BJP owes its victories to the caste card

BJP's victories in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh result from its reliance on caste card, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Dec 04, 2003 22:31 IST

The BJP's convincing win in two big states -- Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan -- and an unexpected victory in Chattisgarh appears to be the result of a well planned strategy which sought to push the hindutva agenda on the backburner and relied more on the caste card hitherto rarely played by the Sangh Parivar besides the anti incumbency factor against the Congress governments.

In Rajasthan where no pre-election survey or any exit poll had predicted a comfortable victory, the BJP has succeeded in wresting power from both Ashok Gehlot and the Congress by a very systematic and structured approach taking into account the prevalent mood as well as the resentment of various sections against the incumbent government.

In fact by projecting Vasundhara Raje as the CM aspirant, the BJP managed to expand its base in the state and also secured a majority on its own, something which was unachievable even under the formidable Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

The biggest plus for the party this time was that it fielded candidates in almost 195 out of total 200 seats and accordingly increased its tally. Earlier the party never put up candidates in 57 seats since it had no base and its electoral effort was concentrated only in 143 seats.

The increased BJP tally is also because of the Jats voting against the Congress for the first time in such a big manner and the government employees going against Gehlot. Vasundhara's projection also helped the BJP to get the support of the erswhile Swantantra party constituency basically comprising the Rajwaras (royal families).

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP humbled the mighty Digvijay Singh by playing the OBC card and also entrusting the election organisation work to the RSS. The projection of Uma Bharti helped in cornering the hindutva vote without making religion as an issue as it also helped with the OBC constituency (Uma is a Lodh). The ten year rule of Digvijay leading to a strong anti incumbency helped the BJP's cause.

In Chattisgarh, the Judeo card apparently boomeranged against the Congress and the strong resentment against Ajit Jogi's style of governance was exploited to the hilt by the BJP. The Saffron party's electoral efforts were also helped by the presence of NCP candidates who by cutting into the Congress vote bank left a clear impact on the outcome.

In Delhi, the victory of the Congress can be interpreted as a vote against the Central government which functions from the national capital. If the anti incumbency factor worked against the state government in the other three states, in Delhi where two governments exist, the anti incumbency was greater against the Centre as compared to the Delhi government.

In the process, the Congress was a beneficiary and under Sheila Dikshit, the party was able to cut into the tradtional middle class support base of the BJP. From the Congress perspective, the contest got reduced to CMs vs the BJP instead of the Congress vs the BJP. This led to heartburning amongst various factions of the party which did not support the CMs and they did not work whole heartedly for the success of the candidates.

In the end, the polls are likely to have wide ranging ramifications for the Parliamentary polls next year as also on the political future of various players including Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley, Ambika Soni and the outgoing chief ministers.

First Published: Dec 04, 2003 20:59 IST