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A government of the 38% people, by 38% of the people, for 38% of the people

The Modi government’s actions show it cares only for the approval of those who have voted for it.

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Former president Pranab Mukherjee made an oblique yet sharp observation about the Narendra Modi government in December 2019, when protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act were raging. Mukherjee said, “The Indian electorate has time and again conveyed to the ruling party that goes on to form the government, that yes, they may be entitled to form the government with a majority of the seats won, but they are also to take into consideration all those people who may not have voted for them. The mandate is to govern as a majority party with a stable government, but carry others with you.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a comfortable majority with 303 seats in the Lok Sabha last year, thanks to a 37.6 per cent vote-share. Let’s round it off to 38 per cent. The BJP’s allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won another 7 per cent or so, but the BJP’s treatment of the Shiv Sena (in Maharashtra) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (in Punjab) since then has shown the allies that the votes they bring don’t matter. Narendra Modi only has to ensure that he retains these 38 per cent voters. That’s a very good vote-share in a first-past-the-post system. It will easily ensure Modi’s re-election in 2024.

Modi’s politics, especially in his second term, is all about voter retention as opposed to voter persuasion. He’s not looking to gain new voters. If he can just retain what he has, that’s good enough for him and the BJP.

Also read: Modi govt gave an unwanted gift to farmers. Now it can’t even handle rejection

Polarisation to retain voters

Retaining your voters isn’t easy. They begin to get impatient. They begin to wonder where are the jobs, where’s the money in our pockets, where’s the promised bullet train or the doubled farm income.

One of the ways some politicians seek to retain their voters is through “polarisation”. What is polarisation? It is turning a group of people against another. Us versus them. Divide and rule. The popular understanding of the BJP’s polarisation is that it is Hindu versus Muslim, but for Modi’s immediate electoral concerns, it is 38 per cent versus 62 per cent.

We see this not only in his party’s pursuit of Hindu nationalism but also in the way Modi has dealt with protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) last year and the farm bills this year. If you listen to what farmers protesting at Singhu and Tikri borders of Delhi have to say, you will know about the extreme polarisation in Indian politics. Their complaints with the Modi government only end at the new farm laws. They begin much earlier: where are the promised Rs 15 lakh in our bank accounts? Where are the Achhe Din?

These are clearly not among the 38 per cent who voted for Modi in 2019, or the 31 per cent who voted for him in 2014. They are from the fragmented majority, which didn’t vote for Modi.

Also read:  The unspoken words that help Modi retain public approval

The real Singhu border is in Pratapgarh

On a BJP WhatsApp group in Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh, I see an image of a public meeting organised by the party’s local unit. A UP government minister, Neelkanth Tiwari, and Pratapgarh MP Sangam Lal Gupta are addressing it. The audience is described as “the region’s honoured annadata (food providers)”. It looks like an election-time sabha.

An image shared on a BJP WhatsApp group

What we see in this image is an attempt to make sure that the BJP doesn’t lose any of the 38 per cent vote. The farm laws are not a big issue in Pratapgarh, which is in east UP. Yet the BJP must make sure that the farmers’ protests that the people of Pratapgarh are seeing on TV do not influence the 38 per cent into thinking that the Modi government is in the wrong. Hence the counter-propaganda.

The BJP’s response to the CAA protests was similar. I met BJP workers in Phulpur near Allahabad in February 2020 who told me they had been tasked to go door to door and make people sign in support of the CAA, which was presented to them mainly as a measure to give citizenship to Pakistani Hindus fleeing persecution. The Modi government didn’t care about persuading the anti-CAA protesters, or even trying to talk to them. But it cared about making sure that the 38 per cent understand the Modi government was in the right.

Also read: Farmers’ protest shows Modi’s politics is caught between India’s two middle classes

No votes lost in Punjab and Haryana 

The protesters are mostly from Punjab, a state where the BJP isn’t about to win an election anytime soon.

They are also from Haryana, where the BJP leads a coalition government, but they are predominantly Jats, whose votes the BJP hasn’t sought since at least 2014. The BJP won the Haryana assembly in 2014 with an anti-Jat polarisation, and managed to retain the CM’s chair in 2019 with the support of a regional Jat party, the Jannayak Janta Party. The JJP’s deputy chief minister, Dushyant Chautala, knows he’s committing political suicide by not withdrawing support. But his father is out on parole, which would be cancelled within minutes of withdrawing support to the BJP. His MLAs, enjoying the fruits of power, know that the next election is four years away. Time will heal wounds and even if it doesn’t, who’s to say they’ll win a snap poll?

And so, the BJP with its farm laws has made life difficult even for its allies in Punjab and Haryana. But who needs them? Instead, Modi’s focus is on retaining his 38 per cent. The government did not try to create consensus among these farmers before bringing the laws, but is now going to great lengths to defend the laws. When Modi and his party leaders say these protesters have been “misled”, it is done with the knowledge that such a claim isn’t going to persuade the protesters. But the claim is not intended for the farmers anyway. The aim is to assure the 38 per cent that these foolish people are being misled.

That’s why the BJP is quick to demonise its opponents, both directly and through its proxies on hate TV and social media armies. They are Urban Naxals! They’re Khalistanis! They’re Congressis! They’re pro-Muslim!

When the bid to paint them as Khalistani backfired, it ran the risk of portraying the Modi government as unnecessarily reigniting a dead conflict. That’s the sort of thing even some of its 38 per cent might find distasteful. So, Modi meets Sikh farmers in Gujarat, and he goes to a gurudwara in Delhi. All locations where he gets votes.

A pro-government channel claims to have carried out a survey in which it claims to have found that a “majority” of people support the farm laws. The implication is that those who are in a minority must shut up and carry along with whatever is done to them because the majority thinks it is the right thing. This is not democracy but majoritarianism.

Also read:  Manmohan Singh blundered with Anna movement. Modi is making the same mistake with farmers

Breakdown of trust 

All that the Modi government needs to do is talk to these farmers and find a way to convince them that the minimum support price (MSP) regime won’t be done away with. The government has tried. Unlike Muslims protesting against the CAA, these Sikh and Hindu farmers have at least been given the courtesy of a hearing. The government has made concessions too, willing to make amendments in the laws. Yet if the farmers are not convinced, it’s because there’s no trust. If the 38 per cent have blind faith in Modi, the 62 per cent have no trust. That’s what polarisation does, that’s what polarisation is.

The Modi government’s apathy towards those who didn’t vote for him is so complete that it makes the 62 per cent feel disenfranchised. It’s as if their votes don’t matter. They feel futile even going to the polling booth.

The EVM rigging sentiment today is widespread even among the voters. If you are an election tourist like me, you’ll meet many anti-BJP voters who will tell you, ‘BJP will lose if EVMs are not rigged’. Yet these people vote and no party has boycotted any election so far over EVM doubts. When people complain about EVMs, what they are actually saying is that they feel disempowered and disenfranchised in a political system where the government thinks its job is to govern only those who voted for it. This is a government by the 38 per cent people, of the 38 per cent people and for the 38 per cent people.

This runs contrary to Modi’s claim of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, to which he added ‘Sabka Vishwas’ in 2019. Everyone’s participation, everyone’s development, everyone’s trust. This is standard Modi, neutralising criticism by saying the opposite of what he’s about to do. If he’s about to throw cold water at you, he’ll first give a moving speech about how he wants everyone to bathe in warm water in the winter.

The author is a contributing editor. Views are personal.

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  1. .That’s epic.
    The article lacks logic- a.. out of 67 % polled votes, NDA got 43% (that’s 64% of the voters voted for NDA which had announced it’s PM candidate beforehand!) b. You conveniently assume that rest 33% who didn’t come out to vote/wasted their votes, indeed wanted to vote against Modi .. That’s such a stupid argument.

    The article also questions principle of democracy itself – should party winning more than 50% of the seats be expected to represent the country’s mandate?
    If you were to be good enough Mr. Vij, you would have got an opportunity to devise next system of governance.

    Indeed, likes of you and your desperation is funny. So..Enjoyed reading your meltdown.

