Reform, Perform, Transform - PM Narendra Modi's magic mantra.
Imperio! (im-PEER-ee-oh) - Spell puts subject in a trance, in which he or she is subject to the will of the caster. Only those who are strong-willed may be able to resist it - as Harry Potter did.
Yet another slogan from “transformer” Prime Minister Modi, with which he hopes to fill the void in our mundane lives!
That such slogans have a rather long incubation period - expected to hatch sometime in the winter of 2022 - does not bother Modi's party (BJP); that the clock is ticking away and in the tenancy that remains such gibberish can only add to the anti-incumbency, seems to have no relevance; that the incompatibility between the demands of the Sangh Parivar and the agenda of development is eroding the credibility of the regime, is again of no consequence.
Curiously, nor is Modi exactly huffing and puffing to reclaim some populist agenda that would reinforce the 56-inch metaphor. Nor does he mind that the government is losing its poise and sense of equilibrium.
And there may be a simple explanation for PM Modi's political smugness: it is perhaps anchored in a stubborn belief that he can transform the fundamentals of our politics, an impression that possibly gets reinforced every time he looks in the mirror.
This may sound like a never ending bad dream but emboldened by the resounding mandate in Uttar Pradesh, Modi is perhaps even looking at majoritarian single party rule for at least another two decades at the Centre!
Or at least the absence of a potent parliamentary opposition that would eventually lead to the implosion of the two-party system. So that the PM can rule without distraction!
So that he is answerable on the issues of governance only to the RSS or the minions in his party, which is a ludicrous notion when one considers that the person in the driver's seat would be Narendra Damodardas Modi.
Theoretically speaking, India would of course remain a textbook democracy with multi-party elections but within this single party matrix. The pecking order at the Centre will be such that the smaller parties - mostly regional satraps - will be constrained to share the mandate with the only dominant party on the landscape - the BJP.
The probable political inheritors in the states - the likes of Sukhbir Badal, Supriya Sule, Omar Abdullah, Tejaswi Yadav and MK Stalin - would remain engaged in their family ventures. But given their regional footprint, they would neither be able to challenge the BJP, nor come together to pose a formidable threat. Nor would they ever hope to weave an alternative national narrative - as JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar is finding out to his dismay.
The entire BJP political construct is also built around its spiteful chant against the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty! Hindutva is just an embellishment. Photo: Reuters
In the given template, confronted time and again with two options that incumbents invariably fall back upon to “win over allies” - repression and co-option - most recalcitrant parties like, say, the Shiv Sena, Mamata Banerjee's TMC and the DMK would be inclined to go with the flow, albeit after the usual tantrums.
Given that the Centre has wrested control of the revenue bases under the garb of GST - which puts it in a very advantageous fiscal position - the states will operate within a narrow terrain which will also impact their political leverage.
In any case, the co-option of the smaller players will ensure that an “ostracised” Congress cannot even win a municipality without political crutches; this will effectively confine it to national catchment areas like Puducherry, on the periphery of the political divide.
However, such a fantasy is possible only if the already diminished Congress suffers some kind of national erosion. That should explain why the high decibel “malign Gandhis” undertaking now goes well beyond outsourcing of the tirade to party mavericks, raking up the alleged legal infringements in the National Herald and lampooning the infirmities of Rahul Gandhi.
That should also explain the enthusiasm and audacious presumption with which the BJP spokespersons fritter away their energies on national TV in targeting the Gandhis, especially Rahul.
Yet, there is a lurking irony here: because the entire BJP political construct is also built around its spiteful chant against the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty! Hindutva is just an embellishment.
But such is its delusion of grandeur that the BJP is now trying to consign the “raison d'être of its very existence” to the archives, with the likes of party president Amit Shah even rubbishing the Indian National Congress as a fragment of the freedom struggle that should have been mothballed after Independence.
But there is a travel advisory for the BJP: occasionally, political parties overplay their hand, especially in their overdrive to fix a “dynasty”. Then, the likes of the BJP need to be reminded that it was the fixation to nail Indira Gandhi that had undermined the Janata venture.
Of course, a Modi-led single party-led Bharat is purely a theoretical postulate that does not take the political variables into account: for instance, even a partial turnaround of the 2014 losers - the Congress, the Left and the DMK - would change the power dynamics at the Centre.
Likewise, the electoral outcome in the new conflict zone - Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh - will test the relative robustness of the BJP's national narrative and whether it can subsume the local governance issues, as happened in the Delhi municipal polls. Most importantly, it will test the BJP policy of over-the-top messaging, the carpet bombing of political opponents and the boast that it can transform India.
The Congress, too, had the good fortune of being the dominant party after Independence when it steered our nascent nation and fledgling democracy. Those were difficult times but it accepted the myriad challenges.
There is a similar challenge facing the Congress now, when the country is badly polarised: But this time it is not just about its own existential dilemma but about changing the political discourse, about giving hope to a section of the population that is beginning to find the Hindutva pyrotechnics too stifling.
But the Congress, instead of redeeming itself and filling the nation with hope, keeps behaving like a political zombie. Politics is all about conflict but the party seems to dodge it as if it were a bull on the rampage.
Rather, it needs to embrace it with the fatalist romance of a nihilist, as Nehru would have done.