As the euphoria has settled down over Modi’s 2014 win, BJP and RSS are worried about the disillusionment over the NDA regime that has crept in.
Almost four years ago, after Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as the chief minister of Maharashtra, the mood in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was of hysterical euphoria. The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were humiliatingly routed.
NCP supremo Sharad Pawar had tried to wear a brave face. He wished Fadnavis a successful tenure. He also warmly congratulated Narendra Modi. Two months later, Modi paid his first visit outside New Delhi to Baramati, Pawar’s residential fort. Modi described Pawar as his guru, particularly in agriculture. The bonhomie made the Congress leadership in the state uncomfortable. There was even talk of breaking the alliance with NCP.
The Congress was so demoralised by the shock defeat, in Lok Sabha as well as assembly elections, that it was politically paralysed. Even small time ‘karyakartas’ of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the TV-debates-driven loud-mouth intellectuals of the Sangh Parivar were saying that Modi has convincingly made the country “Congress-Mukt”. Modi had his private army of commentators too who were declaring that he would remain PM until 2029 (a supposed victory in both 2019 and 2024 elections).
End of the euphoria?
Four years later, the mood in the Mumbai Metropolis is considerably sombre. Forget 2029, the Parivar is not sure of making it even in 2019 now. “We may not get the absolute majority again, yes, the 2014 wave has receded, but the NDA will surely form the government and Modi will become Prime Minister again,” says the Parivar.
The nervousness in the BJP ranks has now begun to spread further as reports of a huge setback in the five assembly elections have started coming in.
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The actual results Tuesday may bring the euphoria back in the BJP if they win 5-0, or even 3-2. If they lose, the karyakartas and embedded TV anchors will go into deep depression.
The language of “15-year (or even 10-year) Modi Rule” has suddenly disappeared from the discourse. From BJP getting “shat-pratishat” — cent per cent majority — of 300 plus seats to the NDA getting 250 is indeed a big climb down. Even the hardcore Modi ‘bhakts’ are in panic over that prospect.
In some corporate conference halls and political gossip drawing rooms, the speculation has also begun, who will be RSS’s choice to replace Modi. Rajnath Singh or Nitin Gadkari? They rule out L.K. Advani or Arun Jaitley. Sushma Swaraj has already declared her retirement.
There are some who are even hyper-speculating opposition victory and don’t rule out Rahul Gandhi as the prime minister. That is as wild a prognosis as there can be.
In reality, the endgame has not yet started.
The new strategy
The Modi government and the RSS are trying to change the mood by deploying the other means. It is obviously not a coincidence that the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal’s alleged middleman was brought to India on the eve of last poll in Rajasthan. The so-far failed attempts of whipping up Hindu-Muslim tension, by starting a Rath Yatra again or the alleged murder of a police officer in Bulandshahr, are all aimed at diverting the campaign from Rafale scam, unemployment, high fuel prices, among so many other issues.
Yet why should they fear now? Well, if the luck (some say EVMs) favours them, they still could come back with their own majority and make their messiah prime minister again!
So much is supposed to depend on these five assembly elections — the so-called ‘semifinals’. But does it really?
The first NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee made the mistake of extrapolating the assembly results and advance the Lok Sabha elections to May 2004. They lost and the UPA came to power. Late Pramod Mahajan took the responsibility of the defeat even as Vajpayee thought of it as a result of the Gujarat mayhem in 2002.
The point is: though the elections are just about five months away, the campaign themes are still not set. The faith in Modi’s image and its impact is still the only reliable “weapon” in the BJP armoury. The huge expectations and aspirations of 2014, particularly of the middle classes, the widespread anti-Muslim sentiment, the frustration with the UPA-II, truly wild promises of bringing foreign bank deposits and destroying the black money regime have led to widespread disillusionment.
The struggle now is between image and reality, promise and performance, slogans and sanity, and truth and hype. The results of the five assembly elections will lift the curtains but the sinister suspense will remain. Anything could happen over the next five months.
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