  2. Vij conveniently forgets why the corrupt Akalis were thrown under the bus. Their long corrupt makes it a befitting treatment. BJP did right. As for the dynastic Sena and Pawar party, they made their bed and did their corruption to deserve this. Nobody forced them. Blackmailing and corrupt king making by dynastic party will no longer cut it with the electorate.

    • Is the BJP any less corupt Mr Chatterjee? Indeed, a handful of Gujarati corporate interests actually dictate the policy that the Modi government dutifully follows. Remember the award of the Rafale maintenance contract to Anil Ambani who has zero, I repeat zero experience in aerospace manufacturing ? And then the notion that the BJP is any less dynastic than any political party in India is pure nonsense. Modi himself, like Mamta Bannerjee may not have a dynasty after him but the party itself is full of dynasts.

      Corruption in India occures at all levels of society. I simply cannot fathom why you would not regard the award of lucrative contracts to Modi’s crony capitalist backers like Ambani, Adani etc. as corruption. The BJP is no less corrupt that the UPA & the Congress. And in any case, the common man still has to pay bribes for getting basic services in any BJP run state – a fact you choose to ignore.

      Of course, I do not expect blinkered, blind Modi worshippers like you to read the writing on the wall.

  3. Barack Obama famously said that elections have consequences. This is how democracy is supposed to work. The entire article is just BS

  4. Even in 1953 elections congress led by Nehru got only 43% votes , it means it is true that 57 % of Indians rejected Nehru and congress and wants India to be a Hindu country and want to send all Muslims to Pakistan who demanded Islamic nation !! It is true as per Viz argument.

  5. The simple fact is that Modi strategy is working. He will be back again. In Democracy you have to vote him out. Everything else in this article is nonsense and shows frustration from editor.

  6. This is most divisive article I have ever seen. Why not all those representing 62% form an alliance and and oust Modi in next general election? Farmers are being mislead. by people like author. Why not agitating farmers form their association and sell their produce at whatever price they want instead of agitating. Fact of the matter is most States of India is food surplus. So there is no buyers of food grains produced in Punjab and Haryana outside state. . Government can buy . only limited quantity on MSP under food security program. Therefore private companies must be allowed the buy from farmers directly from their farm and sell to food processing industries in India and in International market. This will benefit farmers. In fact people opposed to new farm laws are harming interest of farmers.. This farm law also legalese corporate investment so new technologies can be introduced in our farming. Our yield per hectare is 3-4 time less than China, Germany etc. Increased yield can double farmers income in 1 or 2 years only

  7. What fail to see here is author’s assessment of the farm laws changes is beneficial or not rather than taking a pot shot at everything Modi stands for.

    Modi is taking the political hot potatos and he cannot win every one with his moves

  8. That my friend, will be the case almost always in a multiparty democracy. Do you have a better system for India without violating the constitution? Anybody?

    The system will work only when the road discipline in the country (Self discipline) improves to the highest levels. Also I feel we have to temper our cries for “freedom” of all types to citizens with shouts for responsibilities of each individual.

  9. Shivam Vij, is a habitual critic of Modi. Doeshe know that even Rajiv Gandhis govt with 405 seats only had 43% vote share. No Indian party has ever got a more than 50% vote share to rule India. How do you take along people who do agree with you on anything for their own reasons. It is utopian idea. A party that has the will to implement its agenda is the only capable one to rule India. Appeasement to all is never going to schieve the goals. I dare Shivam Vij to show us when did liberals took along conservatives when they were ruling.

    • Mr Keyur Bhatt: You pontificate:

      “.. Appeasement to all is never going to schieve the goals ..”

      Appeasement to whom Mr Bhatt? The semi-literate, itchy testicled, gomutra drinking Hindutva morons of North India who are pulling India down with their violence ? Isn’t pandering to these clowns the appeasement that happens today?

  10. you r ok when Lalu and Mulayam polarized votes on Y-M combination and won elections the same way as congress used minorities as vote banks, but when BJP did the same on different combination, u see a problem. People like u with these type of articles r the real reason why Modi is winning elections.

  11. I can understand your frustrations. Week after week you are required to write an anti BJP or anti Hindutva or anti Modi article to keep your job. Week after week, readers, in the comments section here, ridicule you. Ekla Chole Re is not quite your cup of tea, in spite of your Che Guevara looks.

