How the BJP's critics and opponents got it totally wrong

The opposition couldn't stop the Modi-Shah duo. Clearly, their strategy was on the softer side.

 |  4-minute read |   29-05-2019
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At the beginning of 2014, there was desultory discussion about what would happen in 2019. Several secular and Left parties felt it was a flash in a pan. "How could lightening strike twice” was the refrain among well-informed people. Things would be much better next time.

modishah2-pti-inside_052819054357.jpgHis critics wished too soon: The Opposition was totally unprepared about how to deal with Modi-Shah. (Photo: PTI)

But that ephemeral optimism turned out to be false. Now, the electoral parties have to rethink. But they are yet to be sure about how to deal with the Modi-Shah duo and the strongly entrenched Sangh Parivar.

Firstly, taking the Modi government lightly was a huge error. Secondly, taking up the Rafale issue didn’t cut much ice, because the huge contributions of HAL to building and modernisation were downplayed.

Demonetisation and GST not tapped by opposition

Economists and politicians failed to drive home the lesson of the lack of currency value. The government of India played down this issue, reportedly promising ₹10 to ₹15 per lakh per household. The opposition did little to expose this. As the eminent economist John Maynard Keynes pointed out years earlier, “The best way to destroy an economy is to debauch its currency.” Economists and lay people failed to learn this lesson.

GST was another issue which was not systematically exposed — it took months before the economy reimbursed the sale and other taxes to merchants, bankers, exporters and the like.

It was a signal message to the affluent classes that they would have to bide their time. The reimbursement did take its time. The statistics were not good. Joblessness had risen. So had farm prices. All this hit the middle strata and the poor. This notwithstanding, the people hoped that some of the controversial policies would be diluted, if not overturned.

Pulwama helped Modi build a nationalist approach

But the Modi government, like the RSS, wanted to display its muscular nationalism. The Pulwama episode was a turning point. It showed that the conceivable threat from Pakistan was not an accident.

Then the drums of war started beating. Nothing too extreme, since Pakistan was no walkover — besides which it claimed to have support from the US. That notwithstanding, the Modi government could hike the decibels of war, and use this heightened insecurity to consolidate the threat perception from Pakistan.

Later came Balakot.

It was a genuine firefight between Pakistani F-16s and the ageing M-21 Bison piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan of the IAF. As a former deputy Chief Air Marshal pointed out, the fact that Abhinandan could knock down an F-16 with his obsolete M-21 Bison was remarkable.

But Balakot was clearly a call to arms by the Union Government. Though Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa made it clear that the IAF did not count bodies but buildings, this was deliberately overlooked. Amit Shah claimed that 250 Pakistani terrorists were killed. Another union minister claimed that 500 Pakistani terrorists were killed.

But since the political class was busy over Balakot, to my mind, the exploits of the Indian pilot was sidelined.

Modi 2.0

What will Modi do in this term? Much the same. But some urgent episodes will bear fruit. For a long time, literally decades, there has been a demand for the expulsion of so-called Bangladeshis. This is important because before December 1971, there were East Pakistanis, later termed Bangladeshis after Bangladesh’s liberation. In the North East region, there is a strong demand for the repatriation of migrants — especially Bangladeshis.

But how will the Modi sarkar deal with this humongous migrant community? Amit Shah has termed this community as “termites.” He and PM Modi have strongly supported the expulsion of migrants.

The only places available are Bangladesh and Myanmar — neither of these two countries have made it plain that they would entertain migrants, while they earlier expelled the Rohingyas. It is evident therefore that many complicated issues face the Modi government. Some are issues that the NDA started acting on earlier. Others will rise up on matters like dealing with adequate farming support, low wages, ecological issues, schooling, universities and many more. Its opponents will also take these up, in their own ways. Let us see what the morrow brings.

Also read: Narendra Modi: The next five years ahead

Writer

Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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