As the election campaign for the
Assembly elections started, an unnamed BJP leader was quoted
by a prominent daily on
October 5, as making this dramatic claim for Rajasthan: "The state government
has given 3.5 lakh government jobs, waived loans of over 30 lakh farmers and
covered 1.6 crore people under the Bhamashah Swasthya Bima Yojana (health
insurance). It's payback time for them."
Ignoring the characteristic
condescension of the ruling BJP evident in this crude statement, it also
reveals one of the core strategies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the
just ended elections, as also for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
They are under the impression that Prime Minister Narendra Modiâ€™s schemes of
various kinds have 'benefitted' 22 crore people and all that is needed is for
party activists to approach each of these people/families for getting their
votes for BJP. Party president Amit Shah was reported to have approved this strategy.
Election results of the five
Assemblies that went to polls in November-December this year have revealed the
hollowness of this claim. The BJP has lost all three state governments it was
holding â€“ in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh â€“ while it has
performed miserably in Telangana and Mizoram.
In the three big Hindi heartland
states, there is a distinct shift of voters away from the BJP (compared with
the last Assembly elections in 2013) by 7% in Rajasthan, by 3.5% in MP and by
8.5% in Chhattisgarh. Clearly, the strategy (or folly) of thinking that
beneficiaries of schemes will be so obliged by the largesse bestowed on them by
BJP that they will be rushing to the EVMs to elect BJP candidates, has fallen
flat on its face.
It is not very difficult to find
the reasons for this. First, the schemes do not reach everybody. Second, even
those who are reached may not see it as a great favour done to them by the
ruling party. And, third, the numbers trotted out by the BJP propaganda machine
about beneficiaries of various schemes are grossly inflated and dodgy. So, even
if BJP activists come to some so-called beneficiary's home (after procuring the
address from confidential government data, perhaps illegally) and lights a 'lotus-lamp' â€“ as was attempted
to be done in
Rajasthan and maybe elsewhere â€“ nothing of substance may come of it.
Social Media Warriors
Mainstream media has been
regularly publishing stories of how the BJP is setting up social media war
rooms, hiring lakhs ofsocial
and even that it is going to have booth-level social
media coordinators to
take the place of its fabled 'panna pramukhs'. Video
the NaMo app, microdonations, training of cyber sainiks is reported to be in advanced stages and was trial
tested in the recent Assembly elections. Remember, Modi interacted with various
scheme beneficiaries through his app before the Assembly elections?
This whole strategy was also
dovetailed to the data collected on beneficiaries of government schemes.
Whether this is legally permissible is another question, but the fact is that
huge troves of data is being harnessed by BJP for this cyber war in
preparations for the coming elections.
What was the result of trials of
this in the Assembly
elections? That the BJP has lost
is known, but what happened to all the Whatsapp messages and Facebook posts
that were flooding cyberspace in the run-up to the elections in these five
states? Clearly, these haven't helped.
The BJP has failed to understand
a truth that any political outfit worth its salt should know: there is no
replacement for solid work on the ground, and that elections are not won by
just good campaigns. If this was the case, the BJP-led National Democratic
Alliance would have retained power after its stint in 1999-2004 under Atal
Bihari Vajpayee. Despite a dazzling 'Shining India" campaign, they lost the
election and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance-1 government was
formed at the Centre.
At present, too, the BJP is inexorably
heading the same way. It has undertaken policies that have destroyed the
economy, increased joblessness, broken the back of small and medium businesses,
ruined the farmers, pauperised landless labourers and left workers struggling
to make ends meet. On the other side, its cronies have flourished and
inequality has brazenly increased. Yet the party thinks that managing the
messaging through social media will see it sail through.
As the Assembly results show,
this is never going to happen. If the people are angry and feel betrayed, no
amount of Whatsapp messages about Modi's so-called world-wide respect or
surgical strikes or images of the 'glorious' Ram Temple are going to win them
The last and the most dangerous
strategic element in BJP's electoral strategy is the communal card. This is a
complex multi-layered package that encompasses everything from blatant lies
(love jihad, Muslim population explosion, etc.) to anti-Pakistan posturing
masquerading as patriotism to building the glorious Ram Temple in Ayodhya to
hostility towards refugees. The elements of this package are formulated by the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its multiple associates and spread severally by
them through both conventional means and now increasingly, by social media.
This strategic element is a
calculated move to influence the forthcoming elections but was also tested out
in the Assembly elections. The whipping up of the Ram Temple
a manufactured chorus of voices since October this year coincided with the
Assembly election campaign, as did the use of Yogi Adityanath as the main
Yet, the BJP lost. In fact, on
the day of the results, a BJP member of Parliament, Sanjay Kakade, was reported to be rueing the fact that their "development" agenda was side-tracked by the Ram Temple issue thus ensuring their defeat!
That's because not only have
people seen through the crass opportunism in raking up the Ram Temple issue
whenever elections are approaching, but they also are waking up to the fact
that hatred and poison between communities only leads to violence, bloodshed
and tears. It never ever leads to prosperity and peace. The dozens of instances
of mob lynchings, including the recent one of a police officer in Bulandshahr,
has confirmed that a party that puts cows before human lives is undesirable.
With these major planks of its election strategy
debunked and rejected by the electorate in the Assembly elections, where will
the Modi-led BJP turn to now? That's the thing to watch out for in the coming