By Vipin Pubby
While replying to the debate on President’s Address to Parliament, prime minister Narendra Modi perhaps forgot that he was to offer clarifications sought during the debate and to highlight his government’s achievements which were part of the President’s Address. Instead he devoted large part of his hour and a half long speech on the ‘sins’ committed by the Congress ‘dynasty’ in the past.
The PM’s reply to the debate was more like sounding the bugle for the next general elections. It was full of political rhetoric, little of substances and emanated entirely out of contempt for Congress. Coming close on the heels of a scare given by Congress in his home state of Gujarat and the defeat in by-elections at the hands of Congress in a state ruled by BJP, it was no surprise that Modi had the possible revival of Congress on his mind and he let out his angst out on a wrong platform.
To be fair to all, the Congress also did not cover itself with glory during the PM’s speech as it attempted to disrupt the proceedings by continuously shouting slogans. Modi, who is not used to be heckled or even questioned, let out his anger against a woman member of the House by mocking at her ringing laughter to some of his claims. He said he was reminded of the 20-year-old Ramayana serial on TV after hearing the laugh. For those who couldn’t make out the reference, Union minister of Home Kiren Rijiju later came out with a tweet saying she was laughing like the villainous character Sarupnakha, Ravana’a sister, who was shown laughing wildly in the serial.
While this reference was in a bad taste, the entire speech by Modi did not behove the office of the prime minister. It lacked the grace and dignity of a speech of PM replying to the debate on Presidential Address. He made little reference to the points made in the Address or during the debate.
The speech has set the tone for the electoral battles ahead amidst reports that he would prepone Lok Sabha elections and hold these together with the scheduled elections in some important states during the current year. He realises that if the BJP is unable to wrest power from Congress in Karnataka, it would be a big setback to the NDA’s prospects. Similarly if Congress is able to capture power either in Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, which is again a strong possibility, it would be next to impossible for the BJP to retain its current strength in next Lok Sabha.
He obviously can’t afford to take chances and must be weighing the party’s prospects from various circumstances. He shall have to rethink his party’s strategy and to analyse whether it was given an overwhelming mandate last time due its advocacy of Hindutva or its agenda of development. Large sections of electorate had voted for the BJP for the first time in their lives impressed by the constant reference to development and progress by Modi and other party leaders. Going by the developments that have taken place after 2014, including imposing chief ministers and turning a blind eye to communal incidents, it appears that the party is under an impression that it was given the mandate to revive Hindutva at the cost of development.
Despite the fact that the BJP had been scoring electoral victories in the past four years, there are strong indications of people getting wary of the big claims and poor delivery by the government. The direction of wind appears to be changing with the recent elections. It took all the might (and bluster) of Modi to scrape through in Gujarat. For that he even roped in former prime minister Manmohan Singh by creating untenable theory that Dr Manmohan Singh was conspiring to oust BJP with the connivance of Pakistan and to impose a Muslim as the state’s chief minister. What happened to those charges and why no action has been taken for ‘sedition’ against Manmohan Singh and others is certainly not intriguing.
The silence of prime minister to the lunatic fringe holding the nation to ransom on such silly issues as ‘distortion’ of history by a mere film and the continued targeting of minorities, will need to be explained. Interestingly while Rahul ‘baba’ was the butt of jokes in social media till recently, he has been displaced by ‘feku’ who makes tall but empty promises.
For the Congress too it is a lesson it should have learnt by now that repeating what the opposition had been doing in the past does not pay. The disruption it caused in Parliament and questioning some of the deals done by the government without any solid backing of its claims, would lead it no where. It has to reinvent itself even though it can’t do without the ‘dynasty’.
The strategies for the battle of ballots for the next election are currently being formulated. In fact BJP had begun its campaign for 2019 right in 2014 when it announced several projects whose deadline was 2022 ! What’s the progress on the ground is any body’s guess but the party would find it increasingly difficult to carry on with the way it has got used to. Some of its allies are already feeling fidgety even though they may have little scope elsewhere. These include the Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal.
The Congress too shall have to look for allies as it can’t hope to reverse its current fortunes on its own. The era of coalitions is on the anvil and this is something Modi does not revel in given his authoritarian attitude and refusal to listen. Yet he is not likely to give in easily and would use all at his command to distract attention from real issues even if it meant taking drastic measures.
From the current indications, it is certainly going to be the bitterest political battle ever witnessed in the country and one can only hope and pray that the leaders maintain their sanity and not push the country and the countrymen to bear the cost of their political ambitions.