BSP got a 20% vote share but won not a single seat.
In the recent by-election results the BJP has not fared well. But its most spectacular failure is in UP. Of the 11 constituencies the BJP had vacated 10 seats after its sitting MLAs entered parliament. Now the BJP has lost 9 of the 11 by-elections. It is a spectacular setback. One suggests several factors brought this about.
First, the Modi wave affected most the middle class. It was incensed by Congress corruption. Despite his tall poll promises Mr. Modi has done nothing against prevalent corruption mega-scams. Secondly Mr. Modi’s emphasis on development strongly attracted the middle class. Development was the perfect foil to demolish the discredited SP government in UP. But in these by-elections Mr. Amit Shah tried to polarize voters along communal lines in an attempt to consolidate the Hindu vote for a massive victory. Hate speeches made by him and by the newly appointed BJP UP campaign-in-charge, Yogi Adityanath, set an entirely contrary tone to what Mr. Modi’s modernization and development agenda had created. The fact that BJP voters were alienated is born out by the low polling in UP. The BSP did not contest a single seat. That gave prospect to the BJP of mopping up the Dalit vote because of traditional BSP antipathy to SP. Despite this advantage the BJP was trounced.
Thirdly, the style of functioning adopted by Mr. Modi and his chosen favourite Mr. Amit Shah, bordering on arrogance and dictatorship, alienated many traditional BJP workers. That explains the low polling. These by-election results are not necessarily a one time aberration. They merit serious introspection by Mr. Modi. He cannot ride the two horses of modernized development and communal polarization at the same time. He has to make hard choices. If he wants to reclaim his hold on the middle class and the new generation he must openly oppose the communal politics pursued by a section of his party colleagues. If necessary he must not hesitate to dump Mr. Amit Shah. In these by-elections he has not been defeated by any opposition party. He was defeated by his own party. And finally, as he prepares for his trip abroad he might consider that other nations must have also keenly followed these poll results.