A day before Bharat Bandh, BJP national executive meet mentioned petrol price hike just once.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a clear message for his colleagues at the BJP’s two-day national executive meet: “Don’t get trapped in the issues being raised by the opposition. Don’t respond to them. Let’s talk about our own issues.”
The top decision-making body of the ruling party followed his advice to every syllable as it skirted issues that the Congress or other opposition parties have been raising—rising fuel prices, unemployment, alleged Rafale scam, or falling Rupee.
Human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar was stumped when a witty reporter interrupted his long drawl about Modi’s Naya Bharat of 2022: “What will be the price of petrol in 2022?” The minister tried to fob him off, muttering unintelligible sentences about purchasing power parity and claiming lower inflation rate during the NDA regime as compared to the UPA’s.
That was the only time the petrol price hike was mentioned at the BJP’s national executive meeting, a day before the opposition parties’ ‘Bharat Bandh’ on this issue. No more questions asked and none answered at the event in Ambedkar Bhawan in the national capital.
A few days ago, upper caste organisations had given a call for a Bharat Bandh against the NDA government’s act of getting parliamentary approval to nullify the Supreme Court’s dilution of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The signs of resentment among the upper castes threaten to scuttle Modi’s attempt to redefine the BJP—from a Brahmin-Baniya party to an all-inclusive party headed by an OBC Prime Minister with a ‘sabka saath sabka vikaas’ philosophy.
The debate over the SC/ST Act exposed the central fault lines in Modi’s BJP: that it can’t be the political custodian of the upper castes and also seek votes for an OBC Prime Minister while competing with Mayawati to bring about socio-economic and political parity for the scheduled castes.
The BJP is in power in 20 states today but it can’t wish away these caste fault lines. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his Rajasthan counterpart, Vasundhara Raje, are feeling these pangs more acutely, but the party’s national executive didn’t allow this issue to divert attention from paeans being sung about Modi-Amit Shah ‘jodi’.
It was a landscape of aspirational fantasy that the ruling party painted in their resolution at the meet—a Naya Bharat in which the BJP could gloat over the likely commissioning of a “daughter of a chaiwalla” from Bhopal as a fighter pilot, a 19-year-old from a Rajasthan village running his tractor with remote control, and a daughter of a rickshaw-puller from Maharashtra getting an impressive rank in the civil service examination. All this, thanks to the NDA government that has created the New India!
The “Resolution on New India” also included:
“Corruption, once endemic to Indian system has largely disappeared from public domain.”
“New fiscal policies of our government have made both India and Indians richer. There used to be a time when India was called a poor country….”
“In just four years’ time, India has emerged as a united and strong nation. The government is respected within India as well as outside. We have had a record four years of riot-free India.”
“In the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has now become a country, which now decides the global agenda.”
Reading all this, why on earth would anyone need to discuss the mundane and banal issues like petrol price hike? The last national executive meeting in Delhi in September last year had witnessed a chorus in support of demonetisation. A year later, as 99.3 per cent of the demonetised currency returned to the banking system, the BJP’s top decision-making body stated:“Four years ago, we inherited a crumbling, corrupt and crony capitalist economy…. It called for some harsh action, the kind that the Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter called ‘creative destruction’…. Demonetisation, GST, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code – IBC, etc. are such measures.”
Now who was talking about “foreign economists”?
With apparently everything going so hunky-dory in India, the focus was naturally on the ‘negative’ mindset of the opposition at the ruling party meet. The Prime Minister tore into the so-called mahagathbandhan or grand anti-BJP alliance for its “Stop Modi” mission. Only, that there is no mahagathbandhan in place nor is there any likelihood of it. Some opposition parties might have state-specific alliances but so will the BJP.
No wonder, BJP president Amit Shah was confident of not just winning the next general elections in 2019 but also of ruling the country for the next 50 years. There was, therefore, no need for the ruling party to respond to any questions. There was one word that defined the two-day meet of the BJP: ‘Chutzpah’. Heck, if you don’t like it!
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