File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah | Kamal Singh/PTI
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah | Photo: Kamal Singh | PTI
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India’s political scenario today is unprecedented. All political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, still seem dazed by the recent Lok Sabha election verdict. 

The 2019 polls truly stand alone — there is no comparable election, nor identifiable pattern. This is not the first time results have stumped parties and pollsters; those who have been watching elections for the past four decades are familiar with political quakes. But the way social and political forces are shaping up this time is new. 

The BJP’s domination today is complete. The coming assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Delhi may stir some interest, but the results are written on the wall. The media will probably whip up some superficial suspense and social media will tango and troll, but the mystery is gone.

It is not as if the so-called observers and experts have been able to decipher this. While there has been much ‘psychoanalysis’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, there has hardly been any mapping of what the next five years might be like. 

Can history predict the future?

Indira Gandhi’s stunning victory in March 1971 did change the character of the Indian polity. It was the first time the term ‘wave’ gained political currency, with Indira Gandhi sweeping to power on the back of the “Garibi Hatao” slogan. Eight months later came the Bangladesh Liberation War, further cementing Indira’s status.

But just two years after that, India was hit by an economic crisis following the sharp rise in global crude oil prices. This was further compounded by the ‘century’s worst drought’, leading to widespread famine. 


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Massive social unrest followed, bringing to the national stage the phenomenon called Jayaprakash Narayan (JP). Political confrontation between JP and Indira, and the structural deadlock between the state and the emerging forces led to the Emergency. 

Indira’s authoritarianism is often compared with Modi’s autocratic style. But the two leaders, as also their times, are very different. 

Indira and Sanjay Gandhi’s defeat in Raebareli and Amethi in March 1977 was shocking, but the polity was not drastically changed. The JP movement and the Janata Party were rooted in the overall Congress culture. Jayaprakash provided continuity to the legacy of the freedom movement and then-Prime Minister Morarji Desai with Jagjivan Ram reflected the Congress ethos.

Although the JP movement’s popularity among the youth cannot be compared with the frenzy for Narendra Modi today, one common factor is the search for a drastic change by breaking the old shibboleths and the readiness to plunge into the unknown. Today, a large number of Indian youth may be driven by radical ‘anti-Muslim Hindutva’, but their life’s aspirations are material, not spiritual.

They might be swayed by the idea of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, influenced by polarised sentiments, but frenzies by definition are like tides. The strong tidal waves do create fright, but once they start retreating, the stark reality of the coastal damage and disruption caused by them becomes visible. 


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Party will need new causes 

The coming assembly elections may provide an interregnum of sorts, but once they are over, the economic cyclone and the financial-institutional crash will become visible. Raids by the Enforcement Directorate or the Income Tax department on the Vadras and the Chidambarams may help score some brownie points, but they won’t hide the non-performing assets of the banks. 

Further attacks on the Congress or the Nehru-Gandhi family will not rescue the BJP from political twisters, since the Congress will not be seen as a political challenge anyway. The party’s position is similar to one of confusion and puzzlement while regaining consciousness after being in a state of coma.

The looming economic disaster can’t be overcome by Hindutva, or by blaming Indian Muslims or by accusing Pakistan of supporting terrorism.

Campaigns against ‘love jihad’ or ‘anti-national’ intellectuals will cease to have the sting. Elections in West Bengal may provide some space for violent communal polarisation, but its life span will be limited. 

The shock therapies like demonetisation or even surgical strikes will not make headlines anymore. Bringing back Vijay Mallya or Nirav Modi may get some dramatic moments for the likes of Arnab Goswamis and Rajat Sharmas, but fewer and fewer viewers will tune in for the dead horse stories. 

The invincible duo and new ‘Hindu Emperors’, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, will have no such helplines — the Congress, Rahul Gandhi, Hindutva, Pakistan — to play the game. Their ‘skills’ in headline management or theatrical foreign trips will lose colour. 


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The known and the unknown

Whatever happens, the BJP will not split. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will retain its hold over many institutions. The Election Commission will continue to be tame. The judiciary will remain cooperative and responsible, as recent communications between the Chief Justice of India and the Prime Minister show. The Reserve Bank of India will play ball in cutting or not cutting interest rates. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will be cooperative like the ED and the I-T department. The media, by and large, will remain embedded. 

What no one can predict are the various international configurations. What US President Donald Trump will do and how global trade will affect India’s imports and exports. What will Pakistan or its non-state actors do and how India will react. What will happen in our neighbourhood and how China will impact the world and India.

The spectre of anarchy cannot be wished away by the oratorical skills of Narendra Modi, the ruthless strategies of Amit Shah and NSA Ajit Doval or even the diplomatic trapeze of Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar. 

The country has been plunged into an uncertain future, even as its past is being reconstructed. That is perhaps the reason why the political class and the experts appear bewildered. They, too, have entered the dark cave without a candle.

The author is a former editor and Congress member of Rajya Sabha. Views are personal.

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19 Comments Share Your Views

19 COMMENTS

  1. India needs a great renaissance!
    All democratic forces must come together! They must seek full constitutional democracy in India!
    Judiciary appears to failing badly in upholding constitution!
    The young and very young need to be educated about world history, indian history, the birth and death of fascism and national socialism of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler,
    And the need to work for progress and development of the country and of the people by upholding our constitutional democracy and the rights to freedom and liberty, the necessity to move away from crony capitalism, use of developing technologies to expose corruption, contracts, defence purchases, glorification of armed forces, perpetuation of boundary disputes and the issue of Kashmir.
    The longer the democratic forces fail to come together and inculcate democratic values and begin struggles for upholding and protecting democratic rights, a free ballot, a free press, the right to assembly and protest, the longer the darkness continues!
    Amen!

