BJP’s ‘Look-East’ policy drives saffron surge in the region

Written by SABYASACHEE DASH

The country has been through some thoroughly exciting phases of elections to the Lok Sabha. The euphoria was quite palpable though turn out in a few states was comparatively low.

In many occasions uncharitable and controversial comments were made by leaders of political parties. Although they were made to spice up the campaign, they have brought down the level of political discourse to a new low.  This election is being viewed as an ideological battle between those who consider themselves to be subscribers of Nehruvian Idea of India and those who oppose it.

The Election Commission is on its toes and matters are being adjudicated in courts to ensure the Model Code of Conduct does not stand violated as campaigners indulge in all possible kinds of vilification and abusively disparaging speech which are subsequently rendered viral through social media. All said and done, it feels good to experience this level of activism on the part of regulator.

Signs of tension has been visible in Opposition parties ever since they formed Mahagatbandhan, what the BJP calls a “Mahamilawat” (grand adulteration). Such conglomerations of opportunistic alliances won’t rise to the expectations of the people of the country. More than the ideologies, existential fears of the political parties were the glue that bound these parties together.

There is no dispute that a strong and constructive opposition is crucial for a successful democracy. However, the way opposition parties have ganged up simply reflects frustration and desperation to grab power.

In 2014, NDA bagged 336 seats with BJP’s standalone tally at 282. The UPA managed to get 60 seats with Congress securing 44 marking the lowest ever seats after independence and others fetching 147 making up 543. While in 2014, the oldest party could get the smallest seat in its electoral history, in 2019 it is fielding candidates from the lowest number of constituencies. It’s unfortunate to see the shrinkage in the Congress party. Alarm bells are ringing for the Congress party that if it has to stay relevant in Indian politics it needs to reassess its strategies and adopt a people-centric approach.

Expanding horizons

Although Hindi heartland and northern states contributed most to the BJP’s kitty propelling it to the power, this time around the focus is also on Eastern and North-eastern states. The BJP hopes to gain sizable number of seats from Bengal, Odisha and North-eastern states. It may open account in Kerala and improve its position in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The party hopes to sweep Karnataka.

Going eastwards

The BJP’s ‘Look-East’ policy (Purvodaya) is expected to give the party a big boost in terms of seats from the Eastern and North-eastern states. Odisha is the only state where both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections have taken place simultaneously. Here, the BJP espoused the double engine theory in the broader interest of the state which has been under a particular governance style for the last two decades.

The incumbent BJD led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is facing massive anti-incumbency. The general perception that the state has been lagging behind others in terms of development has forced sections of people to look towards the saffron party as another option. In fact, the BJD was a creation of BJP veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee after the demise of Biju Patnaik. At that time Naveen Patnaik was a novice in politics. But over the time he has matured into a formidable politician whom even the BJP has failed to oust.

However, the political landscape of Odisha is also changing. The BJP has been able to make considerable dent into the BJD bastion. Patnaik who always kept an equal distance from the Congress and BJP has indicated that his party will support a national party which would take care of the state’s interests. The hint possibly is the BJP.

The ruling Trinamool Congress government led by Mamata Banerjee is facing a tough battle this time. Banerjee’s appeasement policies and encouragement to anti-national forces have forced people to shift their loyalties to the BJP in many places in the state.

Banerjee who forced the CPI(M) to bite the dust has followed the same outdated policies and strong arm tactics of the latter.

The BJP has made giant strides in North-East. The party is in power in Tripura and Assam. In Arunachal Pradesh the party will retain its seat. Besides, it has forged alliances with regional parties.

There is a widespread speculation that BJP will not be able to repeat its 2014 show in UP and the party will make up the loss from East and North-eastern states. This is not the case. The BJP is in a pretty comfortable position in the Hindi belt.

Some observers predict NDA will romp home with more seats than it won in 2014. An independent and a realistic assessment shows that NDA is likely to get 336-350 seats in the best case scenario. In the worst-case scenario the tally may go down to 272 seats. Even if BJP losses 70 seats on pan India basis yet it is poised to make up through the strategic alliance it has stitched across states.

About the author

SABYASACHEE DASH

The author is a Chartered Accountant & Company Secretary; Executive in a private sector company.