Its not fair or correct to blame the people of a state for the non-performance of BJP.
The current brand of Indic nationalism, that has been observed often on social media sites and even respected nationalist magazines, has often been a positive influence. Many facts, which the mainstream media had ignored, distorted or carefully obscured, are being highlighted in social media, thus bringing in welcome scrutiny on the affairs of the nation. In particular, for patriotic Indians, the social media has been a very rich source of information and not only did it play a vital influence in correcting the narrative on our honourable current Prime Minister, but has, more than once, taken the rich and the powerful to task. Beneath all the welcome change, however, lies a disturbing fact.
The disturbing fact comes from a judgemental attitude towards entire states based on their voting preferences or sympathies. In more than one magazine in Indic nationalistic literature and the nationalist social media, it has become commonplace to refer to all Bengalis as `Communists’, `West Bengal’ as `Waste Bengal’, to Tamils as `DMK guys’, Dravidian supremacists, LTTE etc.
When Andhra Pradesh was divided with gross injustice to the people of remaining Andhra (Kosta and Rayalseema), many Indic nationalists, both on social media and in Indic nationalist magazines, held themselves disdainfully aloof, not on principle, but out of a vindictive glee. Andhra Pradesh deserved to be torn apart brutally, it was opined, because it had voted the Congress. While Hindu Tamils have been persecuted for decades by Sinhala Buddhist majority, the Hindu temples with thousands of years of heritage being usurped by Sinhala military, the same apathy continued – ostensibly because Tamil Nadu never voted for BJP or LTTE guerrillas assassinated an Indian PM (it was conveniently forgotten that an entire populace can not be held responsible for the choices of an organization which draws members from that group).
Currently, a narrative is running in the social media that refers to Delhi as `a pampered, entitled state’ and `a city of freeloaders’ because it has rejected the BJP. Indeed, voting for BJP is being made a vital point in judging an entire people’s or state’s patriotism. Supporters have gone to the extent of recalibrating their support for rehabilitation of Hindu refugees who were forced to flee Kashmir simply because they had earlier voted for the Congress and may not have enthusiastically participated in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls. Anyone not voting the BJP is in league with the enemy, it is alleged.
It is indeed sad that the Indic nationalist media has refrained from correcting this narrative (more extant on social media than on nationalist media). A simple analysis of the past electoral history of the BJP would have confirmed that the states where the BJP has failed are places where the BJP has never even offered a decent alternative or even made a serious attempt to engage voters.
Whenever the BJP made that serious attempt, the nationalists in the states’ electorates have rewarded the BJP (or its predecessor, Jan Sangh). Also forgotten, sadly, in this narrative, are the nationalists in these states themselves, who, even when the going was bad, held firm to the nationalist ideology. It is worthwhile to note that RSS continues to have karyakartas in remote districts in the states which have never voted for BJP – they did not abdicate on their commitment despite persecution conducted by state machinery and without any hope for any material incentive – many such karyakartas have died unsung, killed by goons of political parties opposed to the BJP. When the BJP got its act together and provided the people with a coherent agenda and alternative, the nationalists in the states could and did reward the BJP.
Further, we humbly submit that the electoral fortunes of the BJP should not be held as the touchstone for judging the nationalism of the people of the state. Political parties are responsible for their fortunes in various states. The people cannot be held responsible for not voting in a particular party. Political parties sell their agenda, educate the voters of the benefits of voting their candidates and thus win by converting people to their cause. It is not the duty of the voters to go in search of the party and its agenda or pre-emptively and blindly vote the party.
Further, in this tendency to generalise, Indic nationalists in the maligned states are lost sight of. When the Bengalis are demonised as `Communist’, what does it make Shyama Prasad Mookerjee? Or Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya? Bipin Chandra Pal? Aurobindo Ghosh? Are they also Communists? Or are they now less Bengali because they adhered unwaveringly to Indic nationalism?
The gross generalisations only serve to alienate the nationalists of the states and Indic nationalist narrative that indulges in such gross generalisations does our cause a great deal of harm.
We shall give a brief overview of the electoral fortunes of the BJP in the states where it has never been prominent, starting with Bengal.
