Graphic by Soham Sen | ThePrint
Graphic by Soham Sen | ThePrint
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The most obvious question an incumbent seeking re-election should be asking his voters is: Are you better off than you were when you voted me to power? For Narendra Modi, it could rather be: Do you feel more secure than when you voted me to power?

If the answer is ‘yes’, you can’t expect to ride to a second term on an upsurge of insecurity. If it is ‘no’, why should the same people re-elect you? In the Modi world, however, a third possibility can be created. Are you feeling less insecure than you did, probably in the week of 26/11 in 2008? A conventional politician goes back to the voters on his own track record. A cleverer one does so on his rivals’. Modi is nothing if not clever.

You can quibble on detail, but the Modi government is right to boast that in its five years, there has not been a big terror attack outside of Kashmir, in what we may call for convenience as mainland India. Barring two failed strikes in Gurdaspur and Pathankot, both within miles of the international border, Pakistani groups have not been able to hit anywhere else. Never mind that the preceding five years under the UPA were quite safe too, and Kashmir quieter, because even the Congress has forgotten that.

Modi isn’t even building a campaign on his own successes on national security. He is, instead, building further insecurities. It is like, read my lips, after me, the deluge of Jaish, Lashkar and ISI terror.

In 2014, he won on the promise of hope. Five years later, he wants another term on the threat of dark terrorist fears from Pakistan. Anybody opposing him, especially the Congress, is in cahoots with Pakistan. That is why he says that only terrorists and Pakistanis want him defeated. In the same breath, he also accuses his opposition of having been soft on terrorists, of daring to demand evidence of success in his cross-border raids and disrespecting the armed forces.

What does this shift from optimism of 2014 to fear in 2019 mean?

The Modi-Shah BJP believes in what we may call “total politics”. Where politics becomes your only avocation, entertainment, obsession and addiction 24×7, and when winning power is no longer confused with the trust that holding of public office usually implies. Today, you use any method to get public office. Then we shall see what we can do with it.

So, if you can artificially conjure up a paranoia, it is sharp, useful politics. On the other hand, going for re-election on your five-year record is dangerous. Because people then check your claims with their reality ‘today’. You can hide all data on jobs and fix GDP calculations. But once you ask people how they feel, they will make an immediate reality check. In any case, no matter how many may have actually benefitted from your schemes, toilets, Mudra loans, Ujjwala LPG connections, agricultural support direct transfers, power connection and so on, the number of those left out will still be larger. You want to know how dangerous it is? Ask L.K. Advani about the ‘India Shining’ campaign of 2004.

Modi’s early speeches have indicated the things he will talk about: Pakistan, terrorism, corruption and lack of nationalism of his opposition and critics. And things he mostly won’t: Jobs, growth and agricultural stress. What this means is, he is setting this election up so he doesn’t have to defend himself from the charges the opposition throws at him. He will, on the contrary, attack them.

Terror, read with Pakistan, has another subtext: Muslims. Modi and Shah won in 2014 by “othering” the Muslim. They ran a power structure—cabinet, top constitutional and administration positions—where Muslims were excluded to the extent of being disenfranchised. They won a majority in the Lok Sabha fielding just seven candidates from among this country’s 14 per cent Muslims, and then, a massive landslide in Uttar Pradesh—where almost 20 per cent of the voters are Muslim—without fielding a single Muslim.

So successful has this strategy been that today, the Congress is even shy of contesting the BJP on this mass exclusion for fear of being called a “Muslim party”.

Seeing an ideological breach there, there is no surprise that Modi would try to widen it. That is why: Pakistanis and terrorists want me defeated. So does the opposition. And what’s their most solid vote-bank but the Muslims? So, repeat after me, terrorists, Pakistan, Muslims. And again. If the Muslims won’t vote for me, good luck to them. The Hindus will unite against them.

It won’t work if I built this campaign directly against fellow Indian Muslims. So, the danger has to be from the Muslim alien. The Pakistani and ‘pro-Pakistani’ Kashmiris in the heartland and the west. Bangladeshis in the east.


Also read: Why Rahul Gandhi’s Congress is in danger of morphing into a clueless NGO


Narendra Modi is not unique in this approach. In democracies across the world now, beginning with Donald Trump, mass leaders are learning to talk only to their base, make the rest fear, and marginalise them.

