Sunday, July 14, 2024

Myth of Modi magic stands beaten


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By Jagdish Rattanani

It is now evident that the people of India have rejected the Modi-ised version of the BJP. The BJP is well short of a majority in the incoming Lok Sabha on its own steam and has to that extent been contained. Even if the BJP-led NDA forms the government at the Centre, the narrative that is being pushed as this piece is being written, it opens the possibility of a heavily-chastened BJP being forced to bow to the dictates of coalition politics. The new partners that the BJP will have no choice but to listen to, particularly the Telugu Desam Party of Chandrababu Naidu and the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar, have acquired new strength and have already demanded key portfolios, according to reports. This in itself puts brakes on a runaway BJP playing its own haughty tunes with a self-righteousness that many Indians have come to despise.
Under these circumstances, we can conclude that the days of a Modi-led, command-and-control obsessed BJP riding roughshod over sentiments across the political spectrum may be over. No longer can this be the party of one path, one election, one man, one truth. The people of India, particularly voters across Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra, have ensured that the BJP learns some key lessons about the rainbow of colours that go into the making of white light.
This is the least that 2024 elections bring, with the possibility of many other twists and turns that are in the news, including important questions of the ability of Modi to continue at the helm even if the government is led by the BJP. The hollowed-out party, by now unused to raising any challenge or asking any questions of its leadership, will take some time to absorb the results and will likely look to the RSS for cues to raising an internal revolt, an event not as unlikely as it looked just a day ago.
Further, the reported threats under which some of the poll alliances have been signed by the Modi-led party, an example being the ugly manner in which Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar’s NCP were broken in Maharashtra, leaves open the possibility of breakaway factions returning to their base parties and the NDA itself shrinking. There are some reports, unconfirmed yet, that legislators and the newly elected candidates from the Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena, allied with the BJP, are in touch with the original Shiv Sena of Uddhav Thackeray, who has stood against the BJP and is with the INDIA alliance.
It is equally likely that Narendra Modi will attempt to do what he is best at – threatened by the election results, he will look to seize more control and double up on opposition-bashing along with the politics of vendetta that has been the hallmark of the party for the last several years. This brook-no-opposition tendency can bring new twists to the post poll scenario. The first speech of Modi at the BJP headquarters late Tuesday evening indicated that he is not particularly humbled by the result and he used the word “Modi ki guarantee” again, though just once, and not the way the term has been used during the campaign. Time will tell if this is a put-on bravado or an indication of more Modi-style politics to come, and if it comes after a backroom endorsement from the RSS or is indeed a ploy to checkmate opposition building against him internally. What was not to be missed, however, was the point made by Modi that this will be a “NDA sarkar” – a self-declared and a telling change from everything Modi that the party and its politics have been reduced to thus far.
From the election promises that were called “Modi ki guarantee”, to a series of schemes, projects, institutions and even a cricket stadium, Modi will go down as the person who took over a party and put it in service of and for one man, consumed by a self-love on the one hand and a bitterness that saw him sink the political discourse to a new low on the other hand. The capture of a party that once claimed a breadth of leadership, the promotion of those who serenaded Modi and the competitive communalism that was used to burnish credentials and as a shortcut to limelight and power, are all a part of the story that built the myth of the so-called Modi magic. Since it was all tied to Modi and his trusted number two, Home Minister Amit Shah, the blame of all that has gone wrong at the hustings will also rest on the shoulders of the two who together are derisively referred to as the ‘1.5 leadership’ of the BJP.
It is not out of place to mention that a large part of the fall of the BJP from the self-declared lofty targets is directly linked to the arrogance of the ‘1.5 leadership’. Maharashtra stands out as an example. Modi called Sharad Pawar the “bhatakti atma” (a directionless soul) after driving a wedge in his family; he called Uddhav Thackeray, the son of Bal Thackeray a “nakli heir”, or a fake, injecting new level of venom into a political divide that he created. Yet, none of this need have been if the Modi-Shah combine had allowed Thackeray to continue as Chief Minister for another term after the last Assembly elections in Maharashtra.
By refusing to give him the post, they forced Thackeray to befriend the Congress-NCP, and after he did that to form the government in the State, the BJP got its agencies after Sena leaders. They eventually split the Sena to form a government with breakaways – always looking for the short-term prize and an ego-boost at the cost of long-term growth and grass roots political work with the decency and mutual respect that might be expected of a senior political partner.
This approach has been in play at other levels with other partners, a result of which is that the leadership is not trusted, is seen as playing dirty tricks and is seen as using partners only to gobble them up. It is known that Chandrababu Naidu does not really harbour good sentiments for the BJP leadership, particularly Modi. True, he was in an alliance with the BJP in these elections but most of the alliances with the BJP are rooted in political compulsions and to escape the threat of harassment by Modi’s investigative agencies. The controversy forcibly kicked-up in Odisha against Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on his health was equally negative, and left a bad taste. Even though the BJP has won Odisha, the methods that have likely succeeded here are the methods that have lost it power elsewhere and ruined the name of the party and led to it being seen as narrow, vicious and full of vitriol.
Finally, the results show that money power is not enough to win hands down. There is no doubt that the Modi sarkar had full control of the machinery, media and poured in unmatched money, its ill-gotten wealth from the later declared illegal electoral bonds and from other sources. Despite all this, it failed. In that, it is a reminder of the wisdom of V P Singh who once had said: “In India, you can lose an election for want of money, but you cannot win just because you have money.”
(The writer is a journalist and faculty member at SPJIMR. Views are personal) (Syndicate: The Billion Press) (e-mail: [email protected])


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