BJP Ahead Of Rivals In Campaigning

BJP Has A Clear Advantage Over Rival Parties

While a lot can change in the course of a prolonged campaign, but as of today, the BJP enjoys a clear edge over its opponents

As political parties in India hit the campaign trail for next month’s Lok Sabha elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party looks to be ahead of its rivals, who are still struggling to put up a united front or come up with an effective and credible narrative to take on the saffron party. 

To begin with, the BJP has entered the race with a clear advantage after it emerged as the central pole of Indian polity following its incredible win in the last general election and the subsequent string of victories it notched up in state assemblies. 

This has set the stage for a “BJP vs others” battle.

Undeniably, the election has just got underway and a lot can change in the course of the prolonged campaign, but as of today, the BJP enjoys a clear edge over its opponents. Five factors are working in favor of the saffron party: strong leadership, an effective narrative, a well-oiled party organization, a killer instinct and the alacrity with which it placated its angry allies. Of course, the BJP is also helped by the fact that it faces a fragmented opposition with no clear single leader.

The BJP’s biggest asset is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As in the case of Gujarat assembly polls and the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the coming electoral contest is all about Modi. The BJP and its candidates contesting elections are secondary as Modi has succeeded in converting India’s Parliamentary polls into a Presidential-style contest.

Modi’s projection and acceptance as a strong, decisive leader have strengthened the public perception that no one in the opposition camp can match up to him. The Pulwama terror attack and the Balakot air strikes have enhanced the aura surrounding Modi who is being publicized as the only leader who can be trusted to give primacy to India’s national security.

Modi swept the last election with the promise of “ache din” to the electorate which was mesmerized both by his powerful oratory and his Gujarat model of development. Last time he went to the people as a challenger while in this election he is approaching them an incumbent, having been in power for five years. But, it is to his credit, that he has managed to stave off the burden of anti-incumbency despite the fact that the country is faced with a faltering economy, high unemployment, and an agrarian crisis. As a political observer rightly pointed out, people are disenchanted with Modi for not delivering on his election promises but there is no anger against him. People are willing to give him another chance on the plea that it is not possible to meet all commitments in five years.

If Modi’s leadership is working to the BJP’s advantage, the party’s firm grip on the political narrative is also helping it to set the agenda in this election. There is no doubt that before the Pulwama attack and India’s retaliatory strike against Pakistan, the Modi government had looked shaky. The BJP was on the back foot after its governments were ousted by the Congress last December in the Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as the elections here were dominated by livelihood issues like joblessness and farmers’ woes. This was seen as a direct indictment of the Modi government’s policies. For once, it appeared that the BJP and Modi had been successfully pushed on the defensive.

But Pulwama and Balakot altered the political landscape in BJP’s favor. The party and the Modi got an opportunity to showcase their credentials as hawks on national security. Both lost no time in unleashing its nationalist agenda wherein anybody questioning the government on intelligence lapses in Pulwama or challenging BJP president Amit Shah’s claims on the body count in Balakot, were immediately dubbed “anti-national”.  While the opposition was left with little option but to support the government, Modi, Shah, and the BJP’s foot soldiers fanned out across the country to push their nationalist agenda. The Congress has since tried to change the narrative with the promise of a minimum income benefit scheme for the poor but there are few takers for it as jingoism and patriotism are clearly the flavors of the season.

Strong leadership and a powerful narrative may have given the BJP an edge but it is not taking any chances. Its party president Amit Shah, like Modi, is a 24/7 politician who has a firm grip on the organization and keeps the rank and file on a tight leash. He proved his mettle in 2014 as Uttar Pradesh in charge when the party swept the polls. Shah has acquired a reputation for micro-management thus ensuring that the party organization is always battle-ready.

Both Shah and Modi have a killer instinct and are not known to balk when faced with a challenge. They are also willing to walk the extra mile in their quest to retain power. Shah demonstrated this in his handling of the BJP’s demanding allies like the Shiv Sena, the Shiromani Akali and the Janata Dal (U). The BJP president did not hesitate to accommodate their demands by conceding to them in seat-sharing negotiations. The allies have since all fallen in line. Similarly, Shah also managed to persuade smaller allies like the Asom Gana Parishad to return to the BJP-Led National Democratic Alliance even though it had walked out in protest over the Citizenship Rights Bill. Showing a streak of pragmatism, the Modi government chose to go slow on this contentious legislation, which gives citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Bhutan, even though this legislation is in line with the ideology of the BJP’s mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. This Bill led to strong protests in the entire North-East region but the controversial legislation is all but forgotten as the BJP thought it better to put in cold storage when it realized it was derailing its mission to take control of this region once dominated by the Congress.