From Trump to Erdogan to Netanyahu to Modi, they also use some combination of the same elements to build a fear-complex among their majorities, as if they were in fact the minority in their own country. Check out Trump and Modi: There is an enemy outside the borders (illegal immigrants for Trump), there is a bigger enemy within—the Left-liberals, minorities, opposition and the free media, the “compulsive contrarians”, I came from nowhere to challenge the entrenched, entitled classes. What is the Washington Beltway for Trump is Lutyens for Modi. I am the first truly smart choice you’ve ever made, everybody before me was an idiot. History begins with me. But you’ve seen nothin’ yet. Give me just one more term. You can laugh at this. But it won’t help you defeat Modi, because his sizeable base loves it.

Where does it leave the opposition? If Modi can keep his own base together, and the rest divided, he is home easily. The Congress cannot fight him on corruption, given its own reputation, and on national security, where Modi’s rhetoric is unmatchable and fortified by the recent strikes. Every time an acknowledged Modi critic questions his claims on the strikes, it will make it tougher for the Congress to even join the debate. Modi has therefore got two things right early on. A divided opposition, and a battle set up on his terms.

With its minimum basic income, or NYAY move, Congress has at last demonstrated a resolve to shift the battlefield. Its promise of Rs 6,000 per month is more than Modi’s Rs 500 to small farmers. Further, it is traditionally seen to be a more welfarist party, just as BJP is seen to be more nationalist. There is much joblessness, farming distress and far too many people are unhappy for this not to find some traction.

The question is, does the Congress have the reach, skill, resources and time to force Modi to respond on this issue instead of what he would prefer? Even if it does, it has no roots left where most of India’s poorest live: West Bengal, Odisha, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. But NYAY has an interesting ring to it as a political idea. There might still be a few days left for it to stitch up some alliances and give Modi a real fight instead of a walkover.


Also read: Revenge is for morons. Can Modi switch to deterrence, less sexy but way more diabolical?


 

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32 COMMENTS

  1. Yes. It is true. In states, where both Congress and BJP are weak, there are many powerful state strataps, who cannot be overlooked. Also even where these so-called national parties have strong, they seldom tolerate strong state leaders. In Congress, the dynasty feared it’s own interests if some strong state leaders emerged. Sharad Pwar , Mamta etc. had to leave the party due to this reason. BJP, particularly Modi too took the hint from Congress. While choosing Chief Ministers in Haryana, Himachal, and even UP, he imposed nonenties as CMs, overlooking the known strong leaders. Reason could be that, as a strong state leader Modi sidelined Advani and other strong national leaders, he felt the danger of his own survival from any of the mass state leader. I may be wrong, but the defeat of BJP in MP, Chh. G. and Rajasthan, where strong ,many times Chief Ministers had to face defeat, could be manipulated by a section of BJP, so that no strong state leader remains to challenge Modi, in case BJP performs not so good in this national elections. Both these national parties should understand that to challenge strong state leaders of regional parties, these too should have strong leaders of state levels.

  2. I think Sekhar want to project his own agenda for elections. He is a defunct journalist who failed to understand things in reality and unable to change for good what Indians think. I challenge Sekhar to produce at least one full video of Modi’s election speech not mentioning the development he brought in his 4 years.

  3. Shekhar Guptaji, public memory may be notoriously short but maybe you as a journalist should flip through the news reports of the 10 years of UPA — and the constant BOMB BLASTS week after week by Indian Mujahedin, SIMI and the like was the defining policy of UPA security.

    The crowning achievement being 26/11: remarkable seaborne invasion by Pakistani terrorists which held hostage our financial capital for several days.

    I guess top hacks like you don’t usually frequent the bazaars, railway stations and other sundry public places, but when the comfortable super elite confines of the Taj is hit, you got to worry for life and limb over that exotic single malt.

  4. People do not yet realise how catastrophic the alienation of Indias 170 million Muslims is going to be,.
    There were no communal riots in India before 1905 – Indians identified with caste, from the region they came from, – after the 1857 mutiny the British slowly built the Hindu /Muslim divide, with communal organisations like the Hindu Mahsabha the forunner of the BJP and Jinnah creating the divide which led to the partition of India.
    The slow drip drip of communal poison as evidenced in the Hindutva lab of `Gujarat has spread to other states, and I have grave forebodings of the evil that is to come.
    We should have learned our lesson during the dark days of the partition of the suffering my beloved India went through, what the creation of communal hatred did to my country, countless dead and my mother India divided in two.
    Once the horsemen of the apocalypse are unleashed there will be much suffering, they have not left the stables
    IT IS NOT TOO LATE
    Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.