In 1952 elections, when the Congress was extremely powerful and almost held a total dominance on the nationalist narrative, the state which gave the then Jan Sangh (the forerunner of the BJP) two out of its three members, was Bengal. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee won from the same seat that was held continuously for Mamata Banerjee for several terms, South Kolkata. Further, the Jan Sangh also won the Midnapur-Jhargram seat, while the Hindu Mahasabha won the Hooghly seat. Bengal had rewarded the Indic nationalists clearly, even when the Congress was at the height of its powers.
The atrophy of the Jan Sangh began after the death of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and was consummated during the 60s when the BJS adopted the `Hindu, Hindi, Hindustani’ push, alienating all those who did not belong to this belt clearly. The same phenomena that made the BJP prominent in the Hindi heartland held it back in those areas where Hindi was not prominent. Even so, during the Ram wave, West Bengal greatly rewarded the BJP. While the BJP did not win any seat in 1991, its vote rose from 1.67% in 1989 (when it contested only 19 of the 42 seats) to 11.66% in 1991, a rise of 10% in a state where the BJP had few cadres and virtually no agenda outside the Ram temple one. It is just the bad luck of the BJP that its vote was spread across the state and it could not win any particular seat.
And since 1998, the BJP decided to abandon its lone stand and went into partnership with Mamata Banerjee, it could and did indeed win seats (Dum Dum in 98, and Dum Dum and Krishnanagar in 99). And when the BJP made a serious attempt to engage the Gurkhas in 2009, West Bengal rewarded the BJP with the Darjeeling seat. And in 2014, when the BJP actually put up a decent fight, even with its limited resources and cadres, Bengal rewarded the BJP with two seats (Darjeeling and Asansol) and 17% of the total vote. BJP in WB has been fast moving away from its core ideology since the 2014 elections. It has not sought to raise awareness in the state on the persecution of Hindus in its border districts despite repeated targets on them by Jihadi Jamat groups reared by vested interests.
The state unit has not launched any movement against illegal immigration at local levels either. It has only been campaigning on one issue thus far – the Sharda financial scam – important as the issue is it can not win BJP polls by itself. Owing to these significant omissions, BJP is coming across as yet another addition to the chaotic political landscape of Bengal rather than a robust alternative. There is also significant discontent in local party units on the rewards provided to candidates inducted from TMC at the expense of those who have stuck with the party through thick and thin. If BJP does not accomplish the desired outcome, its supporters ought to introspect about the strategic deficiencies of the party rather than blaming the voting populace.
It is true that the elite among the Kashmiri Pandits had occupied influential positions in the governments headed by Nehru and Indira Gandhi. It is also true that the same elite did little to secure the interests of their brethren, motivated perhaps by a misplaced sense of Kashmiri nationalism. But, why should an entire populace be deprived of the solidarity of the nationalists because of the failings and betrayals of their elites?
In fact, when Shyama Prasad Mookerjee went to Kashmir in 1953, defying the orders of the Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah governments, many Kashmiri Pandits agitated for his release and braved bullets and batons for him. This was the commitment of the Kashmiri Pandits to Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, when they saw equal commitment from Dr. Mookerjee. How can they be blamed when the current BJP forgets all about them, in its unseemly haste to make peace with their oppressors for crass electoral gains? As for the Kashmiri elite, where in India did the elite not betray the commoners? How many national leaders took strong positions against the Muslim fundamentalism that eventually lead to India’s partition (other than those of Hindu Mahasabha lead by Veer Savarkar) ? Do we then blame all of India for her partition?
Or should we descend to blaming Gujarat for the politics of one of its eminent residents, Mohandas Gandhi, for repeatedly pandering to the unreasonable demands of the Muslim League and often other assorted lumpen elements among Muslims and compromising Hindu interests in the process – not that the moves turned fruitful as evidenced by the partition of India and subsequent bloodbath in which millions lost their lives and innumerable women were subjected to sexual torture, forced marriages, etc. Just as Gujarat is not responsible for the misdeeds of Mohandas Gandhi, Bengal is not for its Left and far Left leaders and Kashmiri Pandits for the collaboration of their elites.
