16 July 2019
If you have been looking for a credible and concise explanation of the successive election triumphs of BJP since 2014, this book may satisfy you. Prashant Jha, a senior journalist with Hindustan Times, has done a neat job in analysing the various strategies adopted by the BJP leadership in tackling the election challenges faced in states such as U.P, Bihar,Assam, Manipur, Haryana etc in 2017, conducted just after the demonetisation debacle in 2016. Surprisingly, it is not Modi ( though he acknowledges the ' Modi Hawa ' ), but the party president, Amit Shah, whom Jha presents as the hero. He draws largely on his own experiences in covering the lead states of U.P and Bihar as well as extensive conversations with middle-level BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders involved in the actual efforts to come out with a detailed account of how Shah & his dedicated team analysed the various caste equations in North India and fashioned strategies to capture vote banks like OBCs and Dalits, which were hitherto beyond the reach of BJP in previous polls. Jha is able to flesh out well, in ground level realities, terms like ' Hindu consolidation' , ' social engineering ', ' religious polarisation' , ' Muslim appeasement' etc. Weaning away powerful local leaders to its fold, picking up local issues for highlighting conveniently in campaigns, playing on the feelings of insecurity of groups, especially the majority religion, avoiding inconvenient topics like cow slaughter killings, the travails of the demonetisation etc are some of the strategies that worked for BJP in their conquest of North Indian states. Especially interesting is the way Modi was positioned as ' Garibon ka Neta ', after the effective lampooning as ' Suit Boot ki Sarkar ' by Rahul Gandhi. Jha also dissects incisively how BJP's caste arithmetic lets it down in Bihar against a foe like Lalu, equally adept at such games. The book describes, though briefly, the inside story of BJP's transition from the heartlands to states beyond such as Assam, Kashmir, Manipur etc as a force to reckon with. Jha gives credit for this to an upcoming BJP leader of RSS lineage, Ram Madhav. One of the most interesting chapters is the one wherein Jha outlines the strong relationship between BJP and the organs of the Sangh Parivar like the RSS, VHP etc and how the latter works silently and effectively in election times for BJP victories. The final point Jha makes is worth noting :- whether the BJP hegemony will continue to flourish in elections ( it did in 2019 ! ) will depend on three major factors, viz. the state of the opposition parties ( pitiable ), BJP's own record in power ( a mixed bag at best ), and the party's own ability to manage its basic internal contradictions, i.e declaring ' sabkasath sabkavikas ' as its main plank while condoning things like ' gau raksha ', perception of the party as dominated by upper castes while championing the cause of Dalits & OBCs, to name two.
All in all, a well-written, concise, balanced account of India's ruling party's election strategies, useful both to the lay reader and, hopefully, to the Opposition politicians.