    • Fyi info’ the Muslim League was formed much earlier to the Hindu Mahasabha and enjoyed wide acceptance in the Muslim community, which saw itself as a separate ‘nation’ (Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, founder of Aligarh Muslim University provide yeoman service in this effort.)
      Jinnah took the ML to its logical end-objective of Pakistan–and that too in style: LADKE LENGE PAKISTAN!!
      Guess one should always fight for one’s rights — you could get a new country as your right!!

  5. SO AT THE MOST WHAT OPPOSITION CAN HOPE TO ACHIEVE IS GIVE A TOUGH FIGHT AGAINST A WALKOVER.FOR THAT RAHUL HAS TO STICH ALLIANCES,MAKE NYAY A TALKING POINT.BUT THEN MODI HAS BROUGHT ASAT INTO PLAY. HE IS SETTING AGENDA.

  6. Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist,Barnala (Punjab)

    This week ‘s NATIONAL INTEREST is indeed on the target and quite upto the mark !

    2019 is ironically different from 2014 because five years is not a small span !

    The masses of India yearning for a change very badly fell in a trap of utopian promises,
    ploys, rhetorics and theatrics in 2014 simply because of the fact that something different,
    new and innovative will happen !

    Contrary to expectations, the regime fell a prey to megalomania and totalitarianism
    taking things for granted, began living in fools paradise that there is no challenge to its
    invincibility for decades to come !

    But now self- centred, megalomaniac and authoritarian regime is on its way out paving
    way for pleasant change because enough is enough now ! The past spanning five years has
    many eye-opening lessons for the voters, be on any front and in any walk of life . The voters
    experienced ordeals of DEMONETISATION once in five years, may be now in five times and
    erratic GST too having too many slabs instead of present confusing and uncertain pattern
    during next term which is certainly not in the offing owing to anti-public policies and
    programmes !

    God save the innocent citizens from such like ordeals, inspiring and enabling natives of this
    great nation to get rid of this hollow and hypocritical regime !

    Mr.Gupta, rest assured NaMo might try his level best to scare brave people of India of Pakistan,
    terror, fear and Muslim but Indians are dauntless and valiant ! They cannot be cowed down and
    scared like this !
    this !

    If NaMo does not refrain from scaring people then what sort of Chowkidaar he is ?

    Surprisingly, is not NaMo playing a dual role, at times he is an ALERT CHOWKIDAAR
    and then at times A SCARECROW ?

    The electorate have made up their mind to exercise their right to franchise on issues
    because they have already seen through the guiles and double speak of NaMo ! Does
    not he and his “mantras” (2014 and 2019 ) both stand exposed ?

    Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist
    Pom Anm Nest, Barnala (Punjab)

    • there is insecurity for God’s sake… Don’t you fear when you get in A Muslim dominated area.
      Dun you fear what these Illegal immigrant rohingyas are doing in the country…of what they did in URI.
      and if you dun see this…you might need to think How is Modi winning elections without people being insecure?

  7. Shekhar will analyse and clarify but will not have the courage to condemn Modi and the BJP for playing dirty communal politics. He presents Modi’s approach as a very intelligent strategy which is commonly used by leaders, all over the world, and so is kosher. In fact, he would like to laud Modi and the BJP for coming up with a sure way to win power.
    Mr Gupta, please how long will you play this game. Think of the nation and the people of this country and for once speak out loud and clear. Say that what Modi is doing is condemnable, low-level politics. He is spreading venom and poisoning the social fabric of this great nation He is dividing the people of this country and making them think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’. If this man comes back to power it would spell the doom of all the good things we have cherished in our democracy.
    Future generations will not forgive you for being so pusillanimous as to not call out a wrong. This election is very crucial and each one of us has to honestly discharge his responsibility as a citizen of this great nation. May better sense prevail upon you.
    Bol ke lab azaad hain tere…………

  8. A risky gambit, to bet the farm on national security. I don’t feel particularly scared of Pakistan, don’t see either it or the terrorism it sponsors, in bits and pieces, as an existentialist threat. China is in fact a far larger threat, but no one expects the two countries to go to war. Their long, undemarcated border represents the least valuable real estate the two sides possess. After Dokalam, nothing is heard about the dragon. 2. The economy is in a mess. It represents half of a wasted decade. So were the previous five years. However, this term had a lot going for it. A decisive mandate at the Centre, a growing number of states ruled by the same party. A sharp fall in oil / commodity prices, a gradual pickup in the global economy, including merchandise trade. 3. If the opposition had got its act together, a very steep gradient for an incumbent seeking reelection. The regional parties will give a good account of themselves. Neither the South nor the East will compensate for losses in the Hindi heartland. So if the incumbent returns, the Congress can do some of the introspection it had promised in 2014.