We shall also cite the case of Andhra Pradesh. The BJP in Andhra Pradesh was actually growing into a force in its own right in the early 80s, particularly in and around Vishakhapatnam. BJP actually controlled the corporation of Vishakhapatnam in the early 80s (first via NSN Reddy and later via, DV Subba Rao). Venkaiah Naidu also became an MLA in 1978 (as the Janata Party candidate) and in 1983 (as the BJP candidate) from Udayagiri.
However, the BJP chose to abandon that attempt in favour of an alliance with NTR (who created a grand coalition called Mitrapakshalu against the Congress). Overshadowed by NTR, the BJP would wither away over the next few years. Yet another attempt was made by the BJP in 1991, when, contesting alone for the first time in all the seats, the BJP won nearly 10% of the vote in Andhra Pradesh and also won the Secunderabad seat. Had not Rajiv Gandhi died giving the Congress a sympathy wave in Andhra, it is likely that the BJP would have performed even better, particularly in the present Telangana, where the BJP had a presence. Again, when the BJP looked to expand its footprint in 1998, with some decent leg work, Andhra rewarded the BJP with 4 seats and 18% of the vote. In fact, for the first time in its history, the BJP had won seats not only in Telangana (Secunderabad and Karimnagar), but also Kosta (Kakinada and Rajamahendry) and put up a very impressive performance in Rayalseema, particularly in Chittor and Nellore districts.
The BJP chose to squander it all away by getting into an alliance with the TDP (this predisposition to kill off its state units for power in the centre is at the root of the lack of BJP growth in various states – Andhra Pradesh and Odisha being prime examples).
Finally, Delhi gave 7 out of 7 seats to Delhi in the LS polls, without the then PM candidate promising freebies. If BJP has lost in the assembly polls, it would be due to its strategic and tactical errors in Delhi. It did not strike the iron while it was hot by declaring polls right after its LS win, and rather waited hoping for degeneration of AAP on its own.
Instead, AAP utilized the 8 month reprieve it had to regroup and launch a spirited door to door campaign. The state unit of BJP was nowhere to be found during this time; several factions have been engrossed in settling scores among themselves. Besides, municipal corporations in Delhi are merged in corruption and have performed poorly in general, which has damaged the reputation of the party in the city. Parachuting a CM candidate three weeks before the polls without any prior political experience may not have helped either; she did not have sufficient time to bond with the cadres dispirited by induction from the top. BJP also failed to highlight the jihadi connections of AAP.
Large parts of the media almost acted as campaign agents of AAP – surely we can not expect the entire populace to be discerning enough to probe deeper before firming up their choice – communication is the responsibility of a party and not the other way round. It would be unjust to blame the Delhi populace for their political choice even if they vote for AAP.
These examples should tell the people all the information they need to get. The BJP has been rewarded by the people not merely in BJP ruled states of the Hindi heartland, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra, but also in other regions when the BJP actually put together even a semi-coherent agenda and did some honest work. This is despite the fact that their top leadership did not speak the languages of those states and therefore suffered from a communication barrier, and the state leadership had either been non-existent (WB, AP, TN) or fractious (Delhi). Either the leaders in these states were competent but marginalised, or else, could not build mass bases.
The people are not to be blamed for the reverses suffered by the BJP in these states, nor do their nationalist credentials need to be questioned. The attempt to blame the states, and derogatorily generalise their people for the BJP’s own failures is a sad commentary on part of the nationalists on social media. It is akin to the parents of a student who fails an exam to blame all the world except their own offspring for the failure. It is in poor taste and devoid of the truth. Further, such attempts will weaken Indic nationalism.
The BJP does not possess a monopoly over Indic nationalism. By all means, let us critique the anti-national actions and leaders of the various political parties when they do descend to those activities. But Indic nationalism, even Hindu nationalism, is not a monopoly of the BJP. Many political parties have been staunchly subscribing to Hindu nationalism – like the Ram Rajya Parishad, the Shiv Sena and most importantly, the Hindu Mahasabha (the original!), and if one enlarges the definition to Indic nationalism, we can even add the Shiromani Akali Dal.
We hope that an attempt to generalise and tar entire states and question their commitment to Indic nationalism will not be encouraged, if not on the raucous and vociferous, social media, at least in Indic nationalist narrative.
Co-authored by Saswati Sarkar.
The author is a keen observer of Indian electoral politics
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