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How does the Opposition fight Hindutva?

After the BJP’s triumph in the last round of assembly elections, many people take it for granted that Narendra Modi is on course to win a third term.

Mr. Modi himself is one of these people. In his speech to BJP workers after the election results were announced, he referred to the next General Election: “Political experts will say that the 2022 UP elections have decided the results of 2024”.


Certainly, if nothing much changes between now and the next General Election it is hard to see how Mr. Modi can be defeated. The momentum is simply too strong. And yet, Prashant Kishore, who knows a thing or two about winning elections refuses to accept that 2024 is a done deal. Mr. Modi can still lose, Mr. Kishore has been telling interviewers.


   This view is echoed by many Opposition leaders. Akhilesh Yadav whose party’s vote share shot up 11 per cent in the assembly elections has suggested that this was just a semi-final. The Samajwadi Party’s vote share will keep increasing, he says, till it overtakes the BJP.


   This may or may not be true but there is no getting around the reality that in most Hindi-speaking states, the BJP is a clear favourite: UP, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, etc. These are the states where the bulk of the BJP’s Lok Sabha seats come from and so far at least, there is no effective challenge to the BJP in these states.


   The states where the BJP does not win are those where there is a strong non-Hindi-speaking identity: Punjab, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra, Orissa, West Bengal, etc. Some states are exceptions — Assam, Karnataka and Goa, for example — but generally speaking, Mr. Modi finds it easier to win in what might be described as the North Indian heartland. It is never a truly national mandate but the sweep of the Hindi heartland is so complete that it gives him the seats he needs to form the government.


   If the Opposition is to beat him — and it is a big ‘if’ — then there are several seemingly insurmountable factors it has to take into account.


1) How does the Opposition fight Hindutva? Mr. Modi’s greatest achievement may be that he has successfully weaponised Hinduism as a vote-winner. He has convinced Hindus who constitute 80 per cent of the population that they are, somehow, at risk and in danger if they don’t vote for him.


   The BJP likes to say that the Congress treats Muslims as a vote bank. Perhaps. But, in that case, the Hindu majority, which the BJP has mobilized, is the party’s Reserve Bank, a bank that is too big to fail.


   Nor does the BJP take the Hindu vote for granted. Every few months, some Hindu-Muslim issue dominates public consciousness. Should students be allowed to wear hijab to schools? How badly were Kashmiri pandits treated in 1990? And so on.


   So far, at least, the Opposition does not know how to fight this vote-winning Hindutva strategy.


  "The opposition parties have shown themselves to be no match for the BJP when it comes to engineering caste coalitions. Can they overcome this handicap?"

2) If you take all the money that every Indian political party has collected and double it, that total figure would still not approach the funds that the BJP has at its disposal. Elections cost money. And the other parties don’t have as much.


   In nearly every constituency, the BJP candidate will outspend his opponent by a factor of at least two-to-one.


3) Whichever way you look at it, there is no doubt that the BJP has the media sewn up. It isn’t just the cravenly supportive TV news channels or the respectful and nervous print media. It is also social media. Millions of people believe what they read in WhatsApp forwards or in Facebook groups. The Opposition parties have made no headway there --- it is the BJP narrative that prevails on WhatsApp and Facebook.


4) During the UP campaign, there was a sense that Akhilesh Yadav had started to dismantle the BJP’s carefully constructed caste coalition. But as the final results demonstrated, the BJP still held on to enough of its base for the caste arithmetic to work in its favour.


   The opposition parties have shown themselves to be no match for the BJP when it comes to engineering caste coalitions. Can they overcome this handicap?


5) As the assembly elections showed us, Mr. Modi is Teflon-coated. No failure seems to dent his popularity. The Chinese may have occupied Indian territory but people still believe that Mr. Modi has effectively guarded India’s national interests. The Western world may be openly critical of Mr. Modi record on such issues as individual freedoms and diversity. But the BJP’s voters continue to believe that Mr. Modi has raised India’s standing in the world.


   People who suffered because of demonetization voted for Mr Modi. Migrants who walked home during the first lockdown, tired and hungry, voted for Mr. Modi. And even those who lost relatives during the Pandemic because vaccines, hospital beds and oxygen were not available, voted for Mr. Modi.


   How can a leaderless Opposition defeat a man whose popularity grows even when he messes up?


6) And then finally, there is the Congress factor. We all know that the Congress is in decline. But what we may not realize is that almost every seat the Congress loses goes to the BJP.


   One reason why the BJP sweeps Lok Sabha elections in such states as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Assam is because voters are told to choose between Mr. Modi and Rahul Gandhi. Almost, without fail, they choose Mr. Modi.


   There are between 150 to 200 seats where the fight is between the Congress and the BJP. The Congress loses the vast majority of those seats. Add up those victories and the seats it wins in UP and the BJP is already well on its way to a majority


   Is any of this likely to change before the next General Election? It could; politics is full of surprises. But it won’t change unless circumstances change and not unless the Opposition does something dramatically different.


   So far at least, there is no evidence of that.  It may well be possible to defeat Mr Modi. But nobody seems to know how.




  • Anjeet 29 Mar 2022

    Reasons could be: for loosing
    Human nature, law of dimnishing attraction.
    but, for now Kashmir has made a mark that is to stay and unify India like Kargil. "If handled meticulously. Need good Opposition:
    But, Crumbling and self destroying approach and not reading what is written on the wall, to change is biggest draw back. And that's bad for us with no good opposition... Really sad
    Prashant Bhushan has decided Shah very well, can really strategise well.
    Politically he may not have 100? accept.

  • Ashok Chowgule 27 Mar 2022

    Okay, the BJP is defeated and Modiji is no longer the prime minister. How will the nation be better off, and how will the lives of the people improve?

  • Sreenivasa Rao Ketepalle 26 Mar 2022

    Can someone from the opposition ask Mr Modi how he can be defeated?

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