Beyond the numbers of the latest round of Assembly elections, there are many important messages for political parties. Elections are serious business and the parties cannot continue to treat them in a cavalier manner. There is no set pattern to how the electorate behaves and loyalty of voters cannot be taken for granted. Parties now need to reach out to the electorate with a greater sense of urgency. This requires long-term planning and continuous engagement with the voters. The recently-concluded Assembly elections indicate in clear terms that all parties must be open to quick adjustments.
Here are five observations on how electoral politics in the country could be changing:
To hold on to micro communities, BJP needs to restrain the rabid Hindutva fringe
The more the BJP-Sangh Parivar controls the rabid fringe elements and their abrasive, intimidating rhetoric, the better is the scope for its wider acceptability. In Assam, the Hindutva theme though always in the background, played out in a much subtler way, than say in Bihar. If the approach is continued in practice then the whole of the north-east and Odisha are within the BJP’s grasp. BJP’s long term success would depend largely on how it keeps together the umbrella coalition of micro communities, balancing its version of big nationalism with their ideas of nationalism shaped by local social conditions and history. It can do so only by avoiding tension and stress in the existing arrangement. It has to keep the fringe out to ensure it. It’s no more a matter of choice, but of necessity.
Long-term strategy, deep engagement key to electoral success
The big idea may be the guiding theme for parties, but it may not be the sole ticket to success. The success of parties depends on how they network at the micro level and address local aspirations. BJP’s success in the demographically complex state such as Assam is a good example of it. It calls for identifying and nurturing social groupings who would be potential partners. It’s a long process that requires deep engagement with target groups. It begins at least a couple of years before the actual election. It also calls for strategising the election campaign full of nuanced positioning. The Sangh Parivar provides critical support to the BJP here. The Congress’s real task is to match the Sangh’s reach and manpower management skills.
Why being on mission mode is critical
The Congress’s decline did not come with 2014 results. It has been a long process beginning from the 1990s when the Mandir and Mandal issues separated the party from its core social support bases. With no effort to rebuild connect with them, it has been merely surviving, not thriving. On the other hand, the BJP, supported by the Sangh Parivar on the ground, has been on a mission mode for a long time, jumping from only two seats in 1984 to 282 under Narendra Modi in 2014. The critical difference: a long term strategy and dedication to the mission. The Sangh Parivar has almost given its activities the feel of a movement while Congress, which grew out of a movement, has reduced itself to a party with a very limited agenda – survival. If it is serious about being relevant again, it has to get into the mission mode.
Rush for the Hindu votebank
The minority vote bank has been largely a myth. However, interestingly, it has served the BJP better than the secular parties. It has managed to make it a good propaganda point over the years and through it, the party managed to build some kind of a Hindu consolidation around it. This supposed votebank, which actually votes in different ways depending on local equations, now becomes less than useful for other parties too. We could now see a rush from p0litical parties to capture the Hindu votebank, which the BJP has made more or less its own. The minorities who received nothing more than platitudes from secular parties will now be on their own.
States are the real challenge for the BJP, Cong
The BJP’s real fight, as was the case with the Congress, is in the states. It’s in a happy situation where it’s in a direct fight with the Congress. It has scope to grow, though it’s difficult, in states taken over by unfriendly regional parties. Through incremental steps, it has managed to position itself as the third alternative in some such states – for example, UP, Bihar and even Kerala. However, the growth ambition of the party gets into the tricky territory when it comes to states where it has friendly parties in power. Any indiscreet step is likely to put the party in trouble at the Centre and entail alienating friends. So it has to be a nuanced approach. The Congress on the other hand will need to capture BJP-ruled bigger states such as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra and forge good alliances in states with regional parties to get back into reckoning.
Updated Date: May 22, 2016 18:27 PM