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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2041

Towards A One-Party Democracy

By Tukoji R. Pandit - Syndicate Features

The chorus eulogising the ‘impressive’ show by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the just concluded state assembly polls will in all probability continue well into 2017 when the saffron flag, so it is hoped by the party, will be hoisted in many more other states, especially UP. The adulators obviously support the BJP goal of making India a one-party state, without which, they think, the country, still under the grip of ‘anti-national’ elements, cannot progress.

Optimism in the BJP is at its height because the Congress is now certified as ‘terminally ill’. Obituaries of the Congress have now become so common that, frankly, it has begun to look like flogging a dead horse. But the strange part is that the BJP believes that once it has decimated the Congress (‘Congress-free India’) there will no hurdles to overcome in its quest for a single-party rule in the country.

As a result of the hype in the media over the BJP show in the recent polls most people have begun to believe that the BJP has forged miles ahead of other parties, particularly the Congress, and the gap will be impossible to fill. That may or may not be true but here is a fact that needs to be pondered.

Outside Assam, the BJP won just three seats in West Bengal where it was expected to put up a good fight and one in Kerala where the winning party candidate, a former union minister, was probably rewarded for his patience to stick with a party that has no hold over the people of the state. Four seats (outside Assam) do not sound like an impressive tally.

The BJP now rules in 13 states, representing a population of 43 per cent; 57 per cent Indians are yet to be won over by the BJP before it brings the entire country under its sway.

The BJP has treated its victory in Assam as its biggest trophy, although many would say that a fourth straight win for the Congress in the state would have been a miracle. It cannot be doubted that the biggest factor that contributed to the BJP victory in Assam was its stand on the ‘illegal’ migrant issue, which describes most of the Muslims in the state as being illegal trespassers.

Will the BJP succeed in ‘throwing’ out the ‘illegal immigrants’ from Assam? No! These ‘illegal immigrants’ are supposed to have entered India from Bangladesh. There is little or no chance that the BJP will be able to push them into Bangladesh. It will certainly be a difficult physical feat. But it will be an even more difficult diplomatic task, especially at a time when India has been able to develop friendly ties with its eastern neighbour.

And we are not even discussing the deep ethnic divisions within Assam that defy easy solution. The only blueprint the BJP had prepared for taking over Assam was to play up the ‘illegal immigrant’ issue that apparently polarised the voters in BJP’s favour.

The BJP optimism of expanding its base in the country may have something to do with the fact that it thinks that it will have little problem in doing business with regional parties that still rule 11 states, including the crucial one of UP.

It is true that chief ministers not belonging to the Congress do not have the same kind of antipathy towards the BJP as the Congress has. But they have a greater potential of halting BJP’s match than the ‘terminally ill’ Congress, as was shown in polls in Bihar and Delhi only a few months earlier.

The latest poll outcome has brought to attention an interesting fact that issues like corruption, unemployment and price rise do not impact the fortunes of any other party other than the Congress.

All the noise over scams and corruption in the states of West Bengal and Tamil failed to prevent the two ladies notching up victories in their respective states. It is amusing that the two main parties in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK and the DMK, decided to make prohibition a big issue when many distilleries in the state are said to be run by members of the two parties.

In West Bengal, the ruling Trinmool Congress was said to be in serious trouble because of the Sarada scam in which the sufferers were mostly poor villagers and the Narada controversy which allegedly showed bribes being accepted by ministers and senior party leaders. Tamil Nadu, it is said, has joined the ranks of the ‘most corrupt’ states in India. The ‘tainted’ Congress is out; the question is do voters forgive other parties for the same crime?

This question may not be answered immediately. But the BJP will have to face more posers as it scurries towards a one-party rule in the country. There are certain crucial matters over which the BJP has taken a deliberate ambivalent attitude but which will have to be answered with clarity before the party goes into the 2019 battle for the Lok Sabha.

A few months ago, the BJP had created ‘history’ by coming to power in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in partnership with the ‘pro-separatist’ PDP. The two parties are ideologically poles apart and as far as one can see the differences between them have not been removed on something as important as the special status of the state.

For well over 60 years the BJP fought against Article 370 which guarantees special status for Jammu and Kashmir. Even today the BJP has not revised its stand but will make no commitment in public for or against Article 370.
The BJP has to either accept it or undo it, as was demanded by late Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the founder of BJP’s precursor, Jana Sangh.

The people in the Jammu region, the area where the BJP is now firmly entrenched, are against the special status but the BJP can no longer honour its words. The BJP also fought for a separate identity (Union Territory status) for the Ladakh region, which for the first time returned a BJP member to the Lok Sabha. Are the Ladakhis happy over the BJP silence on this issue?

The BJP can dream of ruling without Opposition parties but sooner rather than later it will have to grapple with issues on which it had sought people’s vote—and trust.

- Asian Tribune -

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