“If I paint a white horse, you might not see the horse ……. But surely you will see the wilderness” – Pablo Picasso
Indeed, all that you see in the canvas of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh is wilderness. There are too many cows and elephants out there roaming freely in the rugged, turbulent land. And with the unprecedented, high-decibel slinging match that’s going on between the warring forces representing the cow and the elephant making the atmosphere murkier, you can’t see clearly.
Picasso’s white horse looks lost in the misty woods.
By a stroke of luck — the BJP, which seemed like it was heading towards certain disaster in battleground UP in the aftermath of Dayashankar Singh’s idiocy — appears to have spotted not just the horse, but a knight in shining armour too. And their knight is Swati Singh, Dayashankar’s wife, who has risen like a phoenix from the ashes to save the honour of her family, and even more importantly, her party.
Swati’s back-to-the-wall fight seems to have made a telling impact on the mindset of the silent, apolitical majority which has been overwhelmed by her impassioned plea: “The BSP people have lodged an FIR against my husband for what he had said. But now they are demanding that my daughter and I be produced before them. What crime have we committed? If nasty words can hurt Mayawatiji, why will these not hurt us, particularly my daughter? The 12-year-old daughter has already gone through acute mental trauma as a result of the filthy threats that she has been hearing.”
Tens of thousands of messages were posted on the social media in support of Swati’s cause. This apart, many NGOs, social activists and students cutting across caste lines came out in her support within hours of lodging of the FIR against BSP leader Nasimuddin Siddiqi and others who had addressed the pro-Mayawati rally in Lucknow on Friday.
The BJP couldn’t have asked for more. In New Delhi, party strategists who had absolutely no idea about the way things were developing spontaneously in UP to their advantage. They sat up. And only after racking their brains together for hours in the new light, they could realise the enormity of the political windfall they had got on a platter, thanks to Swati’s exploits.
They could also realise two more things: First, their saffron outfit can never beat the Samajwadi Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party through a symbolic pro-dalit, pro-backward outreach they had been attempting for past six months or so. If they do so, they would only be repeating their Bihar folly. Their salvation lies in caste-neutral politics. What else? Remember, the BJP could come into power all by itself in Lucknow in 1991 on the strength of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir Movement. This movement was caste neutral. Bulk of both backwards, forwards and Dalits had lent their support to the BJP which could win 221 of the total 425 assembly seats. In later years, they floundered on the delivery front. They also suffered from disunity within the Parivar. They lost steam by the turn of the century. BJP's downhill slide continued in the 21st century with the party getting just 88, 51 and 47 seats in the 2002, 2007 and 2012 elections respectively. In sharp contrast, their main adversaries – the SP and the BSP – had grown too big by that time.
Second, the backroom strategists could also realise that they can do well only against the Congress – and not against regional players. Nowhere in India have they ever succeeded in beating regional players in state assembly elections. This is a lesson they have learnt the hard way and this explains their ceaseless ranting and raving about the Congress.
Even in national elections, they could attain majority in the Lok Sabha on their own strength only once – in the Modi wave of 2014. And remember the Modi wave was caused by, more than anything else, politics of hope, progress and caste-neutrality. The fact that the Congress was too week and the opposition as a whole too disjointed only added poignancy to the wave. Yes, division of opposition votes mattered a lot. Otherwise, how else can you get past the post with only 30 percent of popular votes?
The question of the hour now is: Can the pro-Swati Singh wave, which has taken the saner sections of the society by a storm in Uttar Pradesh, cause deep-enough splits in opposition votes? Or, is it just a storm in a tea cup? There exists, however, a warning signal emanating from the Raj Bhavan in Lucknow at the same time: The state governor is seen to be getting active over the Swati Singh episode.
Should this continue, the spontaneous upsurge that you see in the lady’s favour will lose momentum. And, in that case, the BJP will have only itself to put the blame on.
Time is ticking away.