In the mid-1990s, as VP Singh was scrambling to help form a non-BJP, non-Cong ‘Third Front’ government, we asked the former prime minister if such a ‘khichdi’ government was good for the country. “I don’t know about being desirable, but it is inevitable,” was his sharp response. Singh was seen as the original mascot of third front politics: in 1989, he became prime minister by forging a coalition with, quite miraculously, the outside support of the BJP and the left. The single point agenda then was to remove the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government.
The defining image of the 1989 Lok Sabha elections was VP Singh campaigning across the country and claiming that he had in his pocket the Swiss bank account number where the Bofors payoff money had been deposited. Singh won the election and became prime minister but never revealed the account number. Nearly 30 years later, Rahul Gandhi is hoping to do to Narendra Modi what Singh did to his father Rajiv
If there is any city that is seen to represent the public anger over demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, it is Surat. Textile traders had shut shop for a fortnight, the diamond market was losing its shine and there was a mood of despondency in Gujarat’s business capital. And yet, the election results show that the BJP has swept all 12 seats in the port city, including the Patel-dominated Varacha Road constituency. In the electoral trajectory of Surat lies perhaps the key to the BJP’s sixth consecutive win in Gujarat.
It may be coincidental, but it is perhaps only appropriate that the Gujarat elections are being held in the week of the 25th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition. The BJP, after all, hasn’t lost a single election in Gujarat over this period and the rath yatra, which led to the Babri Masjid’s destruction, rolled out from the state.
“We are coming together to defend secularism by defeating Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and the RSS,” proclaimed Lalu Prasad with typical bombast in September 2015 just ahead of the Bihar assembly elections. “Our biggest challenge is to defeat the forces of communalism represented by Mr Modi,” argued Nitish Kumar vehemently. The die had been cast: in the autumn of 2015, the citadel of secularism had to be protected at all costs from the saffron army led by the strongman from Gujarat.