I believed in Modi, this is how he has let India down
The prime minister knows that no class or section of the society is happy, he fears his defeat in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
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We know Narendra Modi as a visionary politician. However, many confuse this vision with the nation’s interests, while the reality has always been different.
Modi’s political chronicles have had one thing in common - putting personal interest above national interest. The political mastermind that he is, he wrote his future as the nation’s prime minister well before anyone could have sensed his intents.
This piece is an attempt to decode the present-day Modi, looking over his journey and figuring out how the man with the Midas touch set his eyes on one of the highest offices of the country and achieved his goals, by fair means or foul.
2001-2014: A game of ulterior motives
The seeds of PM Modi’s journey to Delhi were sown shrewdly, but subtly in 2001 itself when he was appointed as Gujarat’s chief minister.
In February 2002, with the beginning of one of the most horrific communal riots in Gujarat, the cornerstone of Brand Modi was laid. When a group of people from Godhra, a Muslim-populated area of Gujarat, burnt a few bogies of the Sabarmati Express which carried Hindu kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, the region paved the way for massive riots, targeting Muslims majorly. The riots that lasted for about a week could have been controlled. But it’s alleged that the then CM of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, did nothing substantial to pacify the situation.
It was at that time that Modi sensed the growing unrest amongst the Hindu community and very smartly positioned himself as the "Hindu Hriday Samrat". Many termed him as a mass murderer. But not hardcore Hindus. For them, a Hindu messiah was born - someone who has vowed to save the Hindu community and its pride.
Apparently, the riots caused many rifts within the BJP clan. The then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee was keen to take action against Modi following the 2002 riots, but it was LK Advani who stood up for Modi and stopped Vajpayee from sacking him.
Meanwhile, Narendra Modi, being the opportunistic man that he is, started eyeing the PM position. Rather than managing the Gujarat chief minister’s office in his best capacity, he dedicated most of his time to another job - bashing the Nehru-Gandhi family. The motive was simple - he wanted to establish himself as a national level player, and that he did, by building a place in the hearts of Hindus who felt offended by the Congress party’s appeasement policies.
And, he couldn’t have timed his brand-building task any better. As luck has always favoured Modi, the BJP lost two consecutive elections in the year 2004 and then in 2009. Vajpayee quit active politics after the shocking defeat of 2004.
Simultaneously, Modi was working on projecting himself as an incorruptible politician with a vision for development. He boasted of the "Gujarat model" and talked highly about the nation’s development - for he knew that Hindutva alone wouldn’t make him the country’s PM.
All this while, what was slowly taking shape from Hindutva was Moditva - the emerging Modi mania that was soon going to overwhelm the nation with promises, dreams, and jumlas.
2014-2017: Playing on public’s anger
The ten years of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule laden with scams, corruption and issues like unemployment, lack of women safety, etc, gave Modi the momentum he needed to build his brand of politics. What made things worse was the UPA government’s over appeasement of Muslim minority and the rising Islamophobia across the world. All this gave Modi the space he was craving for.
The BJP gave some catchy and hopeful slogans to the country, especially the nation’s youth, farmers and those who were fighting hard with poverty. From "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas", to "Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi", these catchphrases did a lot to build Brand Modi.
But, out of all these slogans, the one that resonated the most with the public was "Achhe Din". People who were so far angry with the Congress, who had little to no hope with the economy which was in a tailspin, needed a change.
Modi showed them light at the end of the tunnel with his tall promises of good days. He made sure to turn the increasing public resentment towards the Congress to his advantage. By continuously bashing the Gandhi family he hurt Congress party’s age-old legacy. He created a sentiment across the masses that the Congress has failed to live up to their expectations and maligned the Gandhi family all that he could - for he knew that a large section of the society still recalls Congress with the Gandhi leaders. His objective was: bash them and delete Congress from people’s heart.
In 1999, the incumbent BJP secured 23.8 per cent votes, while Congress got a vote share of 28.3 per cent. In 2004, the BJP won 22.2 per cent of the votes and lost the election to the Congress-led UPA where Congress won 26.5 per cent of the votes. Then came the 2009 elections, the BJP again lost with a vote share of 18.5 per cent and Congress won with 29 per cent of the votes.
In 2014, the BJP managed an unprecedented victory in the 2014 General Elections. Modi promised the moon to the nation, and this is where we all fell for the will-o'-the-wisp, the "chhalava" that he created. The BJP made a historic win of 282 seats with just 31 per cent of the votes, and Congress fell to a 19.3 per cent. The previous Congress supporters having a vote share of 10 per cent shifted their loyalty and voted straightaway for the BJP that year.
The study of these facts tells a lot about the types of voters who have been supporting the BJP. First, there are voters who are hardcore Hindus. These amount to about 20 per cent of the BJP’s voter base. They stay with the party, without caring about its agenda. These include the Karni Sena and many other fringe elements which aren’t concerned with the nation’s development. They thrive on anti-Muslim and hyper-nationalist rhetoric.
