It often seems as if Prime Minister Modi thinks and lives gangasrotogati, among followers and opponents who only think and live kurmagati or at best mandeikagati.
An example of this can be seen in the reaction to the results of the recent elections. While many of his followers were reveling in short-term triumphalism, and some of his opponents gave in to an equally myopic despondency, Mr. Modi appeared to draw the right conclusion, that the results revealed a gaping vulnerability for the BJP, and he moved decisively to address it.
One of the most penetrating examinations of the 2017 election result was provided by a blogger who goes under the name of “chaiwallah”. In an article published at OpIndia, the basic argument is laid with great clarity:
It is an irony that the BJP’s smashing victory in Uttar Pradesh might actually have made it more difficult for Modi to win in 2019. The bigger the BJP gets and the more states it wins, the more “Mahagathbandhans” will rise, making the path to victory in 2019 steeper and narrower.
In order to understand the argument better, we need to look at the figures for vote shares in the recent election. The table below shows the data.
2017 Election Vote Shares
Nowhere did the BJP and its allies win a popular vote majority, although in Uttarakhand they came close, in an election that was almost a two-party contest.. In Punjab they lost and probably would have lost even more dismally if AAP were not in the picture. In Goa the BJP received only about 32% of the vote, and any INC alliance with one of the regional parties could have won a majority of the seats. The BJP was dominant in Uttarakhand, and they improved their position substantially in Manipur. In the race for the big prize, Uttar Pradesh, the BJP and its allies did almost as well as in 2014, and this produced a huge seat tally.
However, a glance at the table above tells us that things may have turned out very differently if the BJP’s opponents had teamed up as a grand coalition in Uttar Paradesh, as they had done in Bihar in 2015. A Bihar style SP-BSP-INC Magahathbandhan would have defeated the NDA easily. Indeed, against the JD-RJD-INC coalition in Bihar in 2015, the NDA coalition was able to win only 58 out of 243 seats while the Mahagathbandhan won 178 seats. It seems likely that against a similar “great coalition” in Uttar Pradesh, the NDA coalition would have fared just as badly. And that would have meant that BJP would have suffered a great defeat, losing Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Punjab, and possibly also Manipur. Instead, we had the thumping BJP victory. All because BSP and SP did not work out a coalition.
Of course, there are many good and valid reasons why the SP and BSP could not form a coalition. In the end, the time was just not right for it. And yet, as the BJP and Mr. Modi get stronger, there will be more and more pressure on the Opposition parties to set aside their differences and join together in a grand coalition. The historical precedent for such a move is 1977. In the post-emergency 1977 election Mrs. Gandhi was defeated by a grand coalition that included parties as disparate as the Jana Sangh and the CPI(M). This Janata Alliance won 43% of the vote, and 345 seats and this was Mrs. Gandhi’s first electoral loss.
The decision to anoint Yogi Adityanath, instead of some nondescript administrator, as Chief Minister of U.P. must be seen in this light. The BJP will need to consolidate Hindu votes in order to win in 2019. As the blogger “chaiwalla” writes, in another very lucid passage,
Modi needed a big face, a regional satrap who transcends caste. If you want to be really politically incorrect, you could say he needed someone who can unite the 80% against the 20%. Did he have another option that would give him a realistic chance in the fight against the Mahagathbandhan?
When you evaluate the choice of the U.P Chief Minister in the context of this argument, it starts to make a lot of sense. Economic development is a long and uncertain game and it is unlikely to pay off in the short time until the 2019 election. Hindutva and related cultural goals are much more achievable short-term targets. These goals will include the aggressive policing of “eve-teasing” and “love-jihad”, the partial banning of meat and other impure products, and similar acts of shuddhikaran. This will also be a sort of development, but a cultural and spiritual one rather than an economic one.
This path of purified development, likely to be followed by Yogi Adityanath, will also have the added advantage of implicitly, and eventually explicitly defining an “other” that is impure, anti-national, and anti-Hindu, and one that engages in forbidden acts such as meat eating, sexual profligacy, elitist scholarship, and of course, terrorism and consorting with the enemy. Once this is made clear, all good Hindus can be expected to join together in a thorough denunciation and derogation of the other side, i.e. the seculars and the anti-Hindus. This will unite the Hindu polity behind its natural leaders, PM Modi, and his eventual successor, CM Yogi.
At least, that is the plan. We will have to wait and see how it turns out. Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit.