One you-tuber “reporter” went with cameraman to Varanasi, PM Modi’s constituency. There, at a sward with a view to standing crops, he lined up a ragged group of “kisans” and asked them the question: “Ab Tumhara Kya Hoga Modi?” And like one they said, “Curtains!” That rocked the reporter on his toes and he retorted, “But why, what wrong has Modi done?” The reply: “That’s the problem, Kuch bhi nahi Kiya, Ganne Ki Kimat Badane Ki Baat Kahi, Par Dhari Ki Dhari Reh Gayi.”

“Does that mean the gathbandhan wins?” The farmer grinned: “ab Ki Baar Modi Ki Jamanat Japth.” The rest of them matched bold grins. They seemed to be having a ball and all them claimed they were with the BJP “till last week”, with one old guy with a missing tooth saying, “I just quit, minutes ago!” drawing loud guffaws from the rest of the rustic lot. They gave the feeling they were waiting all these days for the gathbandhan to coalesce to get their back on Modi and Yogi.

While this “upload” was getting “views” on youtube, another reporter was in another UP district talking to Dalit voters about gathbandhan and Mayawati and Akhilesh and Narendra Modi. The mostly young Dalit caught in the camera viewfinder came out as if preparing to go to battle with swords drawn, victory already in sight. To the question, “Who will be next Pradhan Mantri?” they chorused “Behenji”, “Behenji”, “Behenji”…

And while this was the impact felt at places rural, a couple of other youtube ‘reporters’ were accosting another breed of men and women, those in the narrow lanes of small-town Uttar Pradesh, where the refrain was altogether different: “Who will be PM, Rahul Gandhi or Modi?” And the answer nine out of 10 times, “Modiji” The only guy who said “Rahul Gandhi” stopped short at “Insh…,” catching himself in time from blurting out his Muslim identity!

Suddenly, with the gathbandhan tied, caste consolidation is a rock in Modi’s way to a second term and going communal is an option. Which, by the way, calls for the specialized services of Yogi Adityanath, the man some blame for Modi’s plight, and hardcore Hindutva. It was a mistake making the Yogi chief minister, say some folks, forgetting that the virus is in the BJP dna and not one man as the saffron party talks the classic language of communal divide.

Now what? For the BJP and for the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah juggernaut, the duo’s vaunted “election-winning machine”? For starters, get a pair of new caterpillars for the juggernaut to traverse the bumpy road ahead and play catch-up with the gathbandhan. One view is that the formation of the gathbandhan has robbed the elections of a referendum on Modi, and the BJP can no longer make it a ‘Modi vs. Rahul’ presidential.

The minute SP and BSP inked the alliance, the BJP was left with a patchwork of state-wise electoral battles to contest. If it’s against the gathbandhan in Uttar Pradesh, it might be with the Kootamayi in Andhra Pradesh; with a TRS-AIMIM module in Telangana; with the Congress-JD(S) alliance in Karnataka, with DMK-Congress arrangement in Tamil Nadu; with Mamata’s TMC in West Bengal…

The implications: BJP will have to draw up different strategies for different turfs. Modifications will have to be made to the juggernaut and that will call for an engineering feat! Then, there is the risk of sliding from right to far right, to extreme right, i.e., embrace the politics of Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj; Bajrang Dal and VHP. That’s the default page for ideologically-driven parties and the BJP is severely ideological. So, ‘Vikas’ might play out even as the notes of ‘Mandir Wahin Banaenga’ and ‘Gauraksha’ ring loud in the electoral battlefield.

If the gathbandhan defeats the saffron party, it will be the battle of Bhima Koregaon repeated in Uttar Pradesh with only the enemy different – then the British, now the BJP. It cannot be Mahabharata, but it could have shades of the Ramayana with Ram Mandir. And ‘Jat Hanuman Ajit Singh’ has the option to join either side. Rahul Gandhi will be in the grandstands! (IPA Service)