In state after state, ancient shloka haunts BJP

In state after state, ancient shloka haunts BJP

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, arrive to pay tributes to former prime minister A B Vajpayee on his 95th birth anniversary at his memorial, Sadaiv Atal,, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019. (PTI Photo/Kamal Kishore)

Who could have ever imagined that an ancient shloka could start chasing after a mighty political party such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2019-20?

But, it seems to be happening, that too in state after state elections.

The shloka we are talking about reads like this: Ati darpe hata Lanka, ati manescha Kourava, ati dane Balirbaddha, ati sarbatra garhitam (Lanka was lost due to excessive pride, Kouravas too (lost) due to excessive ego, excessive charity bound Bali, excess of anything is terrible).

Probably BJP stalwarts are not well versed with these ancient teachings. That is why they made Jharkhand elections a classical case of how a sure-win situation can be converted into an ignominious defeat.

Just before the elections in Jharkhand, the BJP dumped its partner AJSU (All Jharkhand Students Union). The BJP leadership must have thought they were too popular to concede some more seats to the junior partner. The outcome shows with 33.37 per cent votes, the BJP has been trounced by an alliance led by Hemant Soren that managed 35.77 per cent (JMM 18.72, Congress 13.88, RJD 2.75 and NCP 0.42) votes. Many seats were lost by small margins. AJSU, on the hand, secured 8.1 per cent votes. Had the BJP kept the alliance intact, BJP-AJSU vote share would have been 41.47 per cent. That would have been 5.7 per cent above the alliance led by Soren, and would have changed the outcome dramatically But, thanks to the splitting of votes of its opponents, Soren’s alliance won 48 seats in an 81-member Assembly, while the BJP got 25 and the AJSU two.

Again, a conceited BJP refused to consider aligning with Babulal Marandi, the former BJP chief minister who now heads the JVM (Janata Vikas Morcha). Marandi supported the BJP in the last Lok Sabha election. But, in the Assembly elections, he fought separately and got 5.45 per cent votes (or three seats). Had the BJP formed an alliance with both AJSU and JVM, it could have attracted a whopping 46.93 per cent vote share! That would have translated into two-thirds or more seats of the Assembly.

So, it can safely be concluded that for the BJP it is a simple case of ‘ati darpe hata Jharkhand’. Now, Hemant Soren is safely ensconced in Ranchi, while the BJP is down and out for five years.

Come over to the second segment of the shloka, which may fit in well with the BJP for the upcoming Delhi elections: Ati manescha Kourava. The Kauravas were decimated as excessive ego prevented them from conceding anything to the Pandavas.

In Haryana and Maharashtra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah harped mostly on national issues. The strategy failed to catapult the BJP to win more seats than it secured in these state assemblies five years ago. In Delhi too, Modi and Shah may falter by harping on CAA-NRC, Article 370 and national security issues. So far, the only local issue they have in hand is the credit for legalising the illegal colonies. They need to bring in more such local issues to pin down Aam Admi Party (AAP) in the state. They also need a face who may take on Arvind Kejriwal.

The BJP leadership still have time, as it is believed that Delhi voters decide who to elect a week before the election (the date of which will be announced any day now). But Modi and Shah are so obsessed with their own achievements at the national level that they seldom change tack. They are not likely to remember how the Kouravas turned into balloons of bloated ego, and paid the price for it.

After Delhi, the next prestige fight will be in Bihar in September-October. Here, curiously, the third segment of the shloka may become relevant for the BJP.

The third segment (ati dane Balirbaddha) is about the mighty demon King Bali, who was obsessed with charity. He never turned away anyone who asked him something.

His downfall was scripted by Vishnu. After Bali drove out Indra from the heaven, Vishnu came to Bali in the garb of a dwarf brahmin,Vamana. Exploiting the king's weakness for charity, Vamana asked Bali to donate three paces of land to him. When the king agreed, Vishnu expanded to cover entire Bhuloka (the earth) and Swarga (heavens) in two paces. Then Bali had no option but to offer his head for the third step, and got pushed into Patal loka or the netherworld.

Strictly speaking, in politics no party gives concession to another if not compelled. But compulsion is also relative, and it depends on how the party is viewing its prospect. But then, often a party falters by giving away too much. The BJP will be tested on this ground in Bihar

Nitish Kumar's party, Janata Dal (United), is demanding to contest more seats in the upcoming Assembly elections as compared to the BJP. Though in the Lok Sabha elections the BJP and JD(U) contested same number of seats (17 each, while LJP was allotted 6), JD(U) vice president Prashant Kishor has rejected this model for the state polls. He has held the JD(U) as a bigger party as it has close to 70 MLAs while the BJP has just over 50. Although it is early days, if the BJP concedes to the demand, it may end up winning less number of seats than the opposition RJD-Congress combine. Such a situation would give Nitish Kumar scope to play a Uddhav Thackeray in Bihar. He has opposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), and a dispute on that point would provide him an opportune moment to walk over to the Opposition camp.

Curiously, the two neighbouring states, Jharkhand and Bihar, have thrown up completely contradictory sets of challenges for the BJP. Jharkhand was lost for not conceding to the demands of an over-ambitious ally, while Bihar could be lost for conceding too much to another ally.

So, what should the BJP do? It appears what can guide the party in the New Year is the fourth segment of the shloka: Ati sarbatra garhitam (the excess of anything is terrible).

(Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a Kolkata-based journalist and author of books including, A Naxal Story. He is a deputy editor at the Bengali daily, Aajkal)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

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