Secondly, there are about 10 per cent of voters who voted for the BJP in 2014, just for the sake of development promises made by Modi. These aspire for a developed India and vote on the basis of agenda. You promise them jobs, economic growth, smart cities, better infrastructure and they will vote for you.
Lastly, there are the fence sitters who are not loyalists and who shift their votes without any powerful reasoning.
The masterstroke played by Modi in 2014, helped the BJP sway the second category of voters.
However, the road ahead is not easy anymore, with the same section of voters awakening to the truth of the BJP, the herculean task before Modi is to keep this segment of voters with him in 2019.
2018: Malign and rise
From demonetisation and GST to Ram Mandir and Pakistan, there is a lot that the BJP has failed to do justice to over the past four years. The failure of the party’s very many schemes be it "Make in India", or "Digital India" shouts about the necessity to look beyond the facade of Modi’s non-stop propaganda narratives and election rhetoric. And the people of India have understood this reality.
The same public that voted Narendra Modi to power for his promises to create more jobs, quell corruption, stop terrorism and provide "Achhe Din", has started showing the signs of an anti-Modi surge.
A narrow win of 99 seats in Gujarat Assembly elections, a resurgent Congress under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, the recent Congress victory in the Rajasthan bypolls, a disappointed middle class after 2018-19 Budget and the punctured corruption plank highlighted by the Nirav Modi fraud case has forced the PM to try all that’s possible to save his party’s face in the upcoming elections.
The current scenario reflects that the country is in a mood where people have forgiven and forgotten Congress for its mistakes. They know that the development narrative was a trick for Modi to come into power. But the real persona of this man is still the same. He is just the way he was in 2002. "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas" is a disguise. In reality, Modi’s brand of politics has always been about hatred for Muslims. He is someone disguised as a well-wisher for all, but in fact, he just wishes well for himself.
His recent Parliament speech showed the contempt and hatred he has towards the Nehru-Gandhi family. His bitterness towards Jawaharlal Nehru was evident through his choice of words. Jawaharlal Nehru died in 1964, about 54 years ago. Almost three Indian generations haven’t seen him. But, in today’s time, our nation’s PM is continuously trying to sway young voters, especially first-time voters by discrediting the past and bashing the first PM of the country because he has no other narrative to sell to the countrymen in 2019.
The sentiment that he is building is that the Congress party has impeded India’s road to success. In both Houses of Parliament, he continues to criticise the Congress, especially the Nehru-Gandhi family with the hope to yield rich dividends in 2019.
More than anybody else, it is Narendra Modi himself who knows that "Achhe Din" hasn’t come for any segment of the society. From traders, farmers to moderate Hindus and the aspirational middle class that believed in Modi’s rosy talks, all have had their fair shares of distress in the past four years. Modi had very smartly switched the gears of his "smart sloganeering" from "Achhe Din" to "New India".
I too believed in the master of words when he promised development for all. Like many Indians, I also hoped for the abolishment of income tax which was one big propaganda run by the BJP before the 2014 elections. Highly educated IITians and IIM passouts became fools in the hands of Modi. I remember how many of my friends were under the notion that Modi will save us from income tax and we will live a tax-free lifestyle just like people in the UAE did. We believed in his words so much so that when the first Budget was declared under the current BJP government, almost the entire salaried class eagerly waited for the tax abolishment announcement.
Now that Modi knows that no class or section of the society is happy, he fears his defeat in 2019. For he has been someone who has never run a coalition government. He has always enjoyed an absolute majority. The mere allies that his government has had are there just for the sake of it, be it the Shiromani Akali Dal or Shiv Sena or TDP. These allies too have started showing resentment towards the ruling government, and Modi is well aware of the fact that they might ditch him soon.
With nowhere to go and nobody’s support to bank upon, Modi is trying to fade away the aggressive bend of politics that Rahul Gandhi has introduced of late. And Modi has been doing that by giving "strong" messages in his speeches that the Congress has destroyed the country for over six decades and has created a vicious circle of mess which is difficult to clear in five years’ time. His speeches imply that the current government needs one more chance to fulfil the promises made to the country in 2014.
But the problem with Narendra Modi is, he is overconfident. He thinks that the middle class may be angry with him, but it will never choose Rahul Gandhi over him. That’s the reason why the recent Budget has a major focus on the rural segment where the BJP has failed to have a strong foothold so far. Modi has clearly shown that he has taken urban India for granted. And, it’s all because the Congress has been underestimating itself all this while - fostering Modi’s fallacy of winning over Rahul Gandhi, come what may.
If only the Congress stops running out of steam and gets its act together, it can defeat Modi. Good performance in states like Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and the national capital Delhi can help Congress get the required numbers for 2019.
The only thing needed is to think, plan and excute 10 steps ahead of Modi.
Modi is fast losing ground, and Congress must pull out all the stops for 2019.