Three years into the Modi sarkar might have been time for a bit of anti-incumbency to have set in, just that the incumbent sits invisibly supreme, gauging from the mood of the nation after the UP-effect. A worldwide churn in leadership is handing powers to political outsiders, but Indians are likely to go with an encore of Modi in 2019.
Were I Modi’s best friend, albeit he’s known not to possess a coterie, I would sound stupid recounting how his detractors felt ‘operation clean money’ failed to unearth the targeted quantum, or that his silence towards hypernationalists is mistaken as latitude. Because Modi couldn’t care less about Lutyens’ liberals when he has the pulse of his voters wired to the tee.
Even if Modi were the best, We the People need a constructive Opposition by 2019, having been devoid of one since three years, and one that is yet unborn.
Democratic constitutions place a watchdog responsibility on the Opposition. If the 2014 BJP sweep or the UP elections of 2017 are a precursor to voting trends, India is set to re-enter the era of single-party dominance with no challenger to Modi (not necessarily to the BJP!).
Two years is a long enough time for the BJP to deplete or consolidate its political capital, but too short a span for the Opposition to coalesce on a credible and minimum ideological platform, other than an anti-Modi/secular vs communal strategy that holds little traction with the young and aspirational voter.
The preparedness of the Modi-led BJP is way ahead of the Opposition in organisational skills; ahead in social and mainstream media messaging allowing for better dissemination of its flagship schemes; and way ahead in financial resources. There exists a well-oiled machinery, a visible ‘triarchy’, in the synchronised workings of the largest democratic party in the world, with Modi taking on himself governance delivery; Amit Shah handling aggressive political expansion with an army of four lakh volunteers; and RSS cadres responsible for mass mobilisation in spreading BJP’s footprints into 2019. Also, a next-gen leader is visible in Yogi Adityanath, “a saffron-robed-Modi”, younger, fiercer and on performance-overdrive to retain the populous UP heartland crucial for the 2019 General Elections.
However, the voter needs a counter-idea of India to compare two manifestos on the political menu. What Modi has achieved is to shut shop of free-wheeling family-run dynasts at national or state levels. The super credibility of brand Modi in mainstream politics is in comparison to the atrophied Congress, now reduced to a third player in state elections, or AAP’s loss of its anti-graft plank. Revival of trials on Lalu Prasad’s scams places Nitish Kumar in a precarious position, stymying his national aspirations. Past rivals SP-BSP-TMC-Congress stitching a mahagathbandhan of nine diverse parties as a dry-run for a future coalition, starting with the Presidential election, will not presage a resolution to the political contradictions, or throw up a consensual leader who will enjoy cross-party support. A ‘progressive force’ would need to collectively target the requisite one-tenth strength of the 542 Lok Sabha seats, a threshold that seems elusive as of now.
A weak Opposition in 2019 will then signal a closer shift to a Hindu Rashtra, despite India’s constitutional commitment to secularism. The BJP-led NDA has created a permissive ground for its ideological associates to explore their quest for a uniform Hindu nation, inching closer to Jinnah’s two-nation theory, and making NDA I a forerunner for NDA II. Unless Modi faulters on job creation, economic growth or the simmering, unresolved J&K crisis, 2019 seems a done-deal for a BJP sweep, which could augur for a soft landing of a hard Hindutva.
Social commentator and author of national bestseller Diary of a Lutyens’ Princess