Hardik Patel Can't Contest Elections

High Court Nixes Hardik's Poll Fray

Congress leader Hardik Patel will not be able to contest the ensuing Lok Sabha elections after Gujarat High court on Friday rejected his plea seeking suspension of his conviction in a rioting case of 2015 in Mehsana.

“The court has rejected the application of the Hardik Patel. The court found that the applicant who has more than 17 FIR/complaints registered against him and seeing his conduct, his case cannot be considered as a rare or exceptional case for the court to stay his conviction,” said Dharmesh Devnani, the public prosecutor.

“While his counsel argued in the High Court that conviction recorded by the lower court doesn’t have the evidence to support conviction grounds and hence, he should get relief. However, the High Court turned down his application saying that the record, material or evidence in the lower court cannot be considered or tested at this stage,” he said

“The stand of the state government was that a lawbreaker cannot be a lawmaker,” said the public prosecutor. While Hardik’s lawyer Saleem M Syed said that he will approach the Supreme Court against the High Court judgement.

Hardik, the Patidar agitation leader, officially joined Congress on March 12 at a party rally in Ahmedabad. The rally was organised after a Congress Working Committee meeting.

Patel was inducted into the party in the presence of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and other leaders.

Patel emerged as the leader of the agitation demanding reservation for the Patidar community in Gujarat in 2015. The people from this community were considered to be bedrock supporters of the BJP.


Deoghar Bank Of India Security Guard Ranjit Pratap

#RealChowkidar – ‘Do You Know Our Life?’

Ranjit Prasad Singh, 60, a security guard at a nationalised bank branch in Jharkhand, has a request for Chowkidar Modi: Take some steps for improving the working condition of his fraternity.

I have been working as a guard for several years now. My employers — Bank of India — pay me Rs 3,800 a month to guard the bank and safeguard public money. My employers believe this money is enough to run a family of seven. The truth is far from it.

We are barely able to manage on my meagre income. Even after we put together the income from our family farm and my elder son, who works for a private firm, we just cannot make ends meet. My younger son is still studying in college and it will take some time before he becomes an earning member. Till then we have to bear the expenses of his travel and tuition. I hope the unemployment situation changes by then.

I have read how Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his colleagues in the Union cabinet have started calling themselves #MainBhiChowkidar. I want to ask them if they have any idea what a chowkidar’s life is like. Yet, at the same time, I am glad that finally my profession has come under the limelight. Would you ever come here and talk to me, or try to know how low my salary is… and what are my living conditions were it not for the publicity generated by this chowkidar campaign?

However, Modiji needs to be cautious. He might call himself a chowkidar but he should remember he is the most powerful chowkidar in the country. He should immediately take steps for the upliftment of his fellow community, if he means it. A salary raise at regular intervals (especially for public-sector banks), post-retirement pension, leave etc. can go a long way towards our upliftment.  

Over the years, I have proven myself to be a good security guard. I haven’t been able to change my job because of health issues and the trust that my employers bestow on me. But that’s not enough, I need to be compensated monetarily too. ATM guards are paid more, because they are often retired defence personnel, with an arms licence. But like them, I too keep my eyes and ears open and deserve a better life. I hope chowkidar Narendra Modi takes note of our working condition and helps us out, if he returns to power.  

Vote For Calf And Cow

Catchy Slogans Reflect India’s Electoral Journey

Slogans are the essence of an election campaign as they project personalities and issues. In throes of its 17th Lok Sabha elections, India votes for those that carry a balance of wit and sarcasm.

Simple, black-and-white posters with the slogan “YOU can defeat S K Patil,” appeared in the summer of 1966, inviting voters of South Bombay, India’s principal hub of businesses and corporate headquarters. Trade unionist George Fernandes was challenging a powerful man of the rich. He won the “David vs. Goliath” contest and became “George, the Giant Killer”.

