Astrologers are almost unanimous in predicting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will come back to power in 2019, even after the BJP's defeats in Delhi and Bihar and a possible bad show in the coming state elections. Most of them make the same prediction: his stars are such that even if he is written off by one and all, he will bounce back with a bang and his rivals will be his biggest helpers.
I know two of these astrologers well - Mumbai-based Niranjan Shukla, a professional astrologer who predicted about Modi and BJP president Amit Shah with pinpoint accuracy in the past when their chips were totally down, and Amita Roy, a historian-cum-astrologer also based in Mumbai.
Only time will tell whether the BJP government will return to power at the Centre in the 2019 general elections or not. In the past though, astrological predictions about Modi, particularly his ability to bounce back from difficult situations, have invariably come true.
When 59 people, most of them Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) kar sevaks, were killed by a Muslim mob in a train near the Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002, the instant feeling in the Sangh Parivar was that it had suffered a political setback as killing of such a large number of Hindus by Muslims in a state ruled by the right-wing virtually meant the BJP's downfall.
Little did it know that its ideological rivals, the leftist NGOs and human rights activists and the Congress, would turn out to be the biggest contributors to its political resurgence.
These NGOs and the Congress launched a campaign in 2002 seeking justice for the hapless Muslims killed in the Gujarat riots, but at the same time committed the blunder of protecting, from behind the scene, the Muslim killers of Godhra whose act had actually triggered the bloodshed. Hence, a wave a repulsion exploded against the leftist activists.
Modi, on his part, played his cards well. While addressing a public gathering, he struck a balancing note saying what happened in Godhra was condemnable and what happened after Godhra was also condemnable. This was in sharp contrast to the one-sided approach of the so-called human rights activists.
And from then onwards, the more the NGOs indulged in pro-minority acts to put Modi down, including playing up fake encounter cases, the greater was the benefit that Modi derived. Modi might claim that his development plank made him the prime minister, but his image of a Hindu victim of an alleged Left and minority conspiracy also played a big role in it.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) episode appears to be almost a rerun of the Godhra episode, the only difference being there has been no bloodshed in this case. In the Godhra episode, the leftist NGOs ran a whispering campaign to portray the Godhra killings as a handiwork of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which, they said, "had done it to trigger a sympathy wave in its favour".
The aim of the leftists was twofold: to discredit the Sangh Parivar and save the Godhra killers. The UC Banerjee Commission set up by the then railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav in 2004 was part of the design to save the accused who had allegedly burnt the train down, killing the kar sevaks.
The attempt to save those accused in the Godhra train-burning incident was shocking to say the least as the train was attacked twice on that fateful morning on February 27, 2002, each time by a mob of over 500 people and there were several witnesses to both the attacks who stuck to their statement to the police till the end. But the 2010 Gujarat High Court judgment convicting the Godhra killers cut short the smear campaign on Modi by calling the leftist activists’ bluff.
Similarly, in the JNU episode too, it was first claimed that the anti-India demonstrations were staged by the rightist student body Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) to discredit the Left lobby. When evidence started emerging of the involvement of some of the JNU students, the debate was twisted to one of freedom of speech and liberalism being throttled by the Sangh Parivar.
And now, there is complete evidence to show that not only were invites for the anti-India show distributed but also slogans like "Bharat tere tukde honge" (India will be broken into pieces) and "Kitne Afzal maroge, ghar, ghar mein Afzal paida honge" (How many Afzals will you kill, Afzals will be born in every house) were shouted.
The police has found two dozen such anti-India slogans that were shouted.
Sunil Ambekar, general secretary of the national unit of the ABVP, said: “All the talk of Sangh Parivar suddenly getting aggressive to push its nationalist agenda is bogus. Our agenda is nationalism and commitment to unity and integrity of India. We will fight against anyone who is trying to break the nation’s integrity. And that’s what we had done in the latest JNU case where the issue of Bharatiyata was at stake. The police action and the aggression of the lawyers (at Delhi's Patiala House Court) was a reaction to the anti-national acts at the JNU. Had the JNUSU (JNU Students' Union) leadership and JNU professors stopped the anti-India activity, nothing would have happened. Those defending the anti-India demonstrators are in a great minority in the country."
The BJP-RSS was quick to capitalise on this. Demonstrations seeking action against the perpetrators of the anti-India act were staged by BJP and ABVP workers across India. The majority support clearly was in favour of the right-wing.
Except for a small ultra-Left crowd in isolated pockets across India, almost everyone condemned the pro-Afzal Guru-Maqbool Bhat demonstrations even while criticising the violence resorted to by the lawyers at the Patiala House Court in beating journalists and JNU students. Even some of the JNU alumini joined in condemning the act.
Debashish Chatterjee, former director of IIM-Kozhikode, who did his masters from JNU, said: “I don’t know the actual facts, but from what it looks, the (discourse at) JNU has seen a slide since our times, from healthy spirit of inquiry to exclusivity, which questions the unity and integrity of the country. The voice of dissent has been made out by some at JNU to be the voice of disrespect for the nation. The violence after the anti-India act was condemnable but more condemnable was act itself.”
