Opinion: A Mandate for Mehnat - By Vinay Sahasrabuddhe

Every election verdict has distinct messages and important lessons, if one is ready to take them. When one deciphers the recent mandate secured by the BJP, at least four important points emerge. First, good governance and women's empowerment pays; second, the days of banking on vote banks are over; third, corruption has a cost; and finally, organisational strength helps break new grounds.

The BJP's splendid success has astonished many, including a section of its own cadres. While Rajasthan was no surprise, Chhattisgarh made many realise that although allegations of corruption fly between parties, they stick only when coming from a clean and credible leader. However, the BJP's success in Madhya Pradesh is just unparalleled.

In Madhya Pradesh, many had gone by conventional presumptions. They talked about voter fatigue, anti-incumbency, generational change and limitations of the narrative around development. Hence, it was not surprising that many political pundits were skeptical about the BJP's chances in Madhya Pradesh. A deeper analysis of the results reveals one powerful message - people support those who deliver good governance and women's empowerment.

It is true that the solid foundation of the party in Madhya Pradesh, built historically by the likes of Kushabhau Thackrey and others, played a key role in translating the goodwill into voter mobilisation. Notably, Madhya Pradesh, more than most states, has a significant chunk of cadre with an unshakeable commitment to ideology and organization, which makes a huge difference. Also, a majority of voters here have not just seen but experienced empowerment, as a cascading effect of development. Take the example of Mohapura dam in Rajgadh district. This irrigation project is unique as it irrigates with pressure, allowing only the sprinkler system-based piping network and prohibiting open canals. Adequate water supply to 1 lakh 35 hectares of land has motivated farmers to cultivate their land through the year and, more importantly, has stopped the seasonal migration of farm labourers. The same is true for many other projects. Roads in Madhya Pradesh are of far better quality than many states. Indore retaining the cleanest city tag for six consecutive years is also no small feat.

Researchers say the aspirational district/block development programme of the government has truly transformed lives in districts that were once most backward.

The BJP has won two of 81 seats in these areas, compared to 23 earlier. The BJP's performance in tribal seats also tells us the same story. However, the most clinching evidence of "experiential empowerment" comes through the Ladli Behna scheme. An assured amount in their bank accounts operated by them has enhanced the self-esteem of women. Most of them are no longer dependent on their husbands. This sense of becoming atmanirbhar (self-reliant) had an electrifying impact on Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's "sisters" who stood by him like a rock. Finally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ability to strike an emotional connect with the voters tilted the scales completely in favour of the BJP.

In Rajasthan, although the BJP's success was less surprising, an inert and helpless Congress leadership effectively demoralised Ashok Gehlot and his faction, already at the receiving end of the BJP's convincingly mounted attack on his vote-bank politics.

Not just in Rajasthan but elsewhere too, issues like Love Jihad are real. Except the BJP, no other political party had the courage to raise issues that resonate with the fear lurking in the minds of scores of Indians. Remember, most opposition parties have always chosen to look the other way when the BJP raised such issues. Unsurprisingly, its consistent attack on the Congress's vote bank politics motivated voters to support the BJP. Add to this the razor-sharp criticism by PM Modi over a secretive red diary of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, and you have an already split house of the Rajasthan Congress collapse like a pack of cards.

The victory in Chhattisgarh was perhaps most remarkable for the BJP. Here again, cursing Mahadeva did cost Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel very heavily. Also, when PM Modi attacks a rival party leader on the basis of corruption, it works wonders. In most tribal areas, protecting identity and culture has always remained an issue. The BJP's track record of voicing these concerns and taking credible measures to prevent attacks on their identity resonates with the tribals.

In Telangana too, the BJP reaching a voter base of almost 14% should ring a warning bell for regional parties whose only strength is in their plank based on regionalism. Those who portray the BJP's failure in this southern state as an indication of a North-South divide often forget that the BJP is already a partner in the ruling coalition of Puducherry.

The BJP making a headway in Mizoram while winning two seats tells us about the resoluteness with which party cadres work for years in a particular area. The party has always believed that while creating a politically favourable climate or a wave in favour of the party is important, the importance of organisation cannot be undermined. 

Besides these points, what finally helped the BJP is the towering leadership of PM Modi. Remember, it is not magic. It is his mehnat, or ability to sweat it out; working almost about 18 hours every single day. His strong political will, his creativity in weaving campaign themes, also manifested in his carefully curated speeches, his consistent 'ear-to-the-ground', and the courage of conviction in his sharp attacks on the Congress on the counts of dynasty politics, corruption and mis-governance provide him an eternal plank. One must remember that an attack from other political leaders and one from PM Modi are substantially, qualitatively different.

All things put together, it is a mandate for mehnat.

Vinay Sahasrabuddhe is former MP, Rajya Sabha and columnist, besides being President of Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.

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