By Prarthana Mitra
The polling booth tug of war of 2019 has entered a stage where BJP and the opposition are campaigning head to head.
While Congress president and still tentatively the primary opposition’s prime ministerial candidate has been touring the world unmasking the flaws in BJP’s policies, the fault in his party’s ideologies come under scrutiny when he is seen on a temple run, which even the centre has touted as “soft Hindutva.” Or when Congress has helped bring the draconian blasphemy law in power in Punjab.
Yet interestingly, Rahul Gandhi invited 100 female journalists to answer pertinent questions about governance and his candidacy, at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi hasn’t granted a single press conference in the last four years, the first head of the nation to do so.
Regional power play
But there is no official confirmation on the existence of a third front yet. CPM leader and Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan was firm about non-alliance with Congress before the next polls. “Regional parties are strong these days. Regional tie-ups can be considered during elections for a real political alternative. There is no point in joining hands with one particular party at the national level,” Vijayan told PTI.
CPI(M) Central Secretariat member V. Srinivasa Rao also ruled out the possibility on Sunday, advocating a state-specific approach. That same day in Lucknow, BSP supremo Mayawati demanded a respectable number of seats as the condition for participating in the anti-BJP alliance with SP, RLD and Congress.
At the event, Mayawati also strongly condemned the Centre for evading questions on the Rafale deal. Calling it a “national tragedy,” she reportedly said that the unplanned demonetisation drive is leading to a “financial emergency”. However, she doesn’t have a high regard for the recently released Chandrashekhar Azad, founder of Bhim Army booked under the NSA after last year’s caste-related violence in Saharanpur. According to this Qrius report, the party that once united the Dalit voters under one banner has been steadily losing support and credibility, in eyes of the electorate. Mayawati is not interested in giving or receiving political benefits. She hasn’t explicitly demanded endorsement for PM candidature and is not presently answerable to a state cabinet and legislature.
Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal is falling, and burning. Reporters are being heckled for identifying political nepotism and alleging plagiarism. Two Left leaders have reportedly joined Trinamool Congress in the midst of all this, after the party made continued attempts over the year, to reach out to other disgruntled regional parties like Telangana’s TRS, Tamil Nadu’s DMK and Delhi’s AAP, even when an alliance without the backing of a national party has historically always drowned in a political slugfest.
In a recent profile on her use of poetry as a form of verse-bombing the Modi government, The Print however wrote, “These are not times for Tagoresque subtleties. It’s about making a point and underlining it, twice. Didi [Banerjee] wields her poem like a battering ram.” Recently, she took great affront to the cancellation of a programme in Chicago, commemorating 125 years of Swami Vivekananda’s speech, post-intervention by the BJP-RSS. TMC national spokesperson Derek O’Brien told media that “the organisers were under tremendous pressure from the RSS-BJP” because their programme Global Hindu Congress also recently concluded in Chicago, but more on that later.
What has the BJP been up to?
While these parties have been faltering with forming alliances, the NDA alliance has been campaigning decisively. BJP+NDA may have seen a recent increase in defaulters, like TDP and possibly Shiv Sena, but reports say that BJP is currently sealing a critical “honourable agreement” with JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
All in all, they are putting together an unimpeachable front, with misleading graphs and the Global Hindu Congress.
The Congress which began in 2014 attracted over 2,500 delegates and participants from over 60 countries this year. Vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu delivered the valedictory and thespian Anupum Kher offered the inaugural keynote. After the event, however, six peaceful anti-fascist protestors who spoke out against the casteist, sexist and xenophobic diatribe, were physically attacked for dissent. Two major student body elections in Delhi were also marred by similar violence (and EVM tampering) from members of BJP’s student wing.
The centre may be facing economic crises, failures and controversies, and conveniently escaping the accountability for the alarming rise in gender and caste-related crimes, but independent media has been meticulous and resilient in their critique of demonetisation, the Aadhaar hack, the arrest and labelling of activists as Maoists, hate speech and condonation of crimes against minorities.
Quite unperturbed by this, BJP has announced a rigorous strategy for campaigning, where party members will each visit at least 20 families and narrate the government’s achievements over tea. The T20 formula will be implemented as a door-to-door outreach programmes, besides Har Booth, Das Youth, toli (team) system and the NaMo mobile app. Technology and social media is sure to play a big role in the run up to the polls, but that doesn’t mean Modi will dispense of the road rallies or the common touch.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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