By Soroor Ahmed,
Sir Halford Mackinder was a famous geographer, who in 1904 came up with the Heartland Theory. According to him those who rule Eurasia, that is East Europe and West Russia, command the heartland, thus control the world.
However, during the high time of World War-II, that is in 1942, another scholar, Nicholas Spykman challenged MackinderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Heartland Theory. He stated that EurasiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Rimland, the coastal areas or buffer zone, is the key to controlling the World, not the heartland. This was later known as the Rimland Theory.
Something similar seems to be happening in Indian politics. In the earlier decades after independence it was often felt that the political party, which controls the heartland states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and even Madhya Pradesh, rules the country.
Now just opposite is happening. The party or group of parties, which are ruling India has virtually no base in the heartland of the country. In fact the Congress party is in power in bordering states of Assam, Rajasthan and in the coastal states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The party is prominent opposition in the coastal Kerala and Karnataka, where it has the potential to stage a comeback sometimes in the future.
In the heartland the Congress has completely got decimated with no chance of returning to power, at least in the near future. True it did perform slightly better in UP in the last Lok Sabha election yet is far away from coming back to power in that state too.
Not surprisingly, in the heartland even the major opposition party the BJP lost much of its hold. It indulged in the systematic self-destruction in UP, from where till 2004 it used to send more than 50 MPs to Lok Sabha. In Jharkhand too it got virtually wiped out in 2004 parliamentary election and performed very poorly in Bihar too.
The only two states in the heart of India, where it remained relatively strong even in 2004 were Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which was earlier its part.
Like the Congress the BJP too is in power in coastal Gujarat and Karnataka, where it won Assembly election for the first time in 2008. It occupies the highlands of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
While the two national parties are trying to re-capture the heartland it seems that the BJP is able to regain the lost ground much faster than the Congress.
The Bihar Assembly election victory of 2005 came against the run of play for the NDA, when everything was going wrong for it. The win came as a morale-booster. Subsequently the partyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s performance in Jharkhand, Bihar and even in UP was much better in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. By 2010 it was back to power with the JMM in Jharkhand and in Bihar it helped Nitish Kumar win 206 seats. While NitishÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Janata Dal (United) tally increased by just 30 per centÃ¢â‚¬â€œÃ¢â‚¬â€œfrom 88 in 2005 to 115 in 2010 BJPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seat jumped by 70 per centÃ¢â‚¬â€œÃ¢â‚¬â€œfrom 55 to 91.
What is interesting is that the BJPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decline in the heartland has much to do with the exit of strong former chief ministers from the party: Kalyan Singh in UP, Babulal Marandi in Jharkhand, Uma Bharati in Madhya Pradesh and Madanlal Khurana in Delhi. However, Madhya Pradesh is the only state where the party soon discovered a new leader, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, who was till lately a lesser known name outside the state.
Kalyan Singh left BJP several years back only to return to the party fold just on the eve of the 2004 Lok Sabha election. But again on the eve of 2009 Lok Sabha poll he joined hands with the Samajwadi Party. After the poll Mulayam Singh and Kalyan parted ways. Now he is likely to knock at the door of the old party once again.
Madan Lal Khurana, the former Delhi chief minister, too left the party in a huff only to make a re-entry. Babulal Marandi, the longest serving chief minister of Jharkhand, left the BJP after he too became the victim of infighting. He formed his Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and fought election in alliance with the Congress. It did better in the last December assembly election but is no way going to return to the BJP as the party has by now got Arjun Munda as an alternative tribal face.
But there is one state where the departure of the former chief minister did not affect the party too much and that is Madhya Pradesh. Though Uma Bharati was one of the champions of the Babri Masjid demolition movement her exit from the party after being removed from the post of the chief minister did not cost the BJP so much. More than Shivraj Singh Chauhan factor, it was the absence of regional party leadersÃ¢â‚¬â€œÃ¢â‚¬â€œfor example like Mayawati and Mulayam Singh in UPÃ¢â‚¬â€œÃ¢â‚¬â€œwhich saved the BJP from getting decimated there. Congress, even though it has leaders like Digvijay Singh and Arjun Singh (now old and ailing), was in no position to make a revival in that another crucial state in the heartland. This fact goes on to prove that it is the regional parties and not the Congress, which is stalling the advancement of the BJP in many states of the country.
In Madhya Pradesh Shivraj ably capitalized on this situation rendering Uma Bharati homeless. When she lost all her bargaining power and her own outfit was completely wiped out no option was left for her. In the last few months she started showing inclination to return to the party fold but found the doors shut. The man, who was stonewalling her entry into the BJP is none else, but the same Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
However, after the election of Nitin Gadkari as the BJP chief, Uma Bharati, again made a bid to knock at the partyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s door. On September 25, 2010 she accompanied Lal Krishna Advani to Somnath Temple to mark the completion of 20 years of Ram Rath Yatra, the movement which ultimately led to the demolition of Babri Masjid.
Now Uma is virtually back in the partyÃ¢â‚¬â€œÃ¢â‚¬â€œwould be joining it after Tilsakrat (January 14, 2011). But Chauhan has partially succeeded in his objective. She would not be entering the Madhya Pradesh politics, but would concentrate in Uttar Pradesh to work for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Uma also said that she would be working for the reservation of women of backward castes in the womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reservation.
The BJP has got a big boost in the heartland recently. As mentioned the landslide NDA victory in Bihar and the coming to power in Jharkhand, where it did much better in 2009 Lok Sabha election too, have raised the hope of regaining foothold in the heartland.
With Uma Bharati almost in and other backward leader Kalyan Singh not so hostile now the party is leaving no stone unturned to regain the lost ground in UP. It was with this confidence that Advani, on December 14 almost accepted the challenge of a mid-term Lok Sabha election.