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Predicaments of Prime Minister Narendra Modi

By Chandra Shekhar Varma

LUCKNOW || 16th May 2014 was a historic day in the Indian Polity. BJP led by Narendra Damodardas Modi registered a mammoth victory in the general elections. Even the hard core sympathizers of the saffron party did not speculate the numbers BJP mustered.

However for the party the moments of glory were short lived. Within 2 months of assuming power, the party realized that it’s easy to win the elections, but it is difficult to run a Government. It is easy to raise the expectations but it is difficult to manage them and it’s easy to be the PM Candidate Modi than being the PM Modi.

BJP’s problem lies in its quandaries and the popular perception is that it pursues a bemused if not confused agenda. ‘To be or not to be’ the quintessential Shakespearean dilemma was perhaps penned for BJP. Let me list a few predicaments that not only confuse the public but also the party policy makers.

The Hindutwa

Hindutwa has always been a issue BJP wants to live with but doesn’t want to sleep with. Not too many will disagree that 2014 Elections were not won on Modi’s hard core Hindu image, but on a substantially diluted ‘Sab ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas’ stratagem.

mosdiIn fact Modi, after becoming Gujarat’s CM in 2002 never projected himself as a Hindutva Mascot very overtly, instead he talked about the pride of 5 crores Gujaratis that obviously included Muslims, however all this while his opponents kept on branding Modi as a demon for the minorities (can we forget the Maut Ka Saudagar jibe from Sonia Gandhi) to which he never objected.

Modi knew that when the opposition is polarizing one community the other will automatically polarize in the other direction. It was after winning Gujarat for the third time Modi started working towards realizing his dream of becoming the PM.

He did not contest the arrest of Maya Kodnani or Babu Bajrangi, he got many Muslims at the top positions of his administration including the most coveted post of the DGP, he got top Muslim traders like Sareshwala on his side and he also made public appearances with icons like Irfan Pathan and Salman Khan.

As the 2014 Elections started approaching, Modi came out of his shell to face the media and in each of his interview he talked about inclusive politics. Even though he maintained his not guilty stand on Gujarat riots, he did express his remorse over the killings of innocents. Message was loud and clear, Modi was distancing himself from the fanatic Hindutva.

A glaring evidence of this change in strategy was seen when the Ram Mandir issue did not find a mention in the first 25 pages of BJP manifesto, and there too it only said that Mandir will be constructed as per the Court’s judgment.

Why did Modi, once known for his firebrand Hindu image have to defect from Hindutva? Let’s try to understand the different denotation the word Hindutva may have for different people. Broadly speaking Hindutva can be seen as offensive or defensive. When I say offensive it means an imposition of rituals and culture of Hindus on all the other communities.

Safforisation of schools & colleges, state forcing people to convert etc. While the defensive Hindutva is to protect Hinduism when other religions become offensive and start infringing on its basic beliefs.
The directives to the cadre from the top leadership were clear, take up the moderate or defensive part of Hindutva and that too when necessary.

This strategy had two major objectives, one a soft mention of Hindutva here and there won’t let the traditional upper caste voter of BJP distance himself and at the same time rope in new voters from the OBC, Dalits and even Muslim communities by showing a liberal face. The strategy worked and BJP registered a landslide victory

And that is when the real problem started surfacing; some lower and middle rank leaders started believing that BJP had won because of their communal positioning. Muzzafarnagar riots did help BJP in consolidating votes in some parts of UP, but the fringe claimed that BJP won 71 out of 80 seats because of the polarization that happened as the fallout of the riots across the state and even outside. BJP had the cake but it could not decipher who baked it.

Riding high on the wave that was created around 2014 General Elections, BJP won few more states like Haryana, Maharashtra and even Jammu & Kashmir. Nobody counted the Chickens as long as Eggs were available.

In the mean time Delhi Elections happened and BJP faced a humiliating defeat, thankfully Delhi in terms of demographics was a small loss and BJP tried to get away with that by blaming Kiran Bedi’s last minute projection as the CM candidate. However the litmus of BJP’s strategy was to be tested during Bihar elections and as the fate would have it, during the run up for the Bihar elections, the map of the Nation had a new political hotspot called DADRI in UP near the Delhi NCR.

Akhlaq’s killing over a petty beef issue, came as a severe unprecedented jolt to BJP and to make things worse, some sections within the party thought of encashing the incident by making beef an issue that could polarize Hindus whereas the outcome was exactly the opposite. Dadri united not only Muslims but also polarized the lower castes to rally behind an extremely nefarious and opportunistic alliance called MahaGathBandhan.

The election outcome of Bihar made media and political analysts to speculate reasons behind BJP’s dismal performance and they started blaming the casteist statements made by the RSS chief, the Pakistan taunt by Amit Shah and also over exposure of PM Modi, however if one gets into deep analysis the root cause was the unification of anti BJP parties ( Even in the weirdest dream, one could not imagine Nitish and Lalu come together along with Congress) BJP’s percentage of votes had not shifted much as compared to 2014 elections but BJP could not create a winning atmosphere for itself, the perception that it had created during 2014 was seen to be withering away.

The problem of BJP is that it allows its opponents to create an anti Muslim and Dalit image and to make things worse the party’s top leadership doesn’t come out in open to break that image. Political Parties in general and BJP in specific should remember that the damage done by words of your adversary can only be countered by action.

