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To suggest that the Bharatiya Janata Party is losing the plot is tantamount to committing sacrilege, if not hara-kiri, for a political journalist today. After all, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has no challenger worth the name. The Opposition is in tatters. The BJP is set to bring down yet another Opposition-led government, in Rajasthan — whether in July or February is just a matter of dates. The Modi government has claimed credit for “saving lakhs of lives” from coronavirus through the nationwide lockdown. Uddhav Thackerays and Mamata Banerjees of the world must account for failures now. The economy seems to be on auto-pilot mode and corona must take the blame. It must, therefore, be preposterous to suggest chinks in the ruling party’s armour.

Yet, something seems amiss. A usually combative PM Modi seemed guarded, if not evasive, during his Mann Ki Baat radio programme on Sunday. The contents of his speech were predictable and staid. More than what he said in the programme what he didn’t say rang louder. His public persona has been built on five pillars — strong and decisive leader; vikas purush or man of development; global statesman; a fakir who keeps his family away to work for others; and a Hindu Hriday Samrat.

The first three pillars seemed to be under stress — conspicuous by what he left unstated in Sunday’s Mann Ki Baat.


Also read: Rahul Gandhi and Congress party can strike a fine balance in taking on Narendra Modi


Three messages in what Modi left unstated

Paying tribute to the armed forces on the 21st Kargil Vijay Diwas, he attacked Pakistan but was silent on China. In fact, what he said about Pakistan — backstabbing and ‘dusht’ or evil nature of fighting for no reason — is applicable to China, too. The Prime Minister skipped any reference to the Chinese intrusions and chose to talk about apricot in Ladakh — quite uncharacteristic of a strong and decisive leader. Even if people are anxious about the situation at the Line of Actual Control, the PM would like them not to forget that what they say would have an impact on the morale of the soldiers and their families. To summarise: ‘Don’t ask questions.’

Modi chose to highlight India’s low Covid mortality rate as compared to many nations but the confidence that oozed in his previous addresses — when he declared the nationwide lockdown and urged people to clang thalis and lit candles — was missing. The fight against covid was left to the people who must wear masks and maintain social distancing. Or so it seemed.

The PM’s how-is-the-josh talks with students who cleared Class XII results with flying colours fitted well with his aspirational politics and vikas purush image. But there was nothing from Modi on why they must stay optimistic about their future, despite the dismal state of the economy and unemployment scenario. Stories about the young pearl cultivators in Bihar or those engaged in self-employment wouldn’t really match up to their aspirations, for sure.

The third element of Modi’s public persona, his image as a global statesman who rubbed shoulders with Donald Trumps and Xi Jinpings of the world, also remained rather understated in his Mann Ki Baat. India is seeking to capitalise on Modi’s global image to isolate China and win over smaller neighbours who seem to be drifting away. But the Prime Minister as also his spin doctors have, of late, been rather discreet in showcasing his global standing.

In the previous edition of his radio programme, he chose to talk about Suriname’s newly elected president taking oath in Sanskrit while holding Vedas in his hand. That’s because Modi appears increasingly isolated in the neighborhood today. Wuhan and Mamallapuram summits didn’t deter Ladakh. While America is a reliable ally, the pandemic has forced powerful nations to hunker down and look inward. It is not a time when the US will play global policeman in India’s border wars. The anger against China over coronavirus handling is a short-window of opportunity for India — economically and strategically. But the way China has delayed and dithered LAC disengagement shows that having us as a friend isn’t going to scare Beijing away. Modi’s global swag isn’t enough to swing things for India.

These three pillars of Narendra Modi’s strength do seem to have developed cracks and damages and the omissions in Sunday’s Mann Ki Baat speech were an indirect acknowledgement of that.


Also read: All parties promise ‘achhe din’. But only BJP has the 3 Ms that make it stand apart


BJP’s power politics and hole in Modi’s fakir image

The fourth element of the Prime Minister’s public persona is the image of a selfless leader who has devoted his life to the nation, leaving his family behind. It struck a sharp contrast to dynastic parties whose purported primary goal is to serve certain families, and not the people.

That image is taking a hit now — not because of what Modi does for himself but for what he allows his party, the BJP, to do. In its bid to maximise the benefits from brand Modi, the BJP has started compromising the brand itself.

The na-khaoonga-na-khane-doonga image of the Prime Minister stands diluted today as the BJP has ended up projecting itself as a party that can spend any amount of money to engineer defections in the opposition camp to gain power in states. BJP leaders must believe in mass stupidity to pride themselves in and celebrate the success of Operation Kamals in one state after another. Every time the BJP dislodges a government to re-affirm Amit Shah’s image as Chanakya, it also chips away a bit of Modi’s credentials as a leader for whom the national interest is supreme.

The fifth pillar of Modi’s persona —a Hindu hridaya samrat — is the only one that hasn’t suffered any corrosion or damage. It will be further bolstered when the Prime Minister performs bhoomi poojan of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on 5 August.

The most astute Indian politician that Modi is today, he would certainly know that his mass popularity and electoral victories were not just about his image as a protector of Hindus’ interests. What made him the most popular politician was a blend of these five elements or built on five pillars, especially his aspirational politics. That’s where the BJP seems to be losing the plot. The BJP, being a party with a difference in 2020 is already a matter of popular jokes. The only thing that differentiates it from the Congress today is brand Modi. Take brand Modi out of the calculations and the BJP’s political equity would be no better than the Congress’ today. The BJP’s power politics is taking a toll on this brand now.

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41 Comments Share Your Views

41 COMMENTS

  1. The author it too politically correct and rates Modi more than he deserves. The Modi adulation in fact shows weakness in the Hindu character.

