Millennium Post

Governance comes first

With governance and development under the spotlight, recent state polls indicate a new narrative for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections

Governance comes first

The political scenario of India is taking a new direction. The recently held elections of five states show that the electorates are taking decisions in such a matured fashion that it has taken many election pundits by surprise. Surely, accountability is sought from the political parties on governance and delivery. In the election battle of India, political narrative is always based on GDP: Governance, Dynasty & Polarisation. Every political party derives strength from this GDP. But maintaining the order of this GDP is very important. If you change this order of narrative to impress voters, it can backfire. The recent election result is a reflection of that only. Once again voters have reminded the political bosses that governance comes first, rest follows after that.

The last important election mandates before the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha election are of high importance for all the political parties to get a sense of electorate's mind and psyche, especially when it has covered the large chunk of politically formidable Hindi Belt. Though many have opined that the local issues have dominated the outcome of these elections, but it is noteworthy to mention that electorates have shown a clear inclination that they want to hear more on development and governance in political discourses, unlike many previous instances where cast, creed, dynasty and polarisation along the religious fault line decided the election outcomes.

Not to forget, Narendra Modi-led BJP won the huge mandate of people in 2014 based on promises of good governance and development. The discourses on dynastic politics and religious polarisation were still there but those were only of minuscule importance. No doubt how these factors had contributed to the winning side to consolidate its own constituency of voters, but a promise of good governance was the key. Surprisingly the preference of voters remains the same even after four and half years. Misadventure to bring religious polarisation in the forefront and personal attacks in the veil of dynasty-politics have become up-the-ante for BJP.

Unlike Telangana where the election was fought on the developmental plank by KCR, it was a bitter fight between BJP and Congress in Hindi heart belt of MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where the political discourse did not even spare deceased father, mother, grandfather, grandmother of the opponents. Realising an anti-incumbency factor of BJP-ruled states, the state election had been metamorphosed to a fight of personality cult between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, a supposedly clever move by BJP. Jibe against Rahul's Gotra or Modi's cast and issues like soft and hard Hindutva hijacked the political discourse in these elections. Fringe elements having the patronage of political parties did their job dutifully by creating noise of religious polarisation. Delhi media houses covered and discussed those non-issues at length like a personality cult, Hindu polarisation or Ram Mandir and a perception was crafted that the elections were fought based on these trivial issues. All were discussed except the state wise future plan on development, governance, farmer distress, Water, jobs and new industry.

People in good numbers thronged in the election rallies of Modi and Yogi which created a superficial euphoria amongst the BJP and media that the election would result in an intended outcome. People listened to all of them patiently, but alas they had something else in their mind. Post-election there was analysis where it was revealed that BJP lost 65 per cent of the seats where Yogi had rallies, although the effect of Modi's rallies is a bit decent. A high pitch campaign around development issues was missing, so were the voices of local state-level leaders. It appears that the grass root level party workers of Congress had created traction in booth level which resulted in a high turnout of voters in polling day, which is always a sure sign of anti-incumbency.

Coming to power by promulgating good governance and development is an age-old practice in politics where the incumbent government faces anti-incumbency. All the political parties do that. BJP also did that in 2014 but Modi became just a bit over-enthusiastic on promising. Those promises were captured in bold in the electorates' mind. This becomes a trap for BJP as these narratives supersede all other narratives of BJP whether at the state level or at the Central level. It is evident from the fact that all the BJP-ruled states always display achievements of all public welfare schemes by promulgating it as Prime Minister's vision and mission of New India, even the local government's initiatives fail to miss the all-encompassing Modi flavours as if everything is derived from Prime Minister only.

These have blurred the distinction between the Centre and state government's work and governance. It may be the directive of the party and its leadership but then why blame local leaders after the poll debacle? Deriving a distinct between Modi factor and Local factor becomes insignificant. So aligning everything Central government schemes and using Modi's popularity as a tool to win elections have started giving diminishing returns. Needless to say, if BJP continues to so, it will create further fatigue in the mind of the voters.

They need to further innovate the strategy to win the election. The issue of governance may now look like a trap to seek support from voters. But still, there are many good initiatives taken by state and Central governments which now need to be executed with strong hands in a short span of time. Honest narratives around those initiatives will work and people of India may be willing to give more time to Prime Minister Modi, who knows. Any other clever move by pushing Polarisation through religious or Dynasty issues in the forefront will not yield any positive poll dividend. The situation has changed and 2019 Lok Sabha election is not far away. Let's walk the talk on the execution of government initiatives as governance comes first.

(The views expressed are strictly personal)

Mriganka M Bhowmick

Mriganka M Bhowmick

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