BJP has a strong team of spokesperson and a silent team of efficient workers, what it needs is to make the two complement each other.

My suggestion: Stick to one Gun and fire in with all cylinders rather than having two which fire discreetly. Development is what will work if we want to make India a superpower.

The Dalit Factor-

The Dalits in India have been treated quite unfairly by all the political parties, Our political leadership thinks that by providing them reservations in the Government jobs we have done our bit.

Come to think of it reservation in Government jobs has actually harmed the Dalits more than is has helped. It has become like a walker a child needs to have when he starts walking, the intelligent parents remove these walkers well in time so that the child starts getting his balance on his own, and if these walkers are not removed the child will never learn to walk. We have done the same thing to our Dalit Society.

Governments in the last 65 years have made them weaker and dependent so that they only remain a deprived class on the mercy of reservation and in lieu of this mercy will vote for the government that doesn’t remove the reservation clause.

Now let’s look at BJP’s quandary here. BJP in its 2 years of power has shown strong signs of Governance and too with a vision, BJP may not have achieves even half of what it had promised by we can see significant growth, development and improvements in man area.

The cost and time efficiency in the last two years has been at its peak. Unfortunately despite all this the electoral dividends are not coming to BJP, in the assembly elections lined up in 2016 and 2017 BJP seems to be on a sticky wicket, Punjab seems to be going, UP not looking
good and even in Gujarat there’s lot of skepticism.

It may not be a politically correct statement to make but let’s agree on one point that if a policy has failed to achieve its objective s, it should at least be reviewed if not changed. The BJP in its closed forums must have discussed in bringing about a policy for Dalits which may give them better yield in terms of human resource development but it will certainly take away whatever vote share it gets from Dalits.

The proverbial perplexity of having one in hand appears to be better than two in the Bush, prevents BJP in taking the adventurous route and it ends up treading on the safe lines.

My Suggestion : Come up with plans that uplift Dalits in true sense, Reservation is a political tool, think of a social tool that brings them at par quickly, you still have 3 years left, go for it.

The Economic Agenda

Having discussed two very important political aspects, I now want to talk about another tight spot BJP faces while patrolling the economic front. Black Money, Economic reforms, Subsidies and Financial corruptions are the major areas of concern for the Nation and they also take a major share of our expectations from the government.

Let’s try to simplify this issue as far as possible to see what all challenges BJP faces here. Assuming that our society is largely divided into three sections of Rich, Middle Class and Poor, every Government should work towards the benefit of poor. Now the big question is how do we benefit the poor? Either give them huge subsidiaries or make them equipped to fight it out on their own.

A logical sequencing of measures would be to give them subsidies till the time they are well equipped to handle it on their own. Subsidies have been part of every budget of Independent India’s budget and still we see that poor have not benefitted, mainly because of two reasons. One the subsidies have not reached the poor, instead the vested interest and wicked thinking of the middle has made it go to the rich only.

For example If we had subsidy on Diesel it saved the money of the people driving expensive SUVs and subsidy in Urea instead of going to the farmers went to the industries where Urea was being used as a raw material.

Secondly a regular subsidy through various means if at all reached the poor it only made them addicted to it, taking it as their fundamental right and granted for the dame reason. We kept on taking loans from the foreign bodies to provide freebies as part of our electoral promises and the affluent class kept on amassing and consolidating its wealth.

BJP after coming to power started working on channelizing the subsidies so that they reach the one who needs it. The Gas subsidy request for example brought in good results, even the notorious subsidy in the parliament canteen was withdrawn by this government.

BJP also came out wth checks and measures on Black Money with more stringent rules and regulations. The imposition of 1% excise on Gold making which was exempted till now was one such step but this whole correction drive brought upon a new catch 22 situation for BJP, the traders and businessmen who were traditional voters of BJP started feeling the pinch.

It’s a universal fact that Political Parties cannot function without the donation they receive from business houses and traders and BJP was no exception here, however the exceptional step that BJP took was to tighten the noose on black money, the very money that sponsors the election campaigns.

In the last two years BJP has saved approximately 50,000 Crore in just 18 months by streamlining the subsidies and has recovered around 71000 Crore by the measures taken to curb the black money and quite understandably this money is being spent on the poor and the needy, in other words BJP under Modi is working like Robin Hood who robs the Rich and distributes the booty amongst the poor (exactly opposite of what was happening in the country for the last 68 years.) Even though it sounds great but in reality BJP is robbing its traditional voter and is distributing the booty to the non voters i.e. the poor and the underprivileged.

Many in BJP find it a wrong strategy…Jis thali me khaate hain usme ched nhi karte is the logic they give. To be honest it’s a puzzling situation for BJP and t becomes extremely difficult to work efficiently when the clarity of purpose starts evading you.

My Suggestions

If your intentions are good you are a winner, the electoral prospects should be seen as the product of good work and not the other way round. Work for the underprivileged and poor and sooner or later they will understand which government worked for their benefit. Don’t work to fight elections, work to fight corruption poverty and inequality.

As a keen political observer and a management scholar, I firmly believe that it is not very difficult for BJP to comeback to power in 2019 just that the next three years it should focus on inclusive development. It must stay away from votes consolidation and work towards vote mobilisation and it may also consider changing its media management team.

(The writer of this article is an acclaimed author in his own right. He lives in Lucknow)