A Prelude To 2019?

A Prelude To 2019?

Prof. T K Thomas

Prof. TK Thomas

December 11,2018 is sure to go down in history as a day that challenged the invincibility of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The results also were a reminder to the ruling dispensation that political complacence, empty promises, following a highly sectarian ideology and ignoring the basic needs of the people may not be the perfect agenda for governance. One feels that no one can ignore the core values of a multi religious and multi cultural country which always excelled in, to quote an old cliché, ‘unity in diversity’. The heart of India is inclusive, peaceful, tolerant and non violent and any attempt to threaten these values can only be dangerous. People at large seem to be fed up with both right wing and other religious or left wing extremism and the election results have proved it. Similarly dividing the nation through hate speeches and actions by leaders especially those who hold constitutional positions have been rejected by people. The effectiveness of the so called ‘Modi Magic’ of oratory, poking fun of the Nehru- Gandhi ‘parivar’ and theatrics seem to have reached fatigue point and may not be a guarantee for success in the 2019 elections. The choice of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditya Nath as star campaigner in all the poll bound states seems to have been counterproductive and damaged BJP’s prospects to some extent.

The results have considerably improved the position of the Congress, its leadership and the combined power of the opposition parties to counter the money and media power of the ruling party. If the opposition parties are united, it will be a tough call for the BJP in the 2019 elections. The just concluded assembly elections could be a prelude to 2019.

Whoever thought that BSP Supremo Mayawati who only a few days back had compared the Indian National Congress and the BJP to ‘Sanpnath’ and ‘Nagnath’ and did not attend the meeting of opposition parties last week would support the Congress in Madhya Pradesh in government formation? Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party has also come out to support the Congress- both wanting to keep the BJP away from coming to power again. The independent MLAs including the few rebels too are in the Congress raising the Congress number to 121. This of course is the new trend and an indicator of the shape of things to come in 2019.

Opposition leaders from across the board have decided to come together to defeat the BJP in the 2019 parliament elections. For this they obviously would have to bury petty egos and differences. Otherwise their own and the country’s future would be bleak. In both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan the Congress has wafer thin majorities and need to work cohesively with other parties.

The election results have proved that language of hatred, arrogance, abuse of opposition leaders and even their parents and ancestors are unacceptable to people. Isn’t it this that prompted even the Prime Minister to use phrases like accepting ‘’ the people’s mandate with humility” in his tweet last night?

Congress had a landslide victory in Chhattisgarh winning 68 seats out of 90, unseating BJP’s three term chief minister Raman Singh. This was not necessarily because of anti incumbency. Friends who covered the campaign in Chhattisgarh have commented that there is all pervading anger among the farmers, small business men and daily wage earners against the economic decisions like demonetisation, shoddy implementation of GST and neglect of the farm sector.

His flamboyance notwithstanding, K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s TRS swept Telangana winning 88 of the 119 seats in Telangana. It was evident from the voice of the people of the state heard during the campaign that the average citizen was pleased with his successful implementation of welfare schemes including freebies a la the late Tamil Nadu CM J. Jayalalithaa.

Rajasthan turned out to be a cliffhanger with the Congress winning 101 seats out of 199, just one more than the halfway mark. The conduct and inaction of the Chief Minister and a negative public perception had worked against the ruling party which fell just short of a simple majority.

However there was unprecedented high drama in Bhopal, which was still on well past midnight following almost a tie between the Congress and the BJP. The Congress had won 114 seats and the BJP 109! Counting was still to be completed and the margin of victory in at least one case was just six, below hundred in a few seats and a few hundred in many other cases. The Election Commission had not notified the results as the counting process was yet to be completed. Congress leader Kamal Nath, not to be outsmarted again by the BJP after the bitter experiences of Goa and other Assembly elections, had sought an appointment late in the night with governor Anandiben Patel for staking claim to form the government as the single largest party. He was however not allowed then to meet the governor on the ground that the results were not yet officially notified. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan too was reportedly trying to stake his claim to form the government. But by this morning though numbers had not changed, the governor had received the Congress delegation of the two claimants for Chief Minister’s post Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia and received their letter staking claim to form the government. Congress also informed the governor that it had support of BSP,SP and four independents.

The North-East continues to be a neglected part of our country. Even today there are few reporters or correspondents of national newspapers or the news channels. It was absolutely neglected by the media during the current assembly elections. When one was transferred from Bombay to Aizwal, the capital of Mizoram in the late 1970s nothing much was known about the beautiful state of undulating hills. The only thing one knew was that it was insurgency ravaged and was a dangerous place to live with one’s family. Our three year stay there despite curfew almost on all days and frequent ‘shoot at sight’ orders proved enjoyable. The problem those days was the superiority complex of a majority of officials from outside posted there and the average Mizo’s lack of trust in the government and the security forces. You may ask what is the relevance of Mizoram in an opinion column on a major election? Well, how many of us know that the person who is taking over as Chief Minister for the third time, Zoramthanga was the chief of the army of the underground militant insurgent group of the Mizo National Front[MNF]?

It was believed in Mizoram that when the ubiquitous bamboo flowers, there will be rat menace and the rodents would eat away all grains resulting in a famine. In 1959 there was this famine called ‘Mautam’ [meaning death of bamboo in Mizo] affecting the entire hapless population. There were complaints that the Government of India was not extending enough help to alleviate their deprivation. Pu Laldenga[‘Pu’ comes from the word ‘Kappu’, a respectful term for a gentleman like ‘Mr’ or ‘Shri’] a former Indian Army man started what was called Mizo National Famine Front [MNFF] to seek help from a reticent government. As not much help was forthcoming, the MNFF turned to militant insurgency as Mizo National Front[MNF]. The armed MNF was banned and its ‘army’ went underground with skirmishes with the Indian security forces. Insurgency was at its peak during one’s three year stay in Aizawl. The Rajiv Gandhi government invited Laldenga for peace talks and on 30th June 1986 the Mizoram Peace Accord was signed. According to the accord he was invited to take over as Chief Minister without an election. The then Congress Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla was asked to resign. In the election that followed the MNF romped home and won a subsequent election too. Chief Minister Laldenga was succeeded by his former ‘army chief’ Zoramthanga and their rule was for two tenures. The MNF was trounced in the elections and could not get a third term to rule.

During last week’s elections the MNF under the octogenarian Zoramthanga won 26 seats in the 40 member Mizoram Assembly and he will take over again for a third term shortly. Interestingly the main plank under which the election was fought was on prohibition for which the powerful Church had extended its support. It is interesting that it was the then Congress Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla who handed over the Chief Minister’s position to the Laldenga led MNF in 1986 and by a quirk of fate the same Congress Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla was defeated in the present elections by the MNF. Zoramthanga is now the MNF Chief Minister!