  9. Shekhar ji,

    You are right in part when you say that whatever success Modi has in providing Ujjawala, Toilets, houses there will be others who are left out and will complain. But it is not true that he does not talk about his success with this issues, he always talk but Journalists prefer to ignore it and only latch on to the other issues. He has talked about jobs at number of platforms including Parliament but those who don’t want to listen will not.

    If the GDP data is fixed, do all other economic indicators are also fixed, like growth in collection of direct and indirect tax, number of tax payers, increase in sales of two wheeler and four wheeler vehicles, commercial vehicles. Increase in air traffic is great example of how many people have moved up in life.

    I read P Chidambaram making a claim that today’s India GDP is big enough to provide funds for the NYAY scheme, so he himself is admitting that in five years country’s economy has grown so much that it can afford to pay 72,000 Rs per year to 5 crore family. Could he say or dream of something like this in 2014.

    You are right, that no one in public has patience to here statistics about economy and Modi has already reeled out his numbers on n number of times regarding bank accounts opened or gas connection given, so people know it.

    I wonder about the number of houses though, if this Govt has really constructed 1 .25 crore houses for poor, then this election is anyway won by Modi, as no one is ever going to forget the person who provide house to him.

    One more success which he must be proud of is the cleaning of holy river Ganga, though it is still a work in Progress but even if 30% is achieved as was seen from the Kumbh mela, its one single achievement which affect 10 crores people living on the banks of Ganga and many more Hindus for their faith in the holy river. How can you not ever talk about it is a mystery for me.

    It is a shame that in our country, we have to rely on other factors to win elections rather than the achievement and obviously Modi can not be blamed for talking about things which may win him election. What he does after election is more important than what he talked in speeches about.

  10. Do I have a right, as an ordinary reader of The Print, to ask the “moderation” team what on earth they are doing if they allow two identical comments by “Badshah” to be published in this space?

  11. Couputa should stop mouthing ‘inanities’, now that the Modi juggernaut is unstoppable, despite the valiant efforts of paid, unpaid and no-paid and never-paid presstitutes who are desperate for dreaming of plush apartments in Lutyen’s. Forget about it. The time is over. Just get over it and move on. People are intelligent and they can see through scumbags like you.

  12. Sir,
    On spot analysis.
    Now my bitter truth analysis
    Who is corrupt in India? As Hindus are there in Government machinery. Almost No Muslims there. So who is to be blamed for corruption in India?
    As Muslims are either paanwala or drivers, garage mechanics, cooks and so on.
    Rapes, Women abuse, Dowry,, Bank loan defaulters. 99% Hindus. The truth whether you like it or not.
    Who is to be blamed?
    But how Modi makes it as if all problems are created by Muslims so Modi gets power by artificially creating fear.
    Where are Muslims to be blamed?
    Sheer politics to catch votes.
    Even intellectuals fall prey to it.
    Shocking sometimes as we have lost independent thinking , for what India was proud of.
    We start blaming others without correcting ourselves.

    • Muslims are to be blamed for forced corruption and talking of darul islam wherever they get in a majority.
      Maybe your jaundiced eye will not remember Malda who revolted against the BSF,
      abd if you think Muslims haven’t raped, you are stupid and i would say…a step negative.
      Look at what they did to Kashmiri pundits in 1990. The whole country was facing the British when the ripped open pregnant Hindu ladies and made them run naked on the streets during and the Moplah rebellion

      • You need big heart to view History from right perspective.
        Your jaundiced eye wants to see from one angle only.
        What I mentioned is current affairs in India where Muslims are made scapegoat to put blame on.
        Right now in India Hindus are in majority, fully in power economically and politically.
        They have spoiled the country more than the Muslims.
        Why Modi makes India fear from Muslims while they are economically and politically extremely poor.
        Again you are fed full with Darul Ulum in your classes.
        There are shias and sufis in India who are highly against Wahabi Islam of Darul ulum. They are more nationalistic than your fake entity is.
        Yes. I agree Muslims when in Majority create problems but here in India they are not.
        So why worry?
        Or you are insecure of them.
        They are 20 crore in India.
        You can’t terminate them.
        Best for the country India is let’s live peacefully.
        Develop love.
        Do away with hatred.