  12. Isn’t the respected journalist aware that the 38% votes it won in 2019 general election is against the vote percentage of 67.4%. When converted into 100%, one can assume that the vote share of BJP is around 56%.

  13. Democracy works on principal of majority not in terms of percentage of votes. Pls understand this very basic and fundamental principle of Indian democracy. Rajiv gandhi got 400 + number of seats , highest so far , but did he ever got 50 percent of votes? It is possible in two party system only. In multi party system , multi culture system, it is very difficult. Mocking for getting less than 50 percent shows ignorance and intolerance to people’s verdict .

  14. As usual you are only writing from your point of view. The protestors has shown lot of rigidity and stubbornness in asking complete repeal of the law. Same was the case with CAA. If they are not willing to talk and engage nothing can be done. If Majority is not suppose to impose its view on others, definitely other way is also not possible. 5% cannot force their view on others. It is evident that majority of farmers are not part of this protest and has nothing to do with it. In that case what right these groups have to enforce their illogical view onto others?

  15. This is a non sensical article.MSP has been promised by the government in all rounds of negotiations but the farmers are adamant that the laws needs to be repealed.If you are talking about 38% brute majority then why is farmers of two states who have large land holdings and are actively enmeshed with the mandi mafias are allowed to take hostage the whole country and should all farmers small landowners especially be sacrificed the altar of these misguided protests

  16. Very petty article and it goes against Theprint’s standards of un-hyphenated journalism. Majority is a majority and 1st past the post is agreed and the election is over, there is no reason to try and label the mandate as a 38% vote….

    Frankly such journalists are the ones who take sides on political differences and colour the views of the readed.

  17. It is very surprising that ThePrint has come out with an article titled— “A government of the 38% people, by 38% of the people, for 38% of the people “”. Does a contributing editor of ThePrint even does not know the basic principle of the democracy that when a Government is elected by the voters in a closely fought election , the Government so -formed has full legitimacy and can not be called or described as A MINORITY GOVERNMENT , representing sub-50 % of the voters . The governments in the Parliamentary set up get and maintain its authenticity by enjoying support of more than 50 % of the Members of the Legislative Chamber– be it Loksabha , Vidhan Sabha or House of Commons.
    One of major problem with many of Indian journalists is that that they have lost their thinking faculties for being too much time at the feet of erst-while ruling Dynasty. Over the years they have developed their writing skills in praise of Dynasty and down grading the opponents of the dynasty even When Voters of India since mid 1980 s have been in search of any good icon / political outfit who replace corrupt and inefficient conglomeration established by a Britisher A.O Humes at the fag end of 19th century , which developed into a Family Run Unit masquerading as a political party. . Such tribe of journalist can not see and report any good work done by the leadership that has obtained confidence of the common voters twice since 2014 . In any democratic set up voters are the ultimate judge , not journalists with tinted glasses. Remember, Some weeks earlier Bihar s voters have given verdict. Reports from even J& K in lower local levels are also indicating the change in people s perspective. So be sure Dynasty or any member of it , is not coming to adorn the hot-seat at PMO at any time in future. Also note and remember that For the first time since 1952, After 2024 , Loksabha will be one when NO MEMBER FROM NEHRU DYNASTY will be member of Loksabha There is no restriction on writing but , write as a independent journalist , not a propagandist of political rivals of any party. Better join that party as active member. Politics is much lucrative profession than journalism with NO MORAL RESTRICTIONS or CODE OF CONDUCT , as has been being practised in India.

  18. Nothing wrong in caring for who voted him. Others are also getting benefitted by good schemes. But ant BJP will find fault in all the good schemes too. It isi the same issue for all other parties in power, Most of the unbiased journalist have accepted that there is not musch resentment aggainst farm laws in other states except Punjab,part of the western UP and part of Haryana.

  19. While at it, can you also inform your friends and colleagues to stop the majoritarian narrative. This is a minority government for the minority by the minority by your logic. The argument of majority seats in parliament clearly doesn’t matter and does suit your narrative. Thanks.

