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Caste card, not Hindutva issue, did the trick for BJP

The BJP?s spectacular victory in three states may very well signal its emergence in a new mode.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2003 12:18 IST

The BJP's convincing win in two big states — Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan — and an unexpected victory in Chhattisgarh, appears to be the result of a well-planned strategy. The party sought to push the Hindutva agenda on the back burner and relied more on the caste card rarely played by the Sangh Parivar. Plus, there was 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 chief ministerial aspirant, the BJP managed to expand its base in the state and also secured a majority on its own, something which it could not achieve even under the formidable Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

The biggest plus for the party this time was that it fielded candidates in 195 out of the 200 seats and accordingly increased its tally. Earlier, the party concentrated in around 143 seats as it had no base in the others.

The increased BJP tally is also because of the Jats voting against the Congress for the first time in such a big way and the government employees going against Gehlot.

Vasundhara's projection also helped the BJP get the support of the erstwhile 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 organisational work to the RSS. The projection of Uma Bharti helped in cornering the Hindutva vote without making religion an issue and it also worked with the OBC constituency (Uma is a Lodh). Digvijay's 10-year rule, leading to a strong anti-incumbency factor, helped the BJP's cause.

In Chhattisgarh, 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 BJP'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 Congress' victory 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.

In the process, the Congress was a beneficiary and under Sheila Dikshit the party was able to cut into the BJP's traditional middle class base.

From the Congress perspective, the contest got reduced to CMs vs the BJP instead of the Congress vs the BJP. This led to heartburn among various factions. These factions did not support the CMs and refused to work wholeheartedly 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 05, 2003 02:40 IST