      • Muslims have to accept the blame if other communities hate them. Not only Hindus, even Christians hate them. Islam does not believe in peaceful co-existence. Do they respect other religions? Do they respect other people’s right to follow another religion? Sheer presence of Muslims create tension in a neighbourhood. That is the reason why Modi with his anti-muslim rhetoric is able to grab power.

  13. Any extremist agenda left or Hindutva right is not going to be that simple.Pak,SL..are living example.In fact there will be celebrations in Pak if Modi&co win because that’s exactly what they want India to become a Hindu India to prove themselves right on partition.

  14. The NYAY scheme is from a crook allegedly endorsed by shady economists. Not even skeleton details have been put forth. There are as many versions as congress leaders, liberals, cabals from media talk on it. The blogger seems to think that empty rhetorics and the so called narratives will make the voter to swing his judgement. The impact of narratives should be nil and it is already happening so.

    • That’s very rich coming from a crooked party who doesn’t think twice about hiding behind pseudo patriotism to hide monumental failures.

  15. One thought that Shekhar Gupta had truly shed his anti BJP and Modi stance. But apparently his prejudices run so very deep that they keep doming to the fore in spite of himself. This article by Shekhar Gupta screams “I Detest Modi”. Shekar Gupta’s old pseudo secular, papered Lutyens background colours his objectivity when he writes on Modi. Shekhar Gupta’s articles in ThePrint are normally very balanced, and I had started reading ThePrint for this reason; but come Modi, and all his suppressed bile and loathing come pouring out. This very biased article is along those lines. Rather than taking a balanced view of a PM who finally given this country and us Indians Good Governance and a real Ray Of Hope; after 60 plus years of wallowing in missed opportunities, neglect , institutionalised corruption and overall pathetic governance. Yes the Govt has acted very firmly against Pakistan and should be proud of it, and even boast about it. Terror is a major challenge for us and Modi has shown the greatest will to combat it vis a vis the pussy footers of Congress(whom Shekhar Gupta quietly admires). Aache Din will also surely, albeit slowly, follow Good Governance Mr. Gupta! The Rust Bucket of A Ship, that India became in 60 plus yers of neglect and corrupt governance, cannot be restored to an Efficient Sailing Ship in a short contract of 5 years. Have patience, and more importantly an open objective mind Mr. Gupta; you will then realise that Aache Din will surely come. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of Mr Modi and his team and his national vision. Meanwhile my advice to you is to please continue the good balanced and fair reporting that I started seeing in ThePrint; get away from your past biases and notions, they only breed ill health as one gets older.

  16. Modi suits Pakistan Army/ISI as Modi has single handedly resurrected Two nation theory by alienating Indian Muslims as well as rallying pakis behind pak military by showing bogey of Modi. As far as any Indian strikes on pakistan are concerned, no one loves it more than pak army; anything that gives pak military an excuse to strike India, pak military loves it as it endangers the peaceful environment that mainland India enjoyed for the last 30 yrs and the resultant FDI, Tourism, development etc etc.

  17. While in parts Shekhar analyzes with remarkable clarity, he loses his bearings when his left liberal pseudo-secular leanings re-possess him. Modi will set his agenda and let Congress and other parties set their own agenda. Voter will decide in their wisdom. What is your issue with this plain logic other than your visceral hatred of Modi? Is that Modi gives interview to a junior journalist like Arnab and not to a national interest senior journalist like you, as in good old Vajpayee days? If Modi is not talking jobs, farmer distress and lack of growth, you go to the town with these issues and also offer solutions to them. Modi has run a cleanest government that India has ever seen in its 70+ years since independence and he is a decisive leader. These two facts alone are enough for anyone to vote for him second time, unless there is another leader who can inspire better confidence than Modi. Beyond this, ideologically, if you don’t like Modi, it is your choice. Please go and vote for whoever else you want to.

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