Time to introspect?
The defeat in Gorakhpur is the least surprising. Who can forget the tragedy of all those children dying in the Gorakhpur hospital just a few months ago? Yogi Adityanath visited the hospital at the moment of high tragedy and failed to notice anything amiss
By: Meghnad Desai
Is this a warning sign or a blip to be dismissed? How does one read the defeat of the BJP in the two Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh? In the general election, the turnout would be much higher. Voters would realise their mistake and return to the fold, but maybe not. It is best to be hard on yourself if you have lost than seek solace in excuses. So here goes.
The 71 seats won by the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in UP was a result too good to be repeatable. Yet when the legislative polls last March re-validated the earlier results despite demonetisation, UP could be regarded as their home pitch by the BJP. So the loss of the two seats needs to be examined closely.
The defeat in Gorakhpur is the least surprising. Who can forget the tragedy of all those children dying in the Gorakhpur hospital just a few months ago? Yogi Adityanath visited the hospital at the moment of high tragedy and failed to notice anything amiss. Adityanath was the person who should have been more critical. It was his constituency, but as MP he seems to have let the hospital deteriorate over two decades without noticing. As Chief Minister he was no better. Eventually people care about real solutions, not slogans.
Thus the defeat in Gorakhpur is less surprising than the other defeat. It is a defeat for the BJP rather than a victory for the Opposition. The importance of the SP-BSP alliance has to be put in its proper place, as this was a self-goal for the BJP. Thus far, there have been rumblings against Vasundhara Raje, the Rajasthan Chief Minister. Now she has company in the circle of chief ministers with a short shelf life. It could be that the UP CM may be the poster boy of Hindu nationalism, but the voters prefer better hospitals to pious homilies. Amit Shah will have to calculate how many seats he can still win in 2019 if Adityanath stays as CM.
The Opposition must also separate the gains from the coalition as against the gains due to the mishandling of the hospital by Yogi. No doubt there will be furious calculations about the gains to be had from a gathbandhan by the two old enemies. It is a welcome fact that a low-caste Nishad candidate won. But that is another factor which should be discounted since in 2019, the caste mix will be much more biased towards the older pattern. The turnout was low and will be higher in the general election.
Reading the tea leaves is thus difficult. But Narendra Modi should allow himself no room for complacency. He should be deliberately hard and more demanding as to what went wrong and why. Some people are saying that the BJP will now unleash the Mandir in defence of their loss. But the timetable of the Mandir is not in control of the BJP. The Supreme Court will take its own time in making up its mind. Then there will be appeals. Eternity is shorter than the delays in India’s judiciary. If 2019 is to be secured for a single-party majority, the time is getting woefully short.