With the results of assembly elections to the five states showing Congress in poor light some political analysts are in a hurry to write the obituary of the grand old party. Needless to say that these people are doing it as a part of strategic design carefully drafted by mandarins from the Deendayal Upadhyaya Marg or are suffering from confirmation bias, a psychological state that denotes an inclination to believe only what one likes to believe.
Inferences drawn from these elections cannot be objective. It is said that one week is a long time in politics, and we are still left with more than two years. The assertion by the BJP that the results are pointers to the outcome of the next Parliamentary elections are more a part of marketing communication strategy of the party with 2024 in mind trying to influence the people’s mind at the subconscious level, rather than any objective assessment.
It may, of course, betray wishful thinking of the party and it’s sympathizers. Subliminal marketing is an old applied psychology trick marketers resort to inorder to influence consumer mind set.Now some objective realities. BJP is trying to harp on the same old formulae that once upon a time were the strength of the Congress during Indira Gandhi’s time in the early seventies. The TINA factor and IOU, that is there is no alternative and Index of Opposition unity.
But remember what happened in 1977. The Congress got just one seat in the Parliament from the cow belt from Chhindwara ,MP for which Vajpayee had, in lighter vein, used the cricketing analogy of a no ball. The Janata party, a rag tag combination of diverse forces comprising the left, the right and the centre decimated Congress.
A Similar thing happened again in 1989. It may be recalled that Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress which got a record mandate of 415 seats in the Parliament in which the BJP in its original avatar had only two members of Parliament, Janga Reddy from Andhra and Advani from Gujarat. That was the time when Rajiv Gandhi could do no wrong. With entire opposition in complete disarray no one had imagined the complexion of the next Parliament. But 1989 proved different and Congress came down to 195 seats. True, there is no Jayaprakash Narayan or VP Singh today.And there is no declared emergency as such or anything like Bofors to rally the opposition, but there are undercurrents and apprehensions in significant sections of populace about similar issues, if not the same.
Politics is a different ball game, very difficult to predict. Rightly did Albert Einstein say politics is more difficult than physics. Mind of the electorate is rather fickle and works on its own logic.More so,the Indian electorate whom the political spin doctors find a very slippery entity. Media, all media for that matter, can influence most voters’ mind for sometime,and is doing it.But it cannot do it for all voters, for all times. That BJP’s investment in marketing blitzkrieg has paid dividends thus far may not ensure future returns to the same magnitude. In fact, a careful analysis of the results of UP elections would prove that the BJP success is rather blown out of proportions. The Samajwadi party has lost a good 60 to 70 seats by very narrow margins ranging from a couple of hundred a couple of thousand votes. Interestingly, in most of those seats the number of votes polled by Owaisi’s party was much more than the victory margin of winners.Punjab proved that a viable alternative is what people need.The Bihar assembly elections of 2020 also showed the importance of Owasi factor. It was much less in Bengal last year and this year in UP.The voters are learning.
Effective marketing strategies do win elections but voters expectations keep on changing. The BJP think tank is well aware that all said and done,alternative at the pan India level is still the Congress. It is precisely for this reason that they are leaving no opportunity to lambast Congress and it’s most illustrious Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It was the same Nehru whose I25th birth anniversary was celebrated by much fanfare by the same party under the same leadership in 2014.
And lest we forget, MJ Akbar, noted journalist and a Minister in BJP government not very long ago, had once written a very authentic book titled Nehru-The Making of India. With Congress getting discredited BJP will by default be the ruling party for a very long time. Their strategists and the social media team are working day in and day out do this. It is for the Congress to respond. And it can. Even at its worst, it still has some 700 MLAs spread all over the country in comparison to 1300 of BJP at its best. Of course BJP’s marketing strategy is superior, and Congress to revive will need better. How to do it is no rocket science. The party has to decorporatise, facilitate upward communication,do away with unimaginative spokespersons,induct fresh talent and most importantly have eyes an ears to the ground. But once again, one week is a long time in politics.
(The writer is retired professor of IIT ISM Dhanbad and a political analyst)