Agro-economist Samar Datta, who has taught at the IIM and had won appreciation from the late Varghese Kurien and late President APJ Abdul Kalam for his work in agriculture, was more severe in his criticism of the JNU.
He said: “Temples of learning can’t be allowed to become temples of destruction. Can an institution be in conflict with nationalism which is the source of existence of our diverse country? The latest incident is a manifestation of the bad culture that JNU academics in general have encouraged. Now is the opportunity to define nationalism and its role in academic institutions and weed out undesirable elements.”
In a way, a section of the JNU faculty supporting the anti-India demonstrators also opened a window for many to demand scrutiny of the goings-on in the institution. A demand began to be raised for scrutiny of the actual academic standard of the JNU, considering the huge grants it gets.
Rashmi Singh, former JNUSU president, who opposed the Left lobby in the JNU during her presidentship, observed: “The ugly incident which has completely exposed Left-leaning academics at the campus gives a very good opportunity to the government to do a complete overhaul of the JNU. It is an overrated institution which is quite poor in the actual standard of academic work. Why should the government spend big money on such an institution at the cost of other meritorious institutions?”
Asmita Singh, who teaches law at the JNU and who has taken an open stand against the lobby protecting students indulging in anti-India sloganeering noted: "The JNU should first cleanse itself of those supporting anti-India activities. Everything else comes second. The whole episode started with the raising of anti-India slogans in support of the Kashmiri struggle. Condemnation of the act and police action is a must in every such case. Secondly, at the JNU, there is a Left veto. Any one opposing the Left is dubbed a BJP-RSS supporter. I have nothing to do with either. I am a simple nationalist teacher who believes that any compromise on unity and integrity of India is just non-negotiable."
The ban by the Modi government on 4,500 NGOs receiving foreign funds could be the root cause behind the intolerance debate, the controversy over the beef ban and overplaying of incidents like Dadri:
One of the reasons the RSS leadership doesn’t have many complaints against the Modi government, except the government’s extremely slow pace in filling up the spaces in government-supported academic bodies, is the giant step Modi took after taking over as the prime minister by banning the fund flow of shady NGOs in the country.
Modi did it quite deftly by not raising a hue and cry while taking the decision and citing only technical reasons for banning the funds. Among this list of 4,500 NGOs there were some which were close to the Sangh Parivar and therefore, none can call the step one-sided. “Modi has deftly switched off the tape from which the water comes to the Left bodies," said an NGO leader from Gujarat.
The Award Wapsi campaign by Left intellectuals to protest what they felt was a growing intolerance in the country after the unfortunate Dadri incident, in which a Muslim man was killed by a Hindu mob, for allegedly storing beef in his refrigerator, gave the first clue that more than their pain over Dadri, the Left lobby’s aim was how to discredit the BJP government at the Centre and the Sangh Parivar in what appeared to be a riposte to the Modi government's decision of banning of foreign funds for the leading Left-liberal NGOs.
The hue and cry over the beef ban before that also seemed to be an echo of that because beef ban is an old Sangh Parivar agenda being faithfully implemented in most BJP-ruled states. But the saffron leaders did commit some blunders.
In the Dadri incident, they played into the hands of the Left by either defending the act of the Hindus or condemning it too late. Modi too is not free from this charge he has tolerated leaders like Sakshi Maharaj, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Mahesh Sharma for their irresponsible anti-Muslim statements. The last two are in fact ministers in his cabinet. The prime minister taking an evasive line on these incidents dents his "Ek Bharat, Shreshta Bharat" spirit.
Rahul Gandhi commits a bigger mistake than that his mother committed in Gujarat
A massive blunder was committed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in going to the JNU campus without verifying the facts and defending the anti-India students in the name of freedom of expression. It was perhaps the most mindless and self-damaging act of a Congress leader in many, many years. It was perhaps more damaging politically than his mother Sonia Gandhi’s mistake of comparing Modi with Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse during the 2002 Gujarat election campaign, and that of calling Modi "Maut Ka Saudagar" during the 2007 polls.
Both these mistakes by Sonia were amply exploited by Modi. Rahul’s action was akin to handing over victory to the rival on a platter even before the match had begun. Political analyst Vidyut Thakar, who had correctly analysed Modi in the past noted: “The JNU incident might prove to be the turning point for national politics as it divides Indian politics into pro-India and anti-India sections with overwhelming advantage to Modi and the Sangh Parivar."
BJP president Amit Shah said: “It's clearly advantage BJP on this issue."
When the facts of the case emerged in the opening days of the Budget session of the Parliament this month, Congressmen were finding it difficult to defend Rahul’s actions. With rivals like Rahul Gandhi and leftist NGOs, it seems Modi doesn’t need too many friends.