BJP's electoral wins post 2014 threatened the existence of regional parties and Congress
The way the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, has contested various assembly elections post 2014, politics in India has acquired a new meaning. The new meaning of Indian politics post 2014 is “victory at all cost". I am not saying that victory was not important for political parties in Indian elections before 2014. It was important even earlier, but there is a difference. Earlier one political party used to call upon the people to vote for the party to defeat another political party, but now the language of politics has changed. It is quite normal for the BJP now to call upon the people to help it make India “Congress mukt", an appeal to finish the main rival political party at the national level. This is a language of politics never heard in India before 2014.
The successive victories of the BJP in various assembly elections held post 2014 threatened the very existence of regional parties and the main opposition Congress. This has resulted in strange bedfellows coming together to fight the might of the new BJP under Modi and Shah. There is now a very strong possibility of the coming together of regional political parties under one umbrella and making an effort to form an alliance.
The successive defeats of the Congress in various assembly elections post 2014, which resulted in its continuous decline, has resulted in the party forming alliance even as a junior partner even when the party has a larger number of seats and more votes as is evident in the recent case of Karnataka. All this to defeat the BJP in 2019. Such a strong desire of regional parties or parties in opposition to defeat the incumbent party was visible only in 1977.
It is this desire among the political parties that has led to strange bedfellows coming together in recent years. In Bihar, the two arch rivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad joined hands during the 2015 assembly elections to defeat the BJP. After suffering a massive defeat in the assembly elections, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party came together for the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha byelections. Now, the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress have formed a post-poll alliance to keep the BJP away from power in Karnataka. All this has culminated in senior leaders of the Congress and various regional parties coming together on one platform on the occasion of the oath taking ceremony of Kumaraswamy as the next chief minister of Karnataka.
Post 2014 politics in India has once again resulted in the beginning of an era of coalition politics in which smaller regional parties having a small base in the states have an important role to play in national politics.
Beginning with and post the 2014 elections, the word “development" has acquired a new place in Indian elections and is being chanted by various political parties during the election campaign without much attention being paid to this. The overarching narrative of development is also accompanied by the slogan of “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas" by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the BJP’s campaign.
The new politics in India post 2014 also resulted in politics being much more leader-centric compared to what we had seen during last couple of decades before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The politics of India post 2014 has also witnessed a major shift with regard to the support base of political parties—a major shift among the Dalits, Adivasis, the OBCs and the poor voters away from the Congress and towards the BJP.
Sanjay Kumar is a professor and currently director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). Views are personal.