BJP’s late turn to star power means internal surveys haven’t left great hope: What does it mean when a party that prided itself on being one with a difference — as against the Congress, which is portrayed as a cesspool of dynasty — turns to star power on the cusp of an election? That it’s shaky and unsure of winning re-election and that its manifesto promises of 2014 have not worked to its advantage when it comes to seeking votes for re-election.
If all was well and vikas had indeed visited the country post-2014, why splurge on political greenhorns like Gautam Gambhir and Sunny Deol? The former does not have anything much better to do these days than coach or carp on cricket; the twenty 20 fiesta has little room for famously short-tempered, diminutive ex-batsmen outside the commentary box and not in the dugout. The latter is only to be seen rehashing his glory films in over-the-top redux roles that don’t reflect the times — formula today is good only for memes. Remember Ghayal Once Again? Don’t bother googling it.
The BJP may have reasons for fielding singer Hans Raj Hans instead of sitting MP Udit Raj, whose presence had a rainbow effect for the otherwise Sangh-saffron tint of the BJP-led NDA. Now Udit Raj has jumped ship to the Congress after recalling being warned by Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal that he will not get a ticket. Opportunism doesn’t look this naked if such a switch had happened before the elections began, but then hope is said to be eternal. Udit Raj was possibly hanging on to more than a bit of that, only to realise that bubbles also look solid from certain angles.
The BJP’s rediscovery of its core strands is evidence enough that development has crashed like a paper plane made for ‘time-pass’ by a bored teen. Jobs have disappeared, but cow and Hindutva remain on the otherwise empty plate in the hope that ‘larger issues’ will fill the stomachs of the hungry and the faithful. Even in Assam, people have been mocking the PM for taking credit for the almost 5 km bridge connecting Dibrugarh to Dhemaji districts. The project was initiated when Deve Gowda was PM in sleepy old 1996-97.
With three phases done, dusted and locked away in EVMs, 302 seats have had their say across more than half the Lok Sabha’s 543-MP strength (barring Vellore in Tamil Nadu, of course, where bags of money were seized before voters got some inducement). The numbers the BJP swung into power mode in 2014 are looking distant, but there have been reports that some EVMs registered votes only for the BJP whatever button was pressed.
The BJP faithful have not given up their hopes, however. The peak liberal rant has been that the Congress is splitting anti-BJP votes, primarily the left-aligned ones, because Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Wayanad. The stoic suffering of Kerala after the floods of 2018 and CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s helming the relief and rescue operations has been forgotten. The attention and love showered on the Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra roadshows have, in turn, galvanised the Congress-led UDF. Now, barring Left strongholds, the UDF is said to be in a dominant position in Kerala. At the national level, a coalition without the Congress, however corrupt it may be or however dynastic, would need superglue to stay together given the extent of resort politics that has been witnessed in the recent past. Therein lies the rub, barring the Congress and the RJD, the partners of the Mahagathbandhan in Uttar Pradesh have allied with the BJP earlier, and may not think twice before doing so again, given the amount of leverage in cases against them.
A month from now, the results will be out. Till then, let’s hope voters choose who they want to support and do not go the NOTA way, as suggested by a veteran psephologist who seems to have found the rough and tumble of the democratic exercise a tad too stifling!