GE 2019: THE GREAT GAMBLE (Rest of India Vs Modi-Shah)

GE 2019: THE GREAT GAMBLE (Rest of India Vs Modi-Shah)

by June 4, 2018 0 comments

THE GREAT GAMBLEBy-poll results show the Opposition knows what it’s doing; the question is, how will the BJP respond?

At the apogee of the Narendra Modi wave a couple of years ago, BJP president Amit Shah, having settled the party hierarchy and got the teams of his choice in place, decided to go for broke. He assessed, rightly, that there is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. Obviously in consultation with and with the permission of the Prime Minister, the party president focused with single-minded determination and energy — surpassed in the history of political parties in India perhaps only by PC Joshi who built the organization, expanded the ideological footprint and increased the acceptability of the (undivided) Communist Party of India in a near-superhuman effort between 1935 and 1948 — on charting a bold new course for the BJP. No longer was the BJP going to be a party that was stuck at under one-third of the popular vote and just over one-third of seats in the Lok Sabha at its best. AB Vajpayee and LK Advani along with Murli Manohar Joshi, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and other party icons had done the hard work of mainstreaming a party and ideology that had been relegated to the fringes of national discourse post-1947 by the late 1990s before the BJP sort of plateaued in the first decade of the millennium. But with the advent of Modi as the BJP talisman, Shah began scaling up the party machine and extending its apparatus to previously unchartered territory. It helped that the Sangh, fed up with two continuous terms of the UPA and the venal element within it, which was busy trying to ‘fix’ the RSS and was taking the country down what amounted to a differential citizenship model by a cynical use of minoritism, backed this effort with all its might and front organizations. The logical corollary to this growth of the BJP, combined with the politically combative and take-no-prisoners approach of its leadership, is the Opposition uniting to try (and largely succeed) in defeating the BJP in electoral contests as has been witnessed in Karnataka, the by-elections to four Lok Sabha and 11 Assembly seats results of which were announced on Thursday and other Lok Sabha/Assembly by-polls in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan earlier this year.

Though we are not as sanguine as some others about the Opposition being able to maintain nationwide the high index of unity it has displayed in the by-elections when it comes to the 2019 General Election, the question does need to be asked: How does the BJP combat this gang-up against it? One school of thought in the party seems to favor the Indira Gandhi redux, Ek sherni sau langoor, Chikmagloor, Chickmagloor template. But for that to succeed a national narrative has to be built on tangible achievements the party has to show on its core One India issues: A Ram temple at Ayodhya, the abrogation of Article 370 and the implementation of a uniform civil code. Realistically, none of them look likely to come to fruition before the next Lok Sabha poll. As for anti-corruption measures, providing a safe and secure environment for citizens and the development push, well, in a country the size of India with the scale of the challenges it faces and no agreement on the objective criteria on which to judge such albeit essential efforts, it will always be a situation of claim and counter-claim. Modi’s honesty of intent may be a part-palliative in this context but may not be enough. The great gamble will come unstuck unless the welcome aggression of a party in growth-mode is not mated with an accommodative approach towards alliances. But having  rolled the dice expecting to win big on its own, the BJP is being regarded with extreme wariness by potential allies today.

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