By ZAFAR AGHA
The BJP’s defeat in the current round of byelections is no surprise. Narendra Modi has lost his magic and the people of India have seen through saffron politics
The media hype around Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget 2018 could not hide Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s worries, as Rajasthan and Bengal byelection results clearly reflected the nation’s swing away from the BJP. Both Rajasthan and Bengal have simultaneously voted against the BJP. The BJP lost both Alwar and Ajmer parliamentary seats and the Mandalgarh assembly seat in Rajasthan to the Congress, while Trinamool Congress repeated its victory in Bengal on Uluberia (Parliament) and Noapara (assembly) seats.
The BJP defeat in the current round of byelections is no surprise. The basic story is that Narendra Modi has lost his magic and the people of India have seen through the saffron politics. Modi hoodwinked India in 2014 as a dream merchant who could change peoples lives for the better, while the Sangh machinery worked to divide the voter along Hindu-Muslims lines. The strategy paid handsome dividends and Modi won over 330 parliamentary seats for the NDA alliance.
Since then, neither Modi nor the BJP have showed they have the vision or big ideas to govern India. Big talk of smart cities, bullet trains, youth getting jobs by millions, every unemployed young person having his/her own start-up in no time, skilled Indians moving up the economic ladder leading India and Indians to ‘achche din’ ultimately proved a hoax. Instead, the painful yet ultimately unfruitful demonetisation exercise and poor GST implementation destroyed the Indian economy, with GDP slipping, unemployment rising and trade and businesses suffering huge losses. Demonetisation and the GST negatives transformed Modi into an economic destroyer rather than a man with any vision to take India towards development.
While the Indian growth story turned sour, the saffron brigade very systematically and in an organised manner was busy tuning India into a mobocracy. Cow ‘vigilantes’ indulged in mob-lynchings while a passive state machinery looked on, and variously labelled senas went on a rampage, sometimes against a movie like Padmaavat, sometimes killing a journalist like Gauri Lankesh or sometimes indulging in open mob violence against Muslims on Republic Day in Kasganj. Modi and the entire saffron brigade was busy in its old political game plan of divide and rule to earn another electoral victory.
India may have begun to resemble Pakistan in the last three years. But India can never be turned into a Hindu Pakistan. The Indian voter, unlike her Pakistani counterpart, began to see through the BJP’s true colour in the last few months. The BJP began to lose elections almost at all levels after the GST fiasco. It lost most of the university students’ unions, municipal corporations, assembly and parliamentary byelections held during last three months. Gujarat was a defeat in victory, as many observed. Himachal Pradesh was the only saving grace.
Well, India is now angry with Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister seemed to have sensed it. The desperate move to win over the poor and urban India through ‘medical cover’ and huge outlay for farmers in the last full budget of the present Parliament, clearly shows nervousness within the ruling establishment. But it seems too late to recover for the next round of parliamentary elections due in May 2019.
But Modi is not one to give up easily. He is like a wounded tiger who would go for a kill now. His basic ambition seems to convert India into a Hindu rashtra to earn a place for himself in history as the greatest Hindu leader of modern times. He needs one more term for his mission, which now seems less sure. He will go back to his basic Gujarat model of divide and rule through hate politics. He used this weapon rather brazenly in the recently concluded Gujarat assembly elections.
Rajasthan and Bengal byelection verdicts have turned the Modi government into a lame duck government. Its popularity with the people is sliding down fast. It has no governance agenda that can save the next elections for the BJP. Bereft of ideas, Modi and the saffron brigade would go for massive polarisation before parliamentary elections, which are now likely to be advanced. It is, therefore, necessary for the entire anti-BJP opposition to pool its vote along one platform as it broadly did in 2004. Secondly, it is also the time for the opposition to stand up and defend India’s secular ethos without making any compromises.
Rajasthan and Bengal byelections results are the clear indication of the nation mood. It is no longer difficult to defeat Modi provided the opposition puts its house in order right away and goes to the people with a positive plan.
(The article was first published on National Herald written by renowned Journalist Zafar Agha)