NEW DELHI: "Keep your Ali, Bajrang Bali is enough for us,” quipped Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during the election campaign in Madhya Pradesh, to the delight of the BJP and the RSS who were projecting him as the face of Hindutva in these Assembly elections.

Yet Yogi failed to rally the Hindi heartland around him, with the BJP losing the elections in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to the Congress and hanging on by a cat’s whisker in Madhya Pradesh at the time of writing.

Joblessness, agrarian distress, atrocities against minorities, insecurity and the basic need for roti, kapda, makaan eclipsed the divisiveness with which the BJP and its leadership laced their campaign.

Its poster boy Adityanath addressed over 100 rallies in the five states, with the BJP describing him as a much in demand campaigner for the party.

Adityanath who has honed his reputation in Uttar Pradesh with his encounter raj, and his silence over lynchings with the accused evading the law in several cases, became the star campaigner in these states after Prime MInister Narendra Modi.

He focused on divisiveness, with the state BJP units working around the clock to organise rallies, road shows and public meetings for the UP chief minister. This was seen as a major add on to PM Modi’s focus on Dynasty and Corruption, which took him through 30-plus public rallies in the course of these elections.

In Madhya Pradesh the BJP brought in Uma Bharti (of Babri Masjid demolition fame) to address rallies. Both Bharti and Adityanath focused on the construction of a Ram temple, attacked the Congress for terrorism and for supporting Pakistan.

Adityanath’s slogan excited his party but clearly failed to enthuse voters: “Jo Ram ka nahi, woh hamare kisi kaam ka nahi (He who is not with Ram/ That which is not Ram, is of no use to us).”

He also spoke of changing the names of Faizabad and Allahabad to Ayodhya and Prayagraj respectively to uphold “Vedic traditions of India”, adding that, “While taking these steps, we did not get scared like the Congress that we would lose a vote bank.”

The effort to make Madhya Pradesh a ‘laboratory’ for Hindutva was apparent, with Adityanath’s credentials clearly in use. Chhattisgarh was also a key state for Adityanath where Chief Minister Raman Singh touched his feet, and where he was venerated like a saint. He raced through over 20 public meetings in the state, with the Hindutva agenda as his theme.

So the results are bound to startle, with Adityanath and his brand of Hindutva unable to cut into the strong anti-incumbency in these three crucial states in the Hindi heartland. The BJP has suffered a convincing defeat in Chhattisgarh, it has lost Rajasthan and even if it manages to form the government in Madhya Pradesh will not do so from a position of strength.

The Congress will be breathing down its neck as a strong opposition, charged now with winning the Lok Sabha polls early next year.

Voters in all three Hindi heartland states made it clear that joblessness and livelihood issues were more important to them than the temple. Despite being offered the temple on a platter the voters insisted on voting out the BJP in at least two of these states, for its non-governance.

Agrarian distress in all three states was a major issue with farmers having turned against the BJP in visible numbers.

Reports suggest that most first-time voters cast their ballot for the Congress, more out of anger for the BJP than a preference for the opposition party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches gave few assurances, as he hit out instead against the Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi family. His public meetings were not always well attended, and as party sources said, the feedback did not augur well for the BJP which was worried about the outcome.

The voters clearly were not interested in the playout of politics between the warring political parties, but more about their livelihood and security. Lynchings, Hindu-Muslim divisiveness, Pakistan, Kashmir and now the promise to build a Ram temple have not cut ice with the voters of even the Hindi speaking states, who have not consolidated behind this agenda.

At the end of the day the message for the BJP – and perhaps the Opposition – is Development works, not Communalism. This is not 1992.