  20. Thank You God for bringing Narendra Modi in our lives, along with Amit Shah. These squeals that we hear all around from the world of commies is a sound we waited to hear for 70 years. Thank You God. Thank You Modi. Thank You Amit Shah.

  21. All this would sound authentic if similar arguments were made about Congress making constitution Secular and Socialist with below 40% vote.

  22. Mr. Shivam . I am part of that 38% and I don’t need Modi to explain to me what he has done is right. It is clearly visible in the news that he has confirmed that MSP is not affected by these laws and he has told many times he is ready to meet them. Then why are these guys blocking the road. Already too much is given for the farmer from the tax people like me has paid. 30% of my income is going as tax to feed people like this and finally I won’t even get a pension when I am old. I feel this is injustice than what the farmer is going through.

  23. The logical jumps you make, the unarticulated volley of incoherent assumptions in each paragraph is baffling. As a bare minimum, you would expect an article to make a point, but it’s more about Modi’s tactics than the government (doesn’t match with article title). If the issue is mistrust between farmers and govt, that is understandable, but that’s doesn’t have an equivalence with the more sinister eyeball catching title.

  24. The level of Your journalism as agenda represents just less 0.00000001% for less than 0.000000001%, by 0.00000001 of total news readers🤜🤜🤜

  25. Ha ha, why don’t you try an election. By the way he will get 350 seat in 2024, article abhi likh lo..
    It’s such a fun to poke you

  26. there is not even one word about what changes and reforms are needed in Indian agriculture, why did policies followed over 70 years have failed agriculture and why did all parties, experts asked the very reforms that Government did and why those who are protesting do NOT even want to accept amends. it is lutyen, jnu, leftist who have held India back and imposed their views on country and Modi did right by not caring for such a small minority

  27. Even going by your standards , A 38% government for 85% of people is better than 25% Congress government working for 15% of people. Congress doesn’t give political power to hindus, Look at the top decision making body or PMs of Congress, you will hardly find a hindu who has power. COngress is minority welfare party.

  28. Hindus who are 80% population have a say, Look at congress it never gave power to hindus, only non hindus and atheists were made PMs ( barring PVN) and it rules with 25% of the vote. Congress doesn’t work for hindus.

  29. What does this make Congress, AAP, and Leftist-Communist Parties. non-Government of 14% is holding India hostage.

  30. Why you feel those 38% who voted for Modi are foolish?

    Where were you hiding when congress was doing appeasement politics for votes for so many years?

    Why you should not be labelled as Anti BJP and Pro congress Media house?

  31. So,

    Only 38% Indians wanted Article 370 to be repealed?

    Only 38% Indians wanted CAA?

    Only 38% Indians wanted Ayodhya Temple?

    You must be fooling yourself.

  32. Shivam, next time please apply your mind.
    First past the post system means that governments the world over and time and again have been formed with less than 50% vote – even in two party systems!
    As for your gripe about the majority view being unacceptable, ah well, make a decision- do you want a democracy or simply “whatever Shivam thinks is right”?

  33. Very original piece of thinking (and writing). But who will unite the 62%. You yourself have run down all the opposition many, many times. Where is the room for compromise? The centrist parties which work on compromise and taking people along have been delegitimised by “liberal” media outlets such as yourself. The “38%” are sold to Modi just like many media and business houses – they will support him come what may. The rest of the “62%” such as yourself (and Mr Ramchandra Guha) will keep blaming Rahul Gandhi and wringing your hands in despair. Between the two of you most of poor India has been condemned to unending poverty and most of middle-class India has been left with no option but to become slaves of the rich industrialists (and their children).

  34. This is way better than a government working for only gnadhi family. People in Press and India who voted for Gandhi’s deserve’s this kind of treatment..because you wanted aristocracy…now democracy stings you. Good.

    No self Respecting Democrat would have kept quiet when Manmohan Singh was kept as a puppet, ridiculing democracy, where were these writers of columne and Media houses when ED was after those who didnt budge for Gandhi family wishes? Now same tactics is being used and you guys are up in arms….. People like me who cried when India was reduced to Banana Republic when Sonia Gandhi was refused Prime Minstership. This is what you get and how deserving it is.

