Opinion

Lok Sabha polls: Is the BJP worried about not being able to win 272 seats again?

Polls, allies and analysts all suggest the party is at least concerned about not being able to reach the halfway mark and what that might mean.

If nothing else, Swapan Dasgupta, a Bharatiya Janata Party-nominated Member of Parliament, offers a reliable indicator of what message the government would like to send, particularly to the English-speaking classes. By that measure, a Times of India column he wrote this week has caused a fair amount of buzz because of a scenario it contemplates about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political future over just a couple of lines. The piece is titled, “if Modi loses in 2019, we’re back to old unsettled politics.”

Dasgupta’s piece is not really about Modi losing – whether that means the prime minister personally losing his election or the broader sense of the BJP being defeated under him. Indeed, Dasgupta has even taken to Twitter to clarify that the headline was not his either, and so it seems a stretch to presume that the BJP has anxieties about coming in second place in Lok Sabha polls that are due by next May.

What the piece does focus on, however, does reflect something that the party does seem anxious about: What if it is not able to get a simple majority in the General Elections? Dasgupta argues that, in just three and a half years, the Modi era has made us forget what it was like to live under a coalition government, with the ruling party having to bow down to smaller ones for support.

Going by the results of opinion surveys, the noises being made by the BJP allies and the conclusions of some analysts, a return to such a time seems enough of a possibility that the party will at least have to consider the idea.

First, the surveys

The Lok Sabha has a total of 545 seats, with 272 as the halfway mark. In 2014, for the first time in 30 years, one party, the BJP, managed to cross that mark and win 282 seats.The India Today Mood of the Nation poll for January 2018 suggests that if elections were held today the BJP would win just 264 seats, compared to 305 that the same survey had found 12 months prior. The ABP-Lokniti-CSDS Mood of the Nation poll, also conducted in January 2018, found that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance would win a total of 293-309 seats, compared to the 336 it won in 2014. This loss of around 30 seats would likely mean that the BJP by itself will come in at fewer than 272 seats.

Next, the allies

Under Modi and BJP President Amit Shah, the BJP’s allies have had very little power. This is primarily because of the 282 seats the BJP was able to win in 2014, meaning it could have run the government without the need to bring any other party on board. Though it did end up sticking with its allies, primarily the Shiv Sena, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Telugu Desam Party among other smaller outfits, it has not ceded much space to them on the decision-making side.

All of those parties named above, and even some of the smaller ones, have begun to make noises demanding more power. The Shiv Sena, which has been concerned about the BJP eating from its electoral pie all along, has announced that it will contest elections by itself. The TDP has spent the last few weeks demanding more money for Andhra Pradesh, even as it has been concerned about the BJP flirting with its local rival, the YSR Congress. And a leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal recently said that the BJP should “treat allies better”. These indicators seem to suggest that the parties are also aware that the BJP might slip below the halfway mark, at least as things stand now, and so want to extract their presumptive pounds of flesh.

Finally, the analysts

Shekhar Gupta saw in the government’s budget a political message of uncertainty, particularly about winning back a majority. In another column, the aforementioned Swapan Dasgupta has also acknowledged that the chatter at least is about the BJP winning something in the 220 range, though he declares the game still “wide open”. Nilanjan Mukhopadyay says Modi will need to look for new allies if the alliance is to retain the seats it won in 2014. And Rajesh Jain, a technology entrepreneur who was part of Modi’s Mission 272 effort in 2014, has written about how the next election “is much more open than anyone thinks”.

The main takeaway is the BJP’s huge reliance on the cowbelt, from Gujarat all the way to Jharkhand, parts of which the saffron party managed a clean sweep of in 2014. Few expect this to be replicated, and the results from the Gujarat assembly polls as well as the bypolls in Rajasthan suggest that the Congress can dent the BJP’s tally there. This is also reportedly the thought behind wanting to push for some level of simultaneous polls – an idea that has settled on 12 states voting along with the Lok Sabha elections – so that Modi’s popularity can be used to paper over the anti-incumbency of local governments.

But specifics on that will only be looked at after the Karnataka election, where much of the focus of the top leaderships is now. The result from Karnataka could not only dictate whether the government wants to advance Lok Sabha elections to this year, it will also tell us who has more momentum going into the general elections.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.