As political parties ran their election campaigns in 2015 to secure a mandate in the Bihar assembly, another campaign was being run simultaneously. The parallel campaign had the opposition parties, several journalists and several so-called intellectuals at its forefront. It proclaimed that India had suddenly become intolerant, and several of those who had received national awards in the past came forward to return them as a sign of protest. The BJP, which contested the election on its own and projected itself as a valid alternative, lost badly.
Many put two and two together, and believed that the BJP lost Bihar due to the intolerance campaign.
Several BJP supporters feared that this powerful cartel would attempt to wreak havoc during the Uttar Pradesh elections of 2017. But that will not happen.
That the cartel was responsible for the result in Bihar might have been the prevalent analysis at the time, but it was and remains deeply flawed. The cartel is simply a bunch of clowns serving its political masters, and not in its wildest dreams is it capable of swinging an election in any way. The political masters had other objectives in mind, and as of now their attempts have fallen flat.
The result of the Bihar election was not a consequence of supposed intolerance. It was simple political arithmetic at play. The three big players in the state- JDU, RJD and BJP- control a bulk of the state’s vote-share. Their individual vote-shares differ slightly from election to election depending on the prevalent circumstances. In 2014 for example, in a three-cornered contest and with a powerful Modi wave, the BJP secured most of the Lok Sabha constituencies in Bihar. When the JDU and the RJD joined forces to fight the assembly elections in 2015, the result was predetermined.
The intolerance brigade is a cartel of journalists, writers and so-called intellectuals cultivated by previous regimes. Several interactions with this bunch have shown that these tags (journalist, writer, intellectual) were thrust upon them on the basis of loyalty and not merit. This class of people was created by a political class, which gave them undue importance and showered them with awards. The aim was to have a monopoly over sources that generate opinion. Most people saw through this right from the start, and dismissed them as Congress stooges when they announced the returning of their awards.
There was no intolerance in the country. At least there was no additional intolerance from levels of the past. In fact, at the time this narrative was peddled, the figures showed that Narendra Modi’s government had done a better job upholding communal harmony than its predecessor. The intolerance narrative peddled in television studios and newspaper columns had an effect only on an elite English-speaking NDTV-watching class of people. The ground realities were different, and people in the interiors of Bihar didn’t even know who Arundhati Roy or Nayantara Sehgal were, let alone understand the message they were attempting to send across.
The political masters of the cartel are clever people. After all, they ran the world’s largest democracy like a mafia for several decades. They couldn’t have been stupid enough to think that a campaign like the one they orchestrated would have an impact in the Bihar election. Moreover, they must have known that this election was already in the bag. Why then did they go ahead with the parallel campaign?
It’s quite simple really. The opposition knows that the 2019 general elections are a do or die scenario for it. If Narendra Modi is successful in his first term and gets re-elected, the opposition might have to sit out for a decade or two. The opposition therefore uses every tool at its disposal to undermine the prime minister and his government.
The intolerance campaign of 2015 wasn’t orchestrated to win Bihar. It was orchestrated in order that the victory in Bihar may be attributed to intolerance.
The government’s image would then take a hit both domestically and internationally, prompting it to get on the backfoot.
Today, more than a year after the Bihar polls, things stand very differently. The cartel and the opposition stand thoroughly exposed. The BJP is undergoing an unprecedented resurgence as its moves are going down well with people. Most surveys predict that it will win the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections. The discredited cartel is a much-loathed bunch today. Orchestrating something similar as the intolerance campaign will further dent their credibility. It won’t win their masters an election, nor will it help them prove a point. The elite sleeper cell will lie low for some time now.