Lesson from 2019 polls: Mocking ‘Hinduness’ won’t work

The unprecedented victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha elections 2019 is a real victory for Indians.

Political parties in India were used to treating citizens as voters belonging to a particular caste or community. But voters have rejected caste/appeasement-driven politics in 2019. And this explains why parties like the Samajwadi Party, which used to draw support from Yadavs, and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which saw Jatavs as a vote bank, have failed to win people’s mandate.

But 2019 results hold out the biggest lessons for the Congress. The oldest party in India decided to play the appeasement card to win Muslim votes. That explains why Congress president Rahul Gandhi contested from Wayanad in Kerala, a constituency with a substantial Muslim population.

Congress’ anti-Hindu campaign

The Congress went all out to woo Muslim votes, clearly creating a communal divide, which ultimately became its undoing.

The ‘Left and liberal’ advisers of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took him to the bottom of the pit, making him run a campaign that was anti-Hindu and driven by Muslim appeasement.

To stand for ‘Hinduness’, which is the soul of this nation and civilisation, was considered ‘communal’ and abused as token ‘Hindu majoritarianism’.

On the other hand, the BJP ran a campaign, which seemed naturally connected with the Bharatiya culture and ethos. To understand this connect, one needs to understand the significance of what Narendra Modi did after the campaigning for the last phase ended May 17.

Here was a Prime Minister who visited two of the most sacred shrines in India – Kedarnath and Badrinath – and meditated in a cave. The opposition, without understanding its significance for a common Bharatiyamocked it.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi called Prime Minister’s Kedarnath visit a “drama”, without realising that such remarks could insult a common Bharatiya.

Such comments are most likely an outcome of a sense of rage, which is felt by several leaders who have enjoyed the fruits of power uninterruptedly for decades. They are now feeling slighted by their continuous rejection by the people of this country.

They live with a sense of entitlement and cannot come to terms with the fact that ordinary people can replace them in the power structure, which was built, nurtured and exploited by them.

The mandate for Narendra Modi-led BJP and the BJP-led NDA reflects that such stereotypes won’t work anymore.

Opportunistic alliances failed

Another important factor that worked for the BJP was its decision to stick to its ideological core as other parties went for opportunistic alliances.

On the one hand, the BJP stood by its commitment to implement the National Register for Citizens (NRC), which helped it register huge gains in states like West Bengal and further consolidate its gains in Assam. On the other hand, parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which were arch rivals for decades, came together in Uttar Pradesh in an alliance that was rejected by the voters.

One of the biggest tactical blunders by the opposition was its inability to provide an alternative agenda of development to the people. Since people across the board had significantly benefitted from the welfare schemes run by the Modi government, the opposition’s only war cry was ‘Modi Hatao’ (defeat Modi).

Consolidation of Hindus

This 2019 Lok Sabha mandate is a lesson for all the political parties that Bharat votes for those who understand the Bharatiya cultural context. Modi and the BJP’s campaign were deeply rooted in the Bharatiya cultural tradition.

The message is loud and clear: there is a consolidation of a section of the population, which had been at the receiving end for a long time in the name of ‘Hindu majoritarianism’. Those who want to come to power need to listen to them, cater to them. They must accept the fact that ‘Hinduness’ is at the core of this nation and it’s an all-inclusive concept and has been deliberately misinterpreted to create a caste and communal divide in this India. The poll results clearly tell us that such politics won’t work anymore.

(This article initially appeared in  the digital platform ‘The Print’ on May 25, 2019)

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