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Has Bjp Peaked Already? - TSI - The Sunday Indian
An IIPM Initiative
Monday, July 16, 2018


Has Bjp Peaked Already?


BJP's inability to perform solidly in the assembly polls and the local body elections suggests that the party might have left its best days behind, says Sagar Gaur
TSI | Issue Dated: April 5, 2016, New Delhi
Tags : Narendra Modi | Centrist ideology | Kanahiya Kumar | Start-Up India | Digital India |

It is still almost three years to the next general elections, but in many ways every political party is preparing for the same. Under the circumstances, BJP, which came to power with an absolute majority for the first time, and its leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have also started taking steps keeping the next elections in mind.

As of now, it won’t be prudent to predict what course Modi’s fate will take in the next three years, however, what is sure is that the country’s opinion remains divided like never before. The split is deep and hence evident. There are only two kinds of opinions now, one that absolutely loves Modi for whatever he does, and another that absolutely abhors him. And these form his biggest strengths and weaknesses, because that is directly going to affect his vote bank, irrespective of how the party performs.

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of people who like Narendra Modi. The first kinds are those who believe in his promises of development, whereas the other group is the one that sees him as a true representative of Hindus. Similarly, among those who abhor him, there are two groups. Those who hate him on the ideological grounds (most come from the Left or Centrist ideology) and those who don't believe in his minority outreach (Muslims and a section of other minorities form this bunch). Post the previous elections, Muslims are emerging in a big way against him.

The latest example of this divide was the JNU incident involving its Student Union President Kanahiya Kumar. The incident immediately split the country down the middle; and those loving or hating Modi chose their respective camps seamlessly. This has been hitherto unseen in this country’s political history.
The developmental agenda of Modi has brought a set of supporters as well. Some of the steps taken by the government in the last two years have the potential to deliver results on the ground. The Skill India program is ambitious in its scope. A separate ministry has been formed for this. It is expected that this can bring employment to hundreds of thousands of youngsters. Similarly, the Start-Up India program is also finding takers and is being appreciated. Make in India has the potential to bring investment in the real sense. China’s experiment has delivered results and there is no reason why the Indian one would not.

Apart from this, several other programs, especially those linked with the infrastructural development of the country, such as construction of roads and highways, Clean Ganga drive and Setu Bharatam projects can bring employment besides strengthening the infrastructure. On the other hand, Digital India, the agriculture loan scheme and irrigation projects can help farmers in the long run.

But there’s a big ‘if.’ It is on the successful implementation of these projects that Modi’s future is dependent. These projects have just been announced and the implementation phase has just started. At the minimum, it would take at least a year and a half or two for these projects to deliver some concrete visible results. That would be around the same time that the next election would be due. This can lead to the “feel good” factor, which was evident at the end of Vajpayee’s reign too.

But this is also his biggest challenge. There was a perception of prosperity in 2004 as well. At least on the surface, Vajpayee’s work had started to show results. There was a certain spike in the GDP growth rate. Consequently, BJP called for the snap elections six months in advance. The result was there for everyone to see.

It is therefore unclear what would matter in 2019. Whether it is the developmental agenda that will work or the caste, religious and other social factors that will take the front seat. Development is not always the dominant agenda. It was a dominant agenda in the 2014 elections where Modi showcased his 15 years of rule in Gujarat and sought votes on that plank. But it is also true that Hindutva forces were extremely effective in making him win. While a significant number of people voted to bring in development, a large section voted keeping the Hindutva agenda in mind as well.
And this is not the only front where he’ll face challenges. One of Modi’s biggest challenges is the growing resentment against him inside the party itself. The way Modi has dominated his party as well as the government has not gone down well with some inside the party. There are feelers that some are feeling suffocated under the circumstances. His decision not to induct anyone above 75 in the cabinet has sidelined many senior colleagues. The way senior leaders like L. K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were snubbed from the Party’s Parliamentary Board and Central Election Committee has also left many disappointed.

  After the debacle of Bihar elections, the aforementioned two, along with Shanta Kumar, Yashwant Sinha and others, had opened a front against Modi by writing a letter that held him solely responsible for destroying the culture of taking collective decisions inside the party. The anger against Party President Amit Shah is also evident. He is accused of having a dictatorial behaviour and being inaccessible for party cadres. As far as the cabinet is concerned, there are a few ministers who are also not happy with Modi’s style of working. It is said in hushed up tones that Cabinet Ministers have a status akin to a clerk. It is bureaucrats posted with the PMO who are taking decision in other ministries as well. Ministers are informed later as a formality.
At times, Ministers don’t come to know until later that their secretaries have been called for meetings or consultations in the PMO. These secretaries complete the formality of informing the minister of the decision taken. Ministers are thus restricted to organising press meets and addressing public meetings and rallies. Some also mention that Modi’s closest aide, Arun Jaitley, is also finding himself slighted. Sushma Swaraj was already sidelined.

Insiders mention that Rajnath Singh too was desperate to leave the ministry and take up an organisational role, but Modi kept him in the cabinet, rather against his will, and dashed his hope of becoming the party president again.After considering various pros and cons, at this point in time, it does appear that a large section of electorate in the country is ready to give Modi a chance again. Both the Hindutva banwagon and those outside it would like him to be the Prime Minister again. Their numbers are substantial. At the same time, the section that dislikes Modi will see 2019 as an opportunity to join ranks.

On the other hand, Modi needs to seriously implement the pet projects that are supposed to bring in development. There is a growing feeling that most of the promises till now have proven to be “Jumlas,” an infamous coinage used by none other than Amit Shah himself, to clarify that some of Modi's statements during his rallies were grandstanding and nothing more.

