FPJ Editorial: North-south divide becomes starker

FPJ Editorial: North-south divide becomes starker

On a day when the Congress notched up a spectacular performance, bagging more than double the number of seats that the BJP did in Karnataka, the saffron party swept to power in the Uttar Pradesh civic polls.

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Monday, May 15, 2023, 10:25 PM IST
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With the loss of its sole southern citadel, Karnataka, the Bharatiya Janata Party is now confined to the north, west and some north-eastern states. This is a telling commentary on the stark north-south divide in the country. On a day when the Congress notched up a spectacular performance, bagging more than double the number of seats that the BJP did in Karnataka, the saffron party swept to power in the Uttar Pradesh civic polls. Its classic electoral template of religious polarisation which helps it reap such rich dividends in the Hindi heartland and Gujarat came a cropper in the south. What does this indicate? Is it that what works in the south does not hold good in the north? The grand old party’s manifesto for Karnataka promised to ban the PFI and the Bajrang Dal, leading Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allege that the Congress was against Bajrang Bali or Hanuman and exhorting voters to teach the party a lesson. This open appeal to the majority Hindu votebank obviously found no resonance in the southern state and had no impact on the Congress’ electoral fortunes. However, the party would not dare to repeat the electoral promise of banning the Bajrang Dal in the Hindi heartland, as it is aware that would be political suicide. In North India, the Congress often resorts to blatant majority appeasement such as temple-hopping by the Gandhi siblings and declarations of their Hindu ancestry.

The Karnataka election has to an extent outlined the limits of the Modi factor which has served the BJP well in election after election. Despite the no-holds-barred campaign by the Prime Minister and other BJP heavyweights, the anti-incumbency that haunted the Bommai government could not be overcome as the electorate was determined to bring about change, sick as it was of the state government’s utter ineptitude when it came to bread-and-butter issues which are what really matter to the people. The higher rates of literacy and the heightened political awareness of the people in the southern states have made them a tough nut to crack for the BJP, which has aspirations of being a pan-India party along the lines of the Congress in its glory days when it ruled all parts of the country. This latest electoral debacle has come as a wake-up call for the saffron party. It must rework its electoral arithmetic for south India, just as the Congress cannot rest on its Karnataka laurels and must strategise to retain Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh while attempting to win Madhya Pradesh. There is no easy way to solve the electoral jigsaw puzzle.

Victory for Delhi govt

The landmark verdict of the Supreme Court restoring control of the services department to the Delhi government has brought an eight-year-old legal battle to an end. The services department had been under the control of the Delhi government until 2015 when the Aam Aadmi Party came to power. Then in orders passed by the Union government, control over the services department was vested with the Lieutenant Governor, a nominee of the Centre. Since then it has been a prolonged battle between the CMO and the LG’s office over every single issue, with almost every proposal of the Delhi government being stymied. By restoring the services department to the control of the Delhi government, the Supreme Court has boosted the principle of democratic accountability. The LG is not answerable to the people of Delhi, it is the government that has to face the electorate every five years. Therefore, governance of the city-state must be in the hands of the elected government. By not having control over the bureaucracy, the Delhi government has been seriously handicapped. Senior officials have openly flouted the directives of Delhi ministers, being accountable only to the Centre. Many of the government’s schemes and proposals are lying in cold storage. That it has made commendable strides in the field of education and mohalla clinics is largely due to its tenacity and dogged pursuit of its goals. This unseemly battle between the Centre and the elected government of the National Capital Region has taken up too much time. It must end and the people’s representatives must be allowed to take charge of the governance of Delhi so that it can take decisions for the welfare of the Capital's citizens. The Supreme Court ruling is a step in the right direction.

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