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India's pro-Hindu party fails in state polls

Pundits see results as a warning sign the incumbent BJP government could lose in national elections next year
India's pro-Hindu party fails in state polls

Congress workers celebrate outside the party office in Chhattisgarh capital Raipur on Dec. 11 as poll results emerged showing a victory for the party in three major states. (Photo by IANS)

Published: December 13, 2018 05:21 AM GMT
Updated: December 13, 2018 07:21 AM GMT

India's pro Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, which currently rules nationally, suffered a massive defeat when it failed to secure power in any of the five states where election results were declared on Dec. 11.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP was unseated in the three major states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. It also failed to make gains in northeastern Mizoram and southern Telangana states where two regional parties prevailed.

"Nobody expected such a crushing defeat for the BJP," said Archbishop Victor Henry Thakur, who is based in Chhattisgarh state capital Raipur.

BJP's rival Congress party swept Chhattisgarh by winning 68 of the 90 legislative seats, unseating the BJP, which held power there for 15 years.

The election result was a "befitting reply" to the BJP's lopsided policies, said Father Maria Stephen, spokesman of the bishops' council in Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP also lost after running the government for 15 years.

Father Stephen said BJP policies were divisive and sectarian as the party's governments supported the Hindu militant idea of making India a Hindus-only nation.

They ignored violence against minorities, including socially poor Dalits formerly known as "untouchables" and tribal people as well as neglecting the poor in states such as Madhya Pradesh 

Congress and allies together won 121 seats in Madhya Pradesh's 230-seat legislature, allowing them to form the government. The BJP was close behind with 109 seats.

The Modi government's failures at national level should be seen as the major cause of defeat in all three states, said Bishop Oswald Lewis of Jaipur in Rajasthan, where Congress and its alliance partner together won 105 seats in the 200-seat house.

Congress's victories showed that people were upset with the Modi government's failure to fulfil promises of jobs for young people as well as greater social and economic development, Bishop Lewis said.

In southern Telangana state, the BJP was only able to secure one of the 119 seats. A regional party, Telangana Rashtra Samiti, won 88 seats, while Congress and allies won 27 seats.

In Mizoram, the regional Mizoram National Front won 26 seats in the 40-seat house, Congress pick-up five and the BJP only managed to win one seat.

The results are a setback to the BJP's sectarian politics that has taken dominance over secularism in the country, said Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.

"People of this country want to live in peace and harmony," the archbishop said, noting that during the past five years there had been an atmosphere of hate and violence. "People have decided to end it."


Results predict BJP’s future

Christian leader Joseph Dias told ucanews.com that the state results signalled a downfall of the BJP nationally as people had come to know that the party had not done anything remarkable on the developmental front.

"People are looking for solutions to their day-to-day issues like soaring prices of commodities and joblessness," Joseph said. "The BJP, on the contrary, has been raking up communal issues about which a common man in the country is least concerned."

He said the BJP came to power in New Delhi in 2014 promising progress, an end to corruption and the creation of a huge number of jobs.

"Five years down the line, the country is struggling to normalize its economy and religious violence has witnessed an unprecedented upsurge," Joseph told ucanews.com.

Imran Illiyasi, a political commentator based in New Delhi, said the result was a direct lesson to the BJP that it could not win the people over by raising emotive issues while keeping the burning ones at the bay.

The market value of the rupee was at all time low and prices of petrol and diesel had increased on a daily basis causing spikes in the costs of all essential commodities, Illiyasi said.

Saurabh Shulka, a social activist based in Chhattisgarh, said that despite the BJP having ruled the state for 15 years, farmers remained disgruntled.

"People were not bothered about the BJP's sectarian games this time,"Shulka said. "They were concerned about themselves."

This could constitute a "ray of hope" for a new government after general elections due next April-May, Shukla told ucanews.com.

A survey done by an Indian research institute, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, in May predicted the BJP's national downfall due to economic issues.

The survey reported that 47 percent of the respondents felt the BJP government did not deserve to be voted back, as opposed to 39 percent who said it deserved a second chance.

Overall the BJP's popularity was reported to have dipped by 7 percent over the past year.

Even in personal popularity ratings, according to the poll, Rahul Gandhi, president of the Congress party, has narrowed the gap with Modi to 10 percent from 17 percent a year earlier.

The survey found that about 75 percent of Muslims, 60 percent of Christians and some 50 percent of Sikhs do not wish to see the Modi government returned to power. 

Hindus form 966 million, or 80 percent, of India's population of 1.3 billion. Muslims account for 172 million or 14 percent while Christians comprise 29 million or 2.3 percent.

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