We Ditched Development For Ram Temple, Now Paying Price In Polls

With trends that emerged until Tuesday afternoon showing the BJP indulge in a neck-and-neck contest with the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and taking a beating in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, its own lawmakers have begun criticizing the electoral strategy adopted by the party leadership.

Rajya Sabha BJP MP Sanjay Kakade claimed that the BJP’s losses in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh were expected, but the trends in Madhya Pradesh have come as a surprise on counting day. “I think it’s because we forgot the issue of development that Prime Minister Narendra Modi took up in 2014, and turned our aim to statues, name-changing, and the Ram temple,” news agency ANI quoted MrKakade as saying.

The Congress had managed to garner a near-unassailable lead in Chhattisgarh by Tuesday afternoon, and it seemed well established to form the next government in Rajasthan. In Madhya Pradesh, the two parties were still playing a game of political see-saw.

MrKakade was pointing to the renewed push for the Ram temple by right-wing groups, including the RashtriyaSwayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), besides heightened efforts to attract Hindu votes ahead of the assembly elections. The viability of constructing the Statue of Unity in Gujarat for nearly Rs. 3,000 crore at a time when farmers across the country were suffering under debt was also called into question by many.

Adding to this was Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand leader with markedly right-wing views who was employed as a star campaigner in the run-up to the assembly elections. MrAdityanath had lately gone on a name-changing spree, granting historical places such as Allahabad and the iconic Mughalsarai Railway Station with names better suited to Hindutva sensibilities.

MrKakade, who represents Maharashtra in the upper house of parliament, had predicted a dismal show by his party in the Gujarat polls last year too. However, he was forced to retract his statement after the BJP scored a comfortable victory, stating that he had not factored in PM Modi’s “charisma” while creating it.

Although the Prime Minister had fought the 2014 elections on the development plank, a number of administrative missteps such as demonetization and hasty implementation of the goods and services tax prevented him from following through on his promises. The opposition’s offensive over the Rafale deal also put the party on the defensive.

Exit polls had predicted that the BJP will beat the Congress by a single seat in Madhya Pradesh, turning up a hung assembly. While the opposition party was shown to score a clear majority in Rajasthan, with 110 seats to BJP’s 78, the two parties were predicted at neck-and-neck levels in Chhattisgarh.

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