The so-called TINA question has started getting traction after the series of by-election defeats for the BJP.
Most political observers and commentators have been arguing since the last one year that the 2019 elections will be fought on the TINA, or ‘There is no Alternative’, factor.
After saying ‘Modi forever’, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have started acknowledging that the political chessboard may have been flipped. So, the TINA campaign has been propped up as a defensive strategy.
It is obvious that Narendra Modi, or Namo, is the focal point of 2019. But our “desi” columnists have now started saying that a Modi-led BJP may not get a clear majority on its own. Pollsters like CSDS-Lokniti too have begun questioning the invincibility of Modi.
TINA and 1971
Till early 2017, particularly after the BJP’s landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh election, almost everyone was confident that Modi could not be dislodged and would win 2019 convincingly. There was no question of an alternative.
The so-called TINA question has started getting traction after the series of by-election defeats for the BJP. The ‘mahagatbandhan’, which was ridiculed after Nitish Kumar broke ranks with the opposition and joined the NDA, is suddenly being seen as a possible threat after Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav appeared serious in fighting the BJP together.
A rhetorical question almost simultaneously has started doing the rounds – ‘If not Modi, who? Mayawati or Mamata? Or, that eternal Pappu?’.
The fence-sitters or the Modi sceptics are being urged to vote for Modi because there would be anarchy otherwise!
There are some who have started comparing the current scenario with 1971. The Grand Alliance (of the Jana Sangh, the Swatantra Party, the Congress (O), the Sanjukta Socialist Party (SSP), and the Praja Socialist Party) campaigned extensively in its bid to defeat Indira Gandhi. Their slogan was “Indira Hatao”. Indira retorted, “I say ‘Garibi Hatao’, they want Indira Hatao”.
The Grand Alliance, then known as the “Badi Aghadi”, was miserably routed. Many are quick to say that the ‘mahagatbandhan’ would suffer the same fate as the Grand Alliance of 1971 and Modi will emerge victorious like Indira did. But the detractors of this analogy say that neither the situations nor the personalities, Modi and Indira, are comparable.
Where did it all start?
The so-called TINA factor did not become part of the political discourse even after renowned American journalist Welles Hangen published his book After Nehru, Who? in 1963. He had suggested eight possible names – Morarji Desai, Krishna Menon, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Y.B. Chavan, S.K. Patil, Jayaprakash Narayan and Indira Gandhi. Even Brij Mohan Kaul, the chief of general staff in the Indian Army, figured in the list.
These names did become part of drawing room discussions, but never heated debates, despite the towering leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru. Except for Modi and his strident followers, nobody compares him with Nehru or his stature. Nehru did not even leave a note, forget a will, to name his successor.
Shastri became the Prime Minister, notwithstanding Morarji’s combative claim. Shastri’s sudden death did force an intra-party electoral contest between Morarji and Indira. But Indira’s resounding victory against Morarji set the course.
The Janata Party victory in 1977 led to an intense controversy over the PM position – Morarji claimed the coveted post even as many in the party suggested that Jagjivan Ram should become the first Dalit PM (JP favoured his name) while the MPs from Uttar Pradesh demanded that Charan Singh be the first ‘farmer’ PM.
Two years later, Charan Singh toppled Morarji but could not establish majority, thereby paving way for a mid-term election, which Indira won with a massive majority.
Despite so many political transitions in the last several decades, never has the issue of ‘who next’ become as pressing as it is made out to be today.
There were crises, of course, when V.P. Singh had to resign just after 11 months in power and Chandra Shekhar took over in late 1990, or when Deve Gowda had to resign after 10 months and Inder Kumar Gujral became the PM.
A calculated campaign
But the “After Modi, Who?” is a notion that Modi and his supporters have been able to inject in media and a large section of intelligentsia.
No wonder then that a calculated rumour-mongering has been triggered. According to this rumour, if the BJP gets less than 200 seats, the party would seek a change in leadership. And, even if the BJP remains the single-largest party, it would be a different NDA than what is now.
So, will Modi become the Prime Minister again? Theoretically yes, if he is able to forge a new NDA and prevent the party from changing its guard. If the BJP-led NDA emerges as the single-largest party, Modi is likely to get the first call to form the government. This move may cause a split in the opposition ranks, if clever bargaining is arrived at.
There are many in the NDA and in the not-yet formed ‘mahagatbandhan’ who are perfectly pliable, and can switch sides. The good horse trader will be in demand.
However, if the BJP wins 300-350 seats as Amit Shah believes, then all this speculation will become redundant. Then, the TINA question will only surface again in 2024, if the five years of governance remain smooth.
But 2024 is too far, even for astrologers to predict anything. The year 2019 will decide not only 2024, but also the future of “New India”!
Kumar Ketkar is a former editor and Congress member of Rajya Sabha.
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