The real intention behind Modi's fast

Ashok K Singh
Ashok K SinghApr 12, 2018 | 18:05

The real intention behind Modi's fast

It's not a fast. It's a battle cry. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dramatic announcement of a day-long fast and instructions to party MPs to do the same in their constituencies is a declaration of his determination to take the political battle straight to the Opposition camp.


He is using the weapon of fast not as a means of penitence for the washout of Parliament session but in preparations for the 2019 general elections. Asking party MPs to gather supporters in large numbers from the constituencies on the occasion is the beginning of mobilisation for the big battle.


Calling the party to join the fast, Modi accused Opposition parties of trampling upon democratic principles by holding Parliament to ransom because of their "political arrogance" and "hunger for power". Launching a scathing attack on the Congress, he said, "A handful of people who were unable to come to power in 2014 do not want the country to progress. They didn't allow Parliament to function even for a single day."

Later, a BJP statement stated, "Despite repeated failures in derailing the development model of the prime minister, the Opposition has been constantly disrupting Parliament and not allowing the government to bring several important legislations which are aimed at making India a stronger and better nation."

It doesn't stand to reason for Modi to use fast as a means of agitation against Opposition. Prime ministers and ruling parties don't have to protest and agitate to secure a demand that only they can meet. There is no precedent for a party in the government to hold public agitations and protests.

Protests and agitations are means available to Opposition parties to press their demands that the government is unwilling to concede. Therefore, there is no case for Modi to observe a fast as a means of agitation and ask the party MPs to hold nationwide protest.


The only justification for observing such a fast could have been penitence. That, unfortunately, has no place in Modi's political strategy. One could understand if Modi had said that he would observe a symbolic fast to lament the decline of parliamentary procedures. He hasn't done that. He is on agitation path, Modi has himself declared.


In fact, Modi has missed an opportunity to garner public opinion through his fast. Imagine the impact Modi would have made if he had decided to fast for the minor girl of Unnao, who has accused a BJP legislator of rape, and tried to kill herself, demanding justice from the UP chief minister and who lost her father as a result of beatings and tortures by the alleged rapists brother and goons.

Imagine the impact Modi would have made on the people if he had fasted for the eight-year-old Kathua girl from Jammu whose brutal rape and murder has shaken the conscience of the country. The entire country is shocked beyond belief and agitated over the two cases of rapes of minor girls that are a grim reminder of the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder.


The Yogi Adityanath government's apathy and insensitivity in dealing with the Unnao case, its open patronage and protection to the accused BJP MLA have crossed all boundaries of responsibility. The Adityanath government has transgressed all limits of its own law.

A token fast by Modi would have stirred the conscience of BJP leaders in Jammu, who are trying to block investigation into the Kathua case by all sorts of means. But why speak of conscience when the BJP has allowed its party leaders to communalise the Kathua rape with a view to scuttle the probe and protecte the guilty while Modi remained a mute spectator?

As for Modi's protest over Parliament impasse, he should know that the ruling party doesn't have to agitate if it has a grievance. The prime minister as the leader of the House and the ruling party has to coax, cajole, confer and build consensus to carry out the government's agenda.

It's the government responsibility to ensure that the House runs and important legislations are passed. The government has to work out compromises and consensus if the Opposition disrupts the process.


There is no evidence that Modi and BJP parliamentary party leaders made any serious outreach to Opposition to break the logjam in Parliament. Opposition members from TDP and YSR Congress who were in the well of the House every day demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh have said that BJP didn't take any initiative to talk and negotiate with them.

On the contrary, there are indications that the BJP encouraged AIADMK members to disrupt Parliament on the Cauvery issue to thwart TDP and YSR Congress' attempt to move a no-confidence motion against the government. Later, Congress and CPI (M) too pressed for a no-confidence motion but the Lok Sabha didn't take up the matter as the House was repeatedly adjourned.

What's playing out in the public is politics of fast. BJP's tit-for-tat fast is a response to Congress president Rahul Gandhi's fast at the Rajghat in protest against the increasing cases of atrocities against Dalits and minorities.

One may dismiss Rahul Gandhi's fast as a gimmick. But that's a route open to him in a democratic system. The rationale behind the prime minster going on the agitation route is hard to understand.

The only explanation can be Modi's decision to sound the election bugle one year before its schedule.

Opposition has thrown down the gauntlet with attempt to unite and Modi has picked it up.

Last updated: April 13, 2018 | 10:53
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