    Ofcourse this BJP government are not Paragon of Democracy atleast there is a semblance of democracy.

  35. When 6% of Indian farmers putting ransom and taking lead in controlling entire farming community, you are talking about elected PM (not appointed PM through back door) having majority with more than 350 seats. This 8s the worst type journalism ever. I would possibly not go with subscription to this media which I was considering. You cannot be going against one individual to paint everyone in bad picture. Please understand that BJP is not a dynasty party.

    • Exactly! This guy Shivam “shoots from the hip” and hopes that someday by sheer luck he will hit the target. Amazing that, ostensibly, Shivam gets paid to write nonsense. Now, in the age of extremely poor journalism stringing together a few sentences without grammatical errors is applaud worthy, but, still there should be a nonsense filter and as such Shivam Vij you are the poster child of how unfair society is. Getting paid to write grammatically correct nonsense.

  36. For those who don’t have the time to read the full article, let me give a brief summary: “blah, blah, blah, …. “

  37. What the author is saying is true for all parties in India. Every regional party polarises a state based on cast and appeases muslims and don’t care about the remaining population knowing fully well they don’t need those votes. Congress is a master of this technique which they promptly improvised from the British. Even this author wouldn’t care a damn about others if his favorite political party is voted to power. Hippocracy everywhere

  38. Included in that 38% are some fantastic figures. More than 50% of the popular vote in Haryana. Is it possible some of that may now have melted away.

    • most of your comments are nonsensical. I have seldom seen you taking any position. I hope you dont run your household the same way that you comment here. be decisive!

  39. Europe encouraged one community and now suffering for that. CAA is just registering Indian citizens and avoiding dangerous neighborhood.

  40. The folly is to assume only 38 percent agree with the decisions. 38 percent might vote for Modi (which by the way puts him in a much higher league barring 2 or 3 elections where the congress got more than 40 percent… 1984 included) but survey after survey also shows a much broader support for his decisions. Forget decisions, when asked if they are satisfied with him, over two-thirds say yes… Now if that is the case why do only about half that number vote for him? That’s because people have their own priorities. Just because I like a scheme or decision doesn’t override other priorities that might rank higher for me.

    So please do not conflate voting preferences and agreement on policy decisions. But then expecting better logic from provocateurs like Vij and Jyoti is a bit too much.

  41. Two argument for this leftist Vij..
    First in democratic history of India no prime minister got more then 50 percent vote. So are we going to question legitimacy of every decision they made.
    Second let’s do a thought experiment .Majority of Indian don’t pay taxes but they want government to take taxes from minority of people who do well in life financially. Is it wrong .Should we give veto to every ?Is it practical?.

    If we have accepted the first-past-the-post system, let us respect it. A majority government cannot be dictated by the opposition with arguments of the 38% people, by 38% of the people, for 38% of the people.
    We the voters have in our wisdom have elected this government to govern and govern as mandated in the constitution. It should listen to all the views but the final decision has to be it’s own. Right or wrong they will have to accept the responsibility and necessary pay the price, not the 62% unable succeed in the first-past-the-post system.
    Listening to all the voices including being called CHOR or DANDA MARENGE , TDIPAR, DANGABABU is enough so long as they are not put behind bars. However if they are to be investigated for the allegation of corruption of the past, it should not be linked to such expression of opinion.



    Wherever “THE FAMILY ” was in direct contest with BJP they lost badly. Hence if BJP had one to one fight they would have probably got more than 70 percent votes.

    By the way there is a stale piece of pizza in our fridge for you. MAMMAMIA!!!!!

  45. 38% is half a billion people. 100 million families. Unless Surjit Bhalla does the survey, unlikely they are doing better economically, eating nutritious food, their children’s school uniforms are neatly ironed. The families for whom Din aur Raat are now more Achhe than they were in 2014 could be no more than a few million. They too are prospering despite, not because of. Given this vast overhang of economic deprivation, for which there are no good, objective reasons – like the coronavirus, which explains the pain of 2020 – the strobe lights cannot go on forever. Nothing succeeds like success for a while. Then the coin flips over.

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