Slogans are the essence of an election campaign as they pithily project personalities and issues. Now in throes of its 17th polls, India votes for those that carry a balance of wit and sarcasm.

Meant to capture imagination of the masses, the slogans aim to be everything to everybody. It is difficult to impact a billion-plus people of varying age and income groups, of different faiths and castes.

No wonder, for the best of ideas to emerge, millions are spent in conceptualizing, then pushing them. It’s serious business for the parties as well as the advertising and PR firms. Who is engaging whom and the campaign content and strategy are kept secret.

The first general election in 1952 had “self-reliance” as its slogan, reflecting aspirations of a newly-independent nation, bearing Jawaharlal Nehru’s signature. For the next (1957), it was industry, the “temples of modern India.” The focus in 1962 was on India’s place in the comity of nations. All along his Congress party’s symbol was a pair of bullocks, symbolizing the farming India.

Change came post-Nehru, in 1967. Considered weak, Indira Gandhi found competition from the political right and the left. Bharatiya Jana Sangh, earlier avatar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sought to take its thunder away with the slogan “Har haath mein kaam, har khet mein paani” (job for every hand, water for every farm), both lighted by ‘diya’ (lamp). Its party symbol underscored this reality even as the country was getting electrified, urbanized and industrialized.

Congress projected itself as the face of development with Progress through Congress campaign in the 1960s. But he Left, of varying hues, challenged it. Socialist Fernandes and Communist party of India (CPI) chief S A Dange were among then Bombay’s opposition candidates. A telling wall painting asked the people, reversing the Congress slogan, to choose between “Congress Or Progress.”

With that election, the Congress’ preeminence ended and that also ended the era of innocence, if there was one.  “Vote for calf and cow, forget all others now” became the Congress symbol after it split and lost the pair-of-bullocks symbol. Critics mocked at its quasi-religious touch and likened the new pair to Indira and younger son Sanjay.

In those times of frequent shortages and price rise, Jan Sangh coined a funny but telling slogan about sugar and edible oil: “Yeh dekho Indira ka khel, kha gayi shakkar, pee gayi tel”.

But there was no stopping Indira, who sprang a surprise election. She fought the opposition’s “Grand Alliance” in 1971 with “Garibi hatao, Indira lao, Desh bachao.”  Shiv Sena’s Balasaheb Thackeray, known for biting political cartoons, caricatured Indira ceremonially riding an elephant, promising end to poverty.

The opposition said she actually wanted “Garib Hatao” — banish the poor. But “Garibi Hatao” worked, and to date remains the most effective slogan ever coined in India.

But when she announced snap elections again in 1977, after 19 months of internal emergency with media gagged and the opposition leaders jailed, Jaiprakash Narayan coined the slogan “Indira Hatao, Desh Bachao.” People heeded him.

The most emotive slogan came after her assassination in 1984. Jab tak sooraj chand rahega, Indira tera naam rahega (your name will endure like sun and moon). The sympathy it generated caused a landslide victory of the Congress.  

By the end of the 1980s, India was in throes of a movement to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya city where 16th century Babri Mosque once stood. The BJP and its affiliates’ slogan for the 1991 polls was “Bachcha bachcha Ram ka, Janmabhoomi ke kaam ka”. But in a repeat of 1984, the Congress gained sympathy after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.

Post-Babri demolition in 1992, the 1993 election in Uttar Pradesh witnessed the BJP’s surprise debacle. Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party and Kanshiram’s Bahujan Samaj Party had forged a winning alliance. The slogan was Miley Mulayam-Kanshiram, hawa ho gaye Jai Shree Ram. The alliance had snuffed out the temple issue.

It is significant to recall it because the two otherwise competing parties have again forged what seems the most potent alliance to defeat BJP.

Confronted by caste and communal combinations in 1996, the Congress sought to adopt a secular high-ground with Jaat par na paat par, mohar lagegi haath par, seeking vote for hand, its symbol. But it lost to the BJP slogan, Bari bari sab ki bari, ab ki bari Atal Bihari.

