The Three Idiots—we mean the characters in the hit Aamir Khan film—may have found the solutions to their live’s problems by repeating loudly “all is well” and tunefully whistling away all worries. This option is not available to the BJP for Kairana or other Lok Sabha bypoll results. It is impossible for anyone to claim with a straight face that the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah juggernaut is unstoppable or that the duo have a formula to fix all defects in the well-oiled electoral victory machine.
Loss of Gorakhpur was a disaster that can’t be shrugged away—a hiccup caused by overconfidence of the cadres. Phulpur added insult to injury. But the slide towards what any objective analyst will sure call the precipice continues. The haste to celebrate ‘victory’ in Karnataka demonstrated once again that the malaise is deeper than overconfidence.
Mild case of indigestion can cause burping and belching, but what the BJP is showing is symptoms of more serious gastro-intestinal disorder—maybe malignant. One can talk of the ‘cure’ later after the patient goes out of denial and agrees to undergo diagnostic tests.
What can’t be swept under the carpet is the abject failure of Yogi Adityanath to win over the confidence and support of Muslim and Dalit voters in Uttar Pradesh. Besides, the resentment of the OBC voter is no less distressing. It is not just that ‘Buaji’ Mayawati has joined hands with nephew Akhilesh Yadav aka ‘Chhote Netaji’, but even Ajit Singh—the inheritor of the legacy of the great Jat leader Chaudhary Charan Singh—has been rejuvenated to facilitate the forging of a United Front of Opposition.
The only silver lining in the dark clouds gathering on the 2019 horizon is that the Congress continues to groan under the burden of the albatross round its neck—RaGa, the party president with the classic anti-Midas touch. But that can’t provide any solace to the BJP. The Congress is irrelevant in Uttar Pradesh. It’s the dent that others are likely to make is what should be cause of serious concern.
Let’s not waste more time and energy on ‘Ulta Pradesh’. The writing on the wall in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan is quite clear. Sachin Pilot has the charisma and the stamina to give a scare to the princess chief minister. Times have changed and even rang rangilo Rajasthan doesn’t live by the Code of Rajput chivalry alone. Blackmailing a Bollywood filmmaker hungry for pre-release publicity is one thing, and coping with voters’ frustrations and mobilising them to keep delivering votes favourable to ensure re-election is quite another.
In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, too, the BJP is facing a serious challenge. Kamal Nath has pipped Jyotiraditya Scindia to the post of the state party president, but the BJP can’t rest complacently on its past laurels. The Congress may well be a divided house but the fissures in the BJP camp are no less glaring. In Bihar, Tejashwi Yadav has easily put in shade the once mighty social engineer Nitish Kumar.
One can dismiss all of the foregoing as idle speculation. The state of the economy is alarming. There is a rising tide of farmer’s agitation in different parts of the country and the Dalit angst is almost unmanageable. The prices of petrol and diesel are skyrocketing and are bound to have a cascading effect in coming months. Statistics can’t fill bellies. There is a great reluctance on the part of the Modi government to admit that the finance minister has been an unmitigated disaster. He has for most of his term held dual charges and not been able to do justice to either. His much-hyped legal acumen hasn’t saved the government severe embarrassment in its interaction with the judiciary.
The long and short of all this is that the BJP has lost the plot much before the completion of its first term in office. Call it hubris, a dangerous blend of ignorance and arrogance, inability of the high command to control the motor mouths, including ministers who have reduced sabka saath to a jumla. It is anybody’s guess how much difference Modi’s charisma will make in 2019 or in the forthcoming state assembly elections. So far the Prime Minister has managed to retain his Teflon coating but that alone may not seem to be enough life insurance.
In the ultimate analysis, economy will trump foreign policy and diplomacy. The sense of insecurity born of intolerance propagated by fringe elements and vigilantes has deepened the pre-existing explosive fault lines in our society. The alienation of Muslims and Christians, and the disillusionment of tribals and Dalits is very real. No useful purpose can be served by blaming Christian missionaries out to destabilise india or jihadi elements posing a threat to Sanatan Dharma. It’s not the charge of the pseudo liberal secular brigade that poses any real threat. It’s the enemy within. The BJP doesn’t need enemies with the kind of friends and family members it has. firstname.lastname@example.org
Former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University