Is it the Modi magic or Modi cult propelling the BJP to new heights with the opposition pulverised and decimated by the split vote banks of these parties in large parts of India? The BJP has gained five states in the assembly elections but lost Delhi and Bihar, writes Lalit Sethi
By Lalit Sethi
Is it the Modi magic or Modi cult propelling the BJP to new heights with the opposition pulverised and decimated by the split vote banks of these parties in large parts of India? The BJP has gained five states in the assembly elections but lost Delhi and Bihar -- though its agendas in these two states are at play. And though the BJP lost several by-elections, it won the recent UP assembly election as a consequence of divided opposition votes with only the first among un-equals emerging the winner.
The dilemmas the BJP faces in times of crises, national and international, regional and local, are not of much consequence as it is argued that the problems their leader faces are not singular to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Which President or Prime Minister in the world is not heir to them? One of the latest worries of the world leaders is big-scale hacking of computers around the globe and is it too hard to curb these intrusions? Terrorism is another major issue in India and is the nation in a bind?
Was the promise of 10 million new jobs a year too tall an order or an impossible target? If there have been new jobs, are they provided by public and private sectors as well as governments to fill vacancies created by an average of 3 per cent retirements a year or far from easy to fill with suitable appointments? Have there been big job losses and small industry closures in November and December last year?
Information technology corporates of India, which employ a few million in well-paid jobs, are under great stress everywhere, including India, since US President Donald Trump’s announcement of H-1B visa restrictions. About 200,000 IT jobs are being lost this year in India alone; yet 7,000 Indians have decided to return home from the US in the hope of finding work. If they are highly qualified as well as experienced, they would be welcome to take up new positions. But several countries in Europe have announced restrictions on foreigners in view of the difficult job situation they face and Indians overseas cannot move there.
India may be a $2 trillion economy with 7 per cent annual growth rate but automation and robotics around the world are restricting human employment even as countries like India have higher birth rates than all First World countries. That is not of much help to what PM Modi describes as India’s youth dividend and cheap labour in spite of the Make in India initiative.
Yet cow vigilantes continue their mayhem in parts of India or has Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath given new life to them and other Chief Ministers the right to insist that they are doing their best, even if not always succeeding? RSS boss Mohan Bhagwat has chided the vigilantes for the killings by giving the sermon “you cannot do violence against those whose culture and habits” require them to take beef, be they Dalits or people from the northeast. But have his words had the desired impact? The Hindutva brigade can try to be secularist in word, if not in deed.
There may be muted or vigorous condemnation of rapists galore, but these are said to be matters concerning the state governments. The Supreme Court may have asked the Centre and a number of states to respond to the public interest litigation on the cow vigilantes’ antics. The apex court may have taken note of what the states are doing or not doing to stop the hateful crimes where women’s rights continue to be trampled. Are the authorities concerned expected to come up with credible replies in due time? Are the police in the states doing enough to guarantee women's safety and dignity? Is the Centre able to coax the states to do more than just pay lip service to these issues of the moment?
Privately or publicly, the BJP considers Rahul Gandhi's leadership of the Congress a great asset for itself and the saffron brigade and a great liability for the party the Gandhi scion leads. They are aware that they cannot yet include Mrs. Sonia Gandhi in that category; so they talk less and less about her or Priyanka Gandhi, who could perhaps upset their applecart because she appears to have the charisma and dress and looks as well as speaking style and confidence of Indira Gandhi, her popular grandmother.
The more Rahul Gandhi takes them on and criticises the BJP, the more they secretly appreciate it because his tirades keep the focus on the BJP and gives them an opportunity to hit back and project the Prime Minister, Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi, and talk about his multifarious achievements in the past three years as Prime Minister.
The ruling party plans a big bash to celebrate its three years in office on May 26. Though he won the General Election of May 16, 2014, PM Modi waited for 10 days to take oath of office and hold a South Asian heads of state jamboree in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan for his party to declare that India had delivered a new Messiah to wipe away the tears and woes of 1.2 billion citizens.
Does it matter that few of those tears have been wiped out or woes washed away? It does, but then it is claimed that three years is too short a time in the history of independent India’s 70 years since 1947. The Congress did not do it in 60 years of its rule and the intervening 10 years of Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and “khichdi” governments of mishmash rice served by Prime Ministers Charan Singh, V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral were too short in time to do something tangible for the people.
The question the BJP often asks the people of India at public rallies is whether they would like a new type of mishmash of opposition groups ruling the Dilli Durbar? Or would they rather have a “deliverer” and promising man like the “iconic” Narendrabhai Modi? They expect a chorus of “Yesses”. They might well be getting the demanded endorsements for a sole leader, who they insist is soulful with his humble beginnings as a “chaiwala” from a Dalit family at a small Gujarat railway station.
Amit Shah, the BJP boss and right-hand man of PM Modi, is, for the record, not a Hindu by birth but a Jain and more loyal than the king to Narendra Modi. He is the new He-man of the saffron party. He may not have been an RSS “shakha” man in his childhood or ever, but he is more a Hindutva hard-core loyalist than any other man living on Indian shores. He flaunts a chest larger than Modi’s and he knows better than anyone else how to divide his opponents and rule.
What did former Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav whisper into the ears of PM Modi after the swearing-in of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of U.P. in the second half of April in Lucknow?
Ostensibly, “Beware of my son, Akhilesh Yadav”, implying or insisting: “But I am with you, Mr Prime Minister. My brother, Shivpal Singh Yadav, is floating a separate party of his own. He put up 150 candidates on the Ajit Singh-led Lok Dal and broke the back of the Samajwadi Party and Congress alliance”.
The result: BJP won the U.P. Assembly elections with a landslide.
Mulayam Singh had repeatedly told his son not to harass his special aide, Amar Singh, who had helped his boss, M.S. Yadav himself, to remain out of jail; otherwise he would have been in prison for seven-and-half years in a disproportionate assets cases. “I am beholden to him for ever.”
Yet Akhilesh expelled Amar Singh after he took over the party leadership. The S.P. and Congress having been decimated in U.P., is the ouster of Arvind Kejriwal from his Delhi kingdom any time soon -- or not too soon -- the next game on the agenda?
Is the announcement of the Tamil superstar, Rajinikanth, that he will jump into the political arena a move in the direction that will help PM Modi and Amit Shah gain a supporting foothold in a southern fortress from the possible rejection of the two or more Tamil Nadu parties by the voters there in the months or couple of years ahead?
(The author is a journalist of long standing and a commentator on political and social issues. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to email@example.com)