Barkha Dutt says Narendra Modi has a problem or two. Actually four.

In the latest episode of News ka Juice, Barkha Dutt says that Modi, once considered invincible, is suddenly faced with unexpected political challenges and obstacles.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a problem.

Or two.

Or, more accurately, four.

The first was obvious. In his interview to news agency ANI,

By ruling out an immediate ordinance for a mandir in Ayodhya,

Modi could not have made the Sangh Parivar too happy.

Remember what RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said in December?

And, sure enough, an official RSS tweet swiftly tailed the Modi interview…

Reminding him that they expected a temple in this term.

Given the furious whispers that the Sangh is unhappy with Modi and Amit Shah…

Modi finds himself in a tight spot.

Suddenly he is not far-Right enough for his core base…

And not centre-Right enough for non-Hindutva voters.

Maybe Modi knows that the Ram mandir has diminishing returns.

Or maybe his hands are tied by the court process.

Either way, the mandir issue is proving to be more of a hurdle than a help.


Which brings us to Problem No 2.

What slogan will Modi fight 2019 on?

In 2014, it was Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.

In 2019, is it nationalism…?



The economy…?

The PM will not or cannot say demonetisation is a mistake.

Agrarian distress and lack of jobs could be a political albatross…

So, what will be his new campaign call?

In the Modi interview…

The 56-inch machismo of the past seemed to have been consciously shelved…

For a more prime ministerial tone.

Not as strident. Gentler, more accommodating.

Remember, the prime minister, in my opinion, is less ideological and more of a legacy seeker.

He has reinvented himself several times in the past.

But if there is a new Modi avatar again, we haven’t seen it clearly yet.

If its centrists and fence-sitters he wants to woo…

What is his new narrative?

So far, he hasn’t offered one and will be judged on the promises of 2014.


Problem No. 3

The downside to being a strongman politician…

Is that everyone is waiting for you to trip and fall.

Within the BJP, and especially among allies, both old ones and potential partners…

Narendra Modi and his second in-command Amit Shah have instilled fear but no liking.

Allies have begun to assert themselves…

Nitish Kumar extracted an equal number of seats for himself in Bihar…

Uddhav Thackeray wants the Sena to get the chief minister’s post in Maharashtra…

There is simmering discontent among the Akalis.

Channels are already open between regional parties in the northeast and south to create a block within the larger NDA.

If Modi’s numbers fall below 200…

The allies may push back.

What they say privately today could become public.


And, finally,

Narendra Modi’s Problem No. 4…

Rahul Gandhi.

In the last few months, Gandhi has been setting the agenda…

And the BJP has been responding, and reacting.

In many ways, Rahul Gandhi has learnt to use the Modi playbook against him.

The power of the photo op, for instance…

Was a Modi specialty.

Then came the hug…

And the wink.

And, suddenly, Rahul too had captured the headlines.

The relentless focus on Rafale…

Has also worked at the level of political rhetoric…

Yes, most people neither understand the details…

And, almost no one knows how to pronounce it.

But the discussion in Parliament…

Has brought the fighter jet deal back into the headlines.

Rahul’s narrative seems to be rooted in his suit-boot ki sarkar swipe.

His aim…

Make the voter belief that the BJP is soft on big business while poor farmers are driven to suicide.

The front foot and defensive positions between the BJP and Rahul Gandhi have been swapped.

In 2014, Modi was the message…

In 2019, we await a new message and a new Narendra Modi.