  2. Bhakts replies are limited to focusing on modis electoral victory and just blame games and asking for evidences even though they are available on their faces (gdp, international loans, npa’s etc)

  3. Ultimately economy will be the decider! Uncertainty due to technology environment and uncertainity due to emerging trade wars and conflicts will play important role! Modi shah leadership has so far not shown IR spoken about these problems!

  4. Modi’s victory is not a true reflection of the quality of work he has done during the past five years. The victory was procured by propaganda and sectarian appeal. He needs more propaganda and more sectarian action to remain in power. Like a ponsi scheme it will collapse one day.

  5. While Kumar as usual is hoping for worst to happen under Modi, what he has not considered is that Modi has enough policy options to improve economy that will ensure BJP returns to power in 2024. Kumar is too blinded by his anti Modi position and cannot think straight. It is sad that ThePrint is giving space to such low IQ articles by him.

  6. From what Ketakar is saying about impending crisis then Indian electorate made the right choice. You need strong leadership to face tough times. USSR needed Stalin to face Nazi onslaught, a Gorbachev or a Yeltsin type leader would have cost USSR the war.

  7. BJP IT CELL DOGS AR3 BARKING AT EVERY ARTICLE WITH TRUTH ABOUT DISASTER THAT MODI SHAH CREATED WITH JHUMLA FRAUD WITH ECONOMY AND FREE INDEPENDENT THINKERS WHO NOW GIVE VIEWS LIKE A TAMED DOG TO A CHAIWALA MASTER TO RUN A VAST COUNTRY WITH MILLION VIEWS, LIKE THESE BJP IT CELL DOGS WONT TRUST THEIR CHILD WITH A CHAIWALA DOCTOR BUT THEY WONT MIND LEAVING INDIA IN HANDS OF A MURDERER COMMUNAL NAZI LOVING BROTHERS. INDIA DESERVES SUCH DISASTER. ONLY WITH OUR DESTRUCTION WE WILL LEARN FROM OUR WRONG CHOICES

  8. According to Shri Ketkar, no one could predict the 2019 results. If that be correct, how can he predict 2024? Why does The Print hurt its own credibility by giving this “once upon a time” journalist a forum to display his sychophancy to his masters?

  9. There are few facts and some worries on author’s part. But as expected, MR. Ketkar’s unrelenting love for the Gandhi family and hence his heavily biased options paint a very unlikely picture (actually i have a feeling that this is his wishful thinking). So much so that he would not care much if there is an economical crisis as long as it helps Congress to come back in the game. MR Ketkar, you are an intelligent person and i have read & admired your non congress / Gandhi / BJP involvement writing. so please get out of that nonsensical synchopancy mode and write. We would like to read some really true thoughtful writing.

    • Ketkar doesn’t understand that he is a ‘Pidi’ in whatever way it is understood: (1) Rahul’s dog OR (2) a minnow on political landscape OR perhaps both. He thinks that a person who has risen the ranks to become the PM of India will just let things slip out of his hands. It won’t be a fallacy to state that Modi got rattled by Rahul Gandhi in last 2 years of his first term, and perhaps one of the reasons was the long shadow of this Gandhi family looming large over Indian politics, and the uncertainty about which way the voters of this complex democracy lean. That’s settled now. Modi seems to be like an athlete who doesn’t like to be called a fluke (just one victory and then downhill), and now that he has won decisively, hopefully he will govern better.

  10. Indeed it is time to take the bull by the horns, and squarely address economic concerns, instead of shedding crocodile tears over divorced Muslim women.

  11. Even thinking what are all dreamt by this writer, I don’t think that there will be emergency followed by victory of pappu. The writer may be one among psppu’s serfs. Hope he does not dream further.

  12. Concern of Author Commendable.not diagnosis. Frankly speaking political elite of both Nationalparties are clueless and unable to grasp the economic issues particularly international factors.So the Author and persons like him should attempt to comeout with actionable suggestions.No point in saying Govt will not liste. It should be and can be made to listen provided u dont have a bipartisan approach.

  13. This “sold out” commentator is not ot be trusted. But he can dream on for a bright sunny morning with RG as the prime minister with himself prostrate at his feet!

  14. It would be wise now to focus almost exclusively on the economy, to treat the stunning recent victory as a moment of empowerment to do solid work, not as an endorsement of economic and other results delivered in the first term. Political capital will never be higher in the next five years, nor the opposition so feeble and overcome by self doubt. Reforms undertaken now would have time to play out and bear fruit by 2024. In a country of India’s size and complexity, something or the other keeps going wrong in some part of the country. Difficult to sustain high popularity ratings. The economic team needs a few stars. More candid conversations with India Inc. a sincere effort to win back the trust and confidence of foreign investors. As the column notes, some things are beyond or control. How the trade wars will play out, major conflict in the middle east. However, for the incumbent, the Sun is shining. Fix the roof with both hands.

  15. Kumar ketkar indulging in bootlicking. These people make the voters like us – frustrated by modi’s lethargy – vote for BJP

    • That makes no sense. If you were frustrated by Modi’s lethargy, how did the attitude of authors such as Mr Ketkar induce you to vote for that same lethargic Modi?

  16. Only claims and heavily biased opinions. Do you think if Congress would have won the scenario would have been different. The picture is if they try and Truly try and inspire then India will prevail on global scale and so would the BJP.

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