Have you ever noticed the dyers of the north Indian villages who look after their traditional profession of dyeing clothes in various colours? The clothes in fascinating colours drying outside their houses or their workplaces catch everybody’s attention. When they give these clothes to their customers, they instruct them not to wash these clothes in warm water or dry them in the sun so that their colours don’t fade.

This sort of dyeing was resorted to in a hurried manner by various regional parties to uproot Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in the last elections but everything faded in the heat of elections. As a result, the leaders of these parties have begun reviving the faded structure of their parties.

The latest example of this is Uttar Pradesh, where Mayawati has broken the alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP). Six months ago, when the talk of this kind of grand alliance was in the air, many political analysts felt that it will tear the BJP into pieces. This did not happen. Akhilesh Yadav’s SP remained confined to just five seats like before. The biggest shock came when Akhilesh Yadav’s wife and MP from Kannauj Dimple Yadav and his cousin Dharmendra Yadav both lost their seats. If Akhilesh Yadav couldn’t succeed in securing a seat for his wife and brother, how could he enhance their vote bank? Pointing this out, Mayawati broke ties with the SP. But, she is known to change her stance according to the winds. Earlier, she has run the government in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and SP and has contested elections in alliance with the Congress. Political parties which were on opposing sides became allies, only to part ways when the time came.

Certainly, the by-elections for the 12 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh are going to be multi-cornered. The BJP, Congress, SP, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), etc will test their luck in these elections. These will, in a way, lay the foundation for the 2022 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. If the Opposition continues to fight the way it is, then it should be ready for more bad news.

Why did the grand alliance of SP-BSP-RLD, which failed some weeks ago, defeat the BJP in the Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana by-elections? Not only this, the SP bagged 28.32% of the votes and BSP 22.23% in the 2017 assembly elections. If we include the votes won by RLD, the leaders of the gathbandhan had hoped that they would secure more than 50% of the votes cast. But the opposite happened. If we look at it superficially, it seems that the Yadav voters of SP, Scheduled Caste voters of BSP and the Jat voters of the RLD couldn’t accept this alliance. The social enmity of years could not end with this political tie-up. This is a half-truth.

If you look at the alliances in Bihar and Jharkhand in the light of this fact, it is certain that by defeating such alliances, the voters have proved that only the politics of caste and religion won’t work. One reason behind it is that people who considered leaders like Shibu Soren, Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati their pride are now marginal. The third generation has become voters. This younger generation is a deciding factor in the elections now and its concern and thinking have changed. The rapidly increasing urbanization and migration in search of employment have also strengthened this tendency. The 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh had hinted at it and this was reaffirmed in 2019. Now the upcoming assembly elections in Jharkhand and Haryana will prove what is stronger—the pride of a community or concerns of the younger generation.

If 2019 is repeated, then it is certain that the days of the alliance on the basis of caste, religion and region are going to be over. Now, the regional leaders will have to give an account of the public welfare work done by them instead of slogans based on caste and community. But the Opposition is not willing to accept this logic. If that be so, then the firebrand chief minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee would not have asked the Congress and the Left parties to contest with her party.

If Mamata wants, she can take some lessons from neighbouring Odisha where the Biju Janata Dal won the elections for the fifth time, in a row. Naveen Patnaik joined the election fray, not on the basis of any alliance, but on the work done by him. Before him, K. Chandrashekar Rao had also used the same tactic. In Andhra Pradesh, the result was almost the same but with a difference. Here, Jagan Reddy himself worked hard to defeat Chandrababu Naidu without any alliance.

Opportunistic compromises will not succeed anymore.

PM Modi understands this. If you observe the first 30 days of his second innings, you will find that except the speeches in Parliament, he has kept himself away from public functions and ceremonies. He wants to complete the unfinished tasks of the first tenure as the PM so that he sends out this message that he means business. The PM is busy in proving something meaningful and then move forward in the first 100 days of his second innings in the office, while the Opposition, which is scattered like the beads of a broken rosary, is still recovering from the shock of defeat.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan.

The views expressed are personal