There is nothing to show for the promises as of now. People are definitely not feeling relieved in any sense. There is no marked reduction in the prices of day to day commodities. Even the retail prices of fuel has not kept up with the sliding international prices. The Modi government can claim that it has kept India insulated from the global slowdown, but not much. The GDP growth rate of 7 percent and above, calculated by a new method, is not corresponding with other vital economic indicators and has left economists in India and abroad bewildered. Questions are being raised on the lack of on-ground evidence supporting the claimed economic growth.
If there is not enough generation of employment, improvement in the condition of farmers and general improvement in the present acrimonious environment, it would be very difficult for Modi to bring in the desired numbers. To expect unemployed youths and debt-ridden farmers to root for a party is but unrealistic. This is precisely why the implementation of projects should be flawless. A case in point is the Skill India program. If this bears fruit, and youngsters can start their own means of employment, it will bring in a huge respite for the young population in general and that will win Modi accolades.

In the way to 2019, there are other challenges as well. The biggest of them all would be the President and Vice President elections. Supporters of Advani mention that if Advani and Joshi are not declared candidates for President and Vice President respectively, it will lead to furore inside the party. On the other hand, the signals coming from Modi camp are not encouraging. Yet, these leaders are willing to wait and not jump the gun. Failing the nomination, this camp will start a platform for those who feel slighted inside the party and it is expected that this bandwagon shall have a significant following of its own. With such protests from inside, the work of those opposing Modi from outside will become relatively much easier.

Vajpayee has tasted this medicine once when a substantial portion of party cadres as well as the RSS joined ranks against him. They too considered ignored and slighted and took their anger out on Vajpayee. The situation has hardly changed now. Cadres are not allowed to venture inside the ministries. A coordination body that functions from the Party headquarters is reportedly in disarray and currently a toothless tiger. Consequently, murmurs have started to emerge among the cadres.

Kailash Vijayvargiya, National General Secretary, BJP

We’ll win more seats than the last time in the 2019 General Elections. The efforts done by the Modi government have started to show results. By 2019, the nation will start reaping the benefits of the programs initiated by the Prime Minister. The 2014 mandate was against the bad governance and corruption of the Congress government. The people of the country put their faith in BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and propelled us to 282 seats. Our Prime Minister has realised the promises he had made. His image of a no-nonsense and tough administrator has caught the imagination of the nation.

As far as prediction about 2019 elections is concerned, I can predict with some confidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will bag more seats than the last time. The nation has already witnessed the remarkable work of the government in the two years of its rule. The steps taken by him have started to bear results already. The work that will be initiated and completed in the next three years will also have its impact by the time of the elections. The voters will actually have the statistics in hands to make informed comparisons.

The Modi government has created a conducive environment for foreign investments into the country. Foreign firms are all set and ready to venture into India. The decision to manufacture foreign goods through the Make in India program will have a huge impact on the development of the country. Apart from this, Start-Up India for those who want to start new businesses, agricultural loans for farmers, One-Rank-One-Pay scheme for the soldiers, Seventh Pay Commission for the government employees are some of the programs that have skyrocketed the popularity of the government.
The prevailing unemployment among the youths was a challenge. The Skill Development program initiated for them will be a game-changer. According to the program, as soon as these youths get training from the Skill Development Centres, they will be able to land up employment.

There is no alternative to Narendra Modi in the present circumstances. The way he has enhanced India’s image in the world, and has eradicated corruption, is praiseworthy to say the least. The Congress Party that ruled for six decades has gone to the edge because of its misdeeds. Congress’ reign saw some mega corruption scandals. The electorate is in no mood to give back power to them. The way Congress has disrupted the working of Parliament has led to deep resentment among the people. The electorate will take their revenge and wipe Congress off India in the next election.
The electorate will give BJP and Narendra Modi at least one more chance if not more. They will not like to see the pace of development initiated by Modi to slacken. This feeling cuts all demographic boundaries and victory in the next election is but a formality.

The upcoming provincial elections will have their impact on the general elections as well. The upcoming polls in Assam, West Bengal, Pudduchery and Tamil Nadu in May and June are critical for BJP. Same goes for Punjab and Kerala. Elections are due in Uttarakhand and UP. BJP has a strong chance in Uttarakhand but its chances in UP have been going down. But on the other hand, Prime Minister Modi has made the state a prestige issue. He has mobilised various resources as well for a better performance. Under the circumstances, if the party still fails to form a government there, naysayers would rush to blame Modi. Reining in RSS and its affiliated organisations is also proving to be a critical challenge for Modi. RSS and its allied organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad have been raising the issue of Ram Mandir since several decades. They are of the opinion that if the Ram Mandir could not be constructed even when the party has an absolute majority, then when will it be constructed? The organisation is not willing to let go of this issue and is waiting in the wings to ambush PM Modi. The same RSS cadres who micro-managed his election could resort to micro-managing his defeat, if left unguided and uncounselled. Experts mention that they have done such undercutting against the party in the past and they can do it again if the situation demands. Of the several unfulfilled promises, the issue of One-Rank, One-Pay can come to haunt Modi when he will expect it the least. While a part of the demands has been met, the soldiers are still unhappy. The government, as per them, has failed to honour its promise. On the other hand, there has been only a marginal increase for the government workers under the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission. They are naturally not happy with the outcome. The murmurs of resentment on may have simmered down, but will not disappear and can jump back to haunt Modi. The next election is definitely going to be Modi versus the rest. Victory or defeat, the onus will be on Narendra Modi. It is his personal prestige that shall be at stake in the elections.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017