Vajpayee did get his turn and ruled for six years. But in 2004, he lost in an election advanced by over-confidence amidst “India Shining” slogan. In many ways, Congress President Sonia Gandhi was its architect. The slogan in 2009 was “Sonia nahi yeh aandhi hai, doosri Indira Gandhi hai”.   It worked. Five years later, a listless party, without a worthwhile slogan, touched its nadir in 2014. Now, the mantle has fallen on daughter Priyanka,who resembles her granny.    

In 2004, seeking a comeback, the Congress party targeted “aam aadmi”, India’s growing middle-class population. Ironically, it has since been hijacked by one of the key drivers – and beneficiaries — of the anti-graft movement that targeted the Congress. Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal rules Delhi.  

Sadly, this year there is more of name-calling than slogans to galvanize the conducting of an election campaign on issues. The current toxic discourse many jibes hit below the belt. A mix of personal and political malice, they don’t even qualify as slogans.

The Election Commission of India and its state-level offices ignore the good and the bad ones, and curb the ugly ones. Often, by the time they act, the damage is done.

India has been witnessing a sustained campaign in recent years, with or without elections taking place, transcending political and ideological differences, to malign and belittle opponents.

Amidst demonization of the Nehru-Gandhi ‘dynasty’, Sonia Gandhi can never leave behind her Italian birth and her son Rahul remains ‘pappu’, a simpleton. The latest is ‘pappi’, for sister Priyanka.

The Congress responds by launching personal attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is necessary to condemn all those muddying polls discourse. But one comes across justification in the way other leaders across the world behave, especially US President Donald Trump who trashes critics, especially women. Who will work for this “climate change” and cleanse the world?  

Un-related to elections, Rahul’s “Suit Boot ki Sarkar” attacking Modi’s sartorial taste had hit the bull’s eye. But the polls campaign so far has not thrown up a positive Congress slogan. That task seems to have been conceded to Modi and the opposition slogans are almost entirely reactive.

Projecting India’s security as supreme, Modi has called himself the ‘chowkidar’ guarding the nation — on the border with Pakistan (China does not figure, though), and within the country from the corrupt and the “anti-nationals” (read all critics). This has been met with sharp rebuttal by the opposition that accuses Modi and his government of corruption, mainly in the Rafale aircraft deal, favouring select business houses, saying “chowkidar chor hai” (the guard is a thief). This is tit-for-tat, perhaps born out of years of Rahul’s belittling.   

Modi has sought to turn this charge to advantage by reinforcing it with “main bhi chowkidar hoon.” Now, his ministers and party leaders are using this as a prefix, a badge of honour. Many acolytes on the social media have followed suite. This has no known precedence.

Among others, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s campaign, also personalized, calls him “Aaccha hai, Sachha hai, Chalo Nitish Ke Saath Chalein.” Its rival Rashtriya Janata Dal is shying away, since its supremo Lalu Prasad is in jail. It has opted for “berozgari hatao, arakshan badhao”, focusing on jobs and reservation.

In 2014, BJP appealed in Modi’s name: Ab ki Baar Modi Sarkar. This time over, it is again in his name:“Modi Hai toh Mumqin hai” (With Modi, it is possible to achieve). ‘Chaiwala’, the humble tea-vendor has yielded place to “chowkidar.”  

“Your Chowkidar is standing firm and serving the nation. But, I am not alone. Today, every Indian is saying-#MainBhiChowkidar.”  The target is 400 seats out of 543: “Abki baar 400 ke paar”.

Two months from now we will know if the gatekeeper gets fresh mandate or some other(s) gate-crash.

The writer can be contacted

Site Of Pulwama Terror Attack

Pak Seeks More Evidence On Pulwama

Pakistan on Wednesday sought more “information and evidence” to take forward the investigation that may establish a link to the Pulwama suicide attack in their country, nearly a month after India gave it a dossier on the terror attack.

Pakistan Foreign Ministry said here that it shared “preliminary findings” with India after examining the dossiers which were submitted in the wake of the ghastly February 14 terror attack, the responsibility for which has been claimed by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

“The Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Foreign Secretary and the findings on the Pulwama incident were shared with him,” Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.

India gave the dossier to Pakistan after the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to act if “actionable evidence” was provided.

