"The 'Modi magic' of swinging election results by oratory seem to be over. Ditto for the media anointed 'Chanakya' – BJP president Amit Shah" (Chanakya was the political advisor of historical Indian king Chandragupta who was known for his guile and political manipulations – also known as Kautilya) Image Credit: Agencies

The Indian voter has taught the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that polarisation and the hate politics of “Ali versus Bajrangbali” as enunciated by Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of India’s politically most important state Uttar Pradesh, will not quite cut it anymore.

As the BJP lost the three heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to the Congress, the writing on the wall is clear – voters are rejecting the politics of lynching and Ram Mandir.

Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, on April 18, 2018 Image Credit: Bloomberg

With only six months to go for the general elections, the “Modi magic” of swinging election results by oratory seem to be over. Ditto for the media anointed “Chanakya” – BJP president Amit Shah, whose masterstrokes seemed to have been missing in action.

In fact, the photo finish in Madhya Pradesh, is a stirring endorsement of three-term Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, who nearly managed to pull off an unheard of fourth term. Chauhan popularly called “mamaji” (uncle) is a gentle and unassuming leader. During his long tenure, he has never once indulged in the kind of vicious personal attacks that Narendra Modi and Shah specialise in.

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Rahul Gandhi, who finally has three wins in heartland states and is now a serious Opposition player, was gracious in victory, saying he would carry on the good work of the three BJP chief ministers. Gandhi however, had a stinger for Modi. He said he had learnt what not to do in politics from Modi.

Rahul Gandhi, President of India's main opposition Congress party, greets his supporters as he arrives to attend a news conference at his party's headquarters in New Delhi, India, December 11, 2018. Image Credit: Reuters

While the Congress needs to quickly appoint its chief ministers and start implementing its poll promises of loan waivers and end the endemic factionalism, the problems for the BJP appear greater.

Despite, attempts to insulate Modi and Shah from the poll reversals by spin masters, they own the loss. The awful focus on polarisation, the demonisation of minorities, the deployment of Yogi, who addressed a record 75 rallies all showed that Modi and Shah have only the polarisation playbook. The shrinking of saffron shows that the voter is disenchanted with Modi’s broken promises.

Effectively, Yogi and Modi are identical. Modi presided over the 2002 riots in Gujarat and has a history of vicious personal attacks, the latest calling Sonia Gandhi a vidhwa (widow), and hate speech. Because Gujarat was already a developed state, he put a thin veneer of development over his minority baiting speeches. But the reality of his self-proclaimed “good governance” is the RBI debacle, the midnight coup in the CBI and the Rafale deal.

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The so-called Gujarat model was an optical illusion conceived by his brand managers at Apco Worldwide. Yogi is still to undergo a similar makeover. But have no illusions the monk and Modi are blood brothers in open minority baiting. Witness Modi’s sinister silence on the “cow terrorist” lynchings.

With the voter indicating that she would like normal bread and butter politics, the 2019 election is wide open.

- Swati Chaturvedi

Gandhi needs to act as the lynchpin of opposition unity and ensure that the BJP is limited in states such as Uttar Pradesh with its 80 seats. The BJP had won 73 in 2014. With the two regional heavyweights Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav in alliance, the BJP is unlikely to repeat this historic feat.

Demonetisation, the Modi-made disaster and the anointment of Yogi will cost the BJP.

Swat analysis

But don’t be fooled there is no difference between Yogi and Modi. They are separated at birth – Sangh twins. Democracy needs better leaders.