“Pakistan has acted with a high sense of responsibility and extended full cooperation. We do so in the interest of regional peace and security. We have sought further information/evidence from India to take the process forward,” the official statement claimed.

Tensions between the two neighbours soared after over 40 CRPF personnel were killed when a JeM terrorist rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy in Kashmir’s Pulwama.

The international community strongly condemned the attack and supported India in its fight against terror in the wake of the gruesome attack.

The United States bluntly told Pakistan to stop providing support and safe haven to terrorists and terror outfits after the attack. (ANI)

Narendra Modi Addresses Nation On Mission Shakti

India Capable Of Shooting Down Satellite

In a major defence achievement, India on Wednesday successfully tested an anti-satellite missile by shooting down its own decommissioned satellite that was on a ‘Low Earth Orbit’ at a height of 300 KM from the earth’s surface, entering into an elite club of four nations to have such a capability.

Prime Minister Modi also assured the international community that this test does not violate any international treaties or law and that India remains committed against the arms race in space.

India has now entered the elite international club of four countries having such a capability.

“India has successfully registered its name as a space power. Till now three countries of the world- America, Russia and China had this feat. India is the fourth country to have achieved this feat. There could be a no bigger moment of pride. A short while ago our scientists have shot-down a live satellite in low earth orbit (LEO) in space through an anti-satellite (A-SAT) missile,” Prime Minister Modi said.

Giving details of the test of `Mission Shakti (strength)’, Prime Minister Modi said that in the LEO, the satellite was a pre-decided aim. “It was successfully shot down in just three minutes and the operation culminated immediately. The feat required high technical expertise and capability. The scientists have achieved the entire decided target. This valour was achieved through indigenously built anti-satellite missile.”

Outlining the space prowess of India, the Prime Minister added: “We have different satellites which are contributing in various sectors including weather forecast, education, medical, navigation etc. Our satellites are helping all including farmers, fisherman, students. In the world, the significance of space and satellite is going to increase and they may become indispensable to life.”

Prime Minister Modi mentioned that today’s test was not in any way violation of any international treaty or law. “Today’s A-SAT missile has given new strength to security and vision of the country. We want to assure the world that our new capability is not against any country but is the defensive initiative of the fast-moving India. India has always been against the arms race in space and this test hasn’t changed that. This successful violates no international treaties or law,” he said.

“We are using the modern technique for the welfare and security of our 130 crore citizen. For peace and secure atmosphere, a strong India is significant. India’s work in the space category is aimed at India’s security, economic development and technological advancement. Today’s `Mission Shakti’ is an important step in achieving this dream. Today’s success should be seen as our step forward towards a secure, prosperous and peaceful country,” Prime Minister emphasised.

“It is important that we move forward and ready ourselves for future challenges. For positive changes, we have to accept modern techniques. Our target is that all Indian must face future challenges with confidence and feel safe. I foresee an India which can think two steps ahead of the time and can also have the courage to move in that direction”, Prime Minister added.

Prime Minister Modi also congratulated the scientist and technicians of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for achieving this feat. “We are proud of our scientists. They have further enhanced the stature of the country. I congratulate all countrymen for today’s achievement,” he said. (ANI)


Biopic On Narendra Modi

EC Sends Notice To Modi Biopic Makers

The Election Commission of India has sent a notice to four producers of the film ‘PM Narendra Modi’ after receiving complaints from opposition political parties regarding the intent and timing of the movie.

The Congress party and Communist Party of India (Marxist) had complained to the ECI about the film’s release, claiming that it’s being done with political intent.

On March 25, a Congress delegation had visited the EC to protest against the Vivek Oberoi-starrer, alleging that the film’s release slated just ahead of the commencement of Lok Sabha polls is a violation of the model code of conduct.

The Congress delegation, included Randeep Singh Surjewala, Kapil Sibal, and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, also sought a ban on the release of the biopic ahead of polling.

Last week, the EC had sent notices to two newspapers for publishing posters of ‘PM Narendra Modi’ for promotions.

The movie has also got into legal trouble as a petition has been filed in the Bombay High Court seeking a stay on the release of the biopic on April 5.

Petition in this matter was filed by a Pune-based political activist Satish Sugriv Gaikwad on March 25. (ANI)