    Modi’s appeal is to Hindus only and it is due to one and only reason : beating up the Muslim minority in 2002. This gave Hindus a feeling that they have become strong.

    The rest is wishful thinking : Modi is bringing development with bullet train, the whole world is in awe of India due to Modi and Yoga, the whole world is against Pakistan, India is the vishwa guru etc.

    Hindus have a low self esteem, and Modi gave them a boost. But it is based on delusions.

    Beyond settling scores with Indian Muslims, the Hindus have no other ambitions. Modi fulfils their only ambition – show power over minorities through sadism.

  2. It feels so good to see theprint’s “journalists” writhe in pain and scratching their heads at the success of PM Modi and the nation. It feels so good to see these anti-nationals not having it their way. Keep writing such articles, makes up well for fiction.

    • How a worthless party can remain in power, having all its failures on all sectors of development. It reminds me the period of Chanakya when tyrant and corrupt king Dhananand alongwith his PM Amatya Rakshasa ruled Magadha until Chanakya amassed power to overthrow Dhananand kingdom. And this Dhananand and Amatya Rakshasa remind me of the current duo.

  3. It is sad that we have no opposition. The way things are, we are close to a one party democracy. Congressmen have no guts to elect a leader other than Rahul who does not seem fit to lead. To keep a party going you need money and it does not come the straight way. So the party in power with clear majority can fix the opposition. Congress has done it in the past and now it is the turn of BJP.

  4. I’m not a hardcore fan of Mr Modi, but the major factor why Modi and team may continue after 2024 is undoubtedly because of weak opposition, I’m simply amazed that how BJP has ruthlessly destroyed Gandhi’s legacy, which is evidently a remarkable strategy, as congress is still very much controlled by gandhi’s. But irrespective of that, the way Mr Rahul Gandhi is continuously fighting with a largest and biggest party now, is also remarkable, he failed but he is not tired and trying his level best. On the other hand, BJP has already loosing its sight, they are so busy in buying legislators that they can’t even see where our society is heading. Anyway, future is very much unpredictable, we never know who fights back and who falls down. Modi brand will not work for long, it’s pillars have already started quivered.

  5. Only Mr. Gupta talk sense on this website and you easily differentiate him from other journalists. Everybody else is like “everybody else”

  6. I don’t think Modi is faultless, neither is the BJP. There definitely are things they need to be aware of and not make the same mistakes Congress did, but I’m curious- what exactly are you expecting Modi and the BJP to achieve in the years that they have been in power which is only about 6 now? What do you want to see really – Can you also write a little about that so that readers like me are aware of what benchmarks the media and the very responsible world of journalism is setting for the government. Let us also understand how objective and realistic you guys are in expecting this progress given the numerous challenges the country is constantly faced with. Don’t just write about the faults with the government or the mistakes they may have made. That you’re doing anyways; but, bearing in mind that no government in the world is perfect really, it would be nice to know what the expectations are of those who oppose Modi and the BJP. It should make for an enlightening piece. Don;t you think?

    • Modi said in 2014, he can give more development in 60 months than Congress in 60 years. I want that no less. That is the benchmark.

      Cite me the evidence. Don’t come back with lame excuses saying how much can one do in 60 months. Modi has failed to deliver. But Hindus vote for him because his Hindu communalism is more important to Hindus.

  7. Modi will always remain a mystery to dishonest and crook journos like DK Singh. Rahul Gandhi has failed to understand any head or tail about Modi simply because he is dishonest even to himself.

  8. A sixth one ( which all journalist s know but won’t acknowledge publicly) will keep MODI in power for some time more after2024 too.
    That is the Gandhi family factor.. For crores of young urban and semi urban Indians ,a vote to keep Rahul, Sonia, Priyanka and the cooterie of ” entitlement” out of power is the only reason enough to vote MODI back so that the Congress and India can be rescued from the abject and unnecessary dependance of the old party on the overhyped family. Foreign policy never got or list votes. Decisive ness .. MODI is still our best bet.we still remember MMS.

    Modi is still seen as fakir and his image has teflon coat whether u like it or not .

    Despite wrong steps in the handling of the pandemic , MODI will not get the stick because health is a state issue and local government is seen as villain .. None of the “wishful thinking ” in failures will stick as on the other side there is “TINA” factor

    • I don’t agree with your comment “Despite wrong steps in the handling of the pandemic”. Even GOD will make mistakes in unknown territories. Tell me a name of a leader who will not make mistakes when working first time to manage a situation. I can say with confidence that Modi is far better to manage difficult and unknown situations that any other political leader in India today. Those who talk about mistakes were not knowing about those mistakes before the mistakes were made. Even fools can comment once the mistakes are made and come to public attention. Modi haters’only job is to abuse and accuse Modi.

      • So why did your God who is clearly the infallible Gujarati carry out demonetisation when just about every economist asked him not to?

        Or has your God retrieved and paid you the much ballyhooed Rs 15 lacs into your account ?

        But then, you are not a Muslim and you will always like a man who organises a pogrom that kills innocent Muslims right ?

  9. Modi is the worst Prime Minister in the history of the world. Now he has folded to China. He has demolished the Indian economy. His statement that India has Corona Virus under control is absurd. The virus is spreading faster in India than anywhere in the world. He has created divisions in the country that will take years to repair. Modi has lost India yet many people still support him. That is because he is a myth and Indians love their myths!

    • And you’re so very worried about Indians is it “Stephen Billings?” Worry not. Indians are fighters, survival is in their blood. Touching to see you giving an opinion on Modi. Let the country’s democracy decide if they want the so called disaster to continue or not. Which country do you come from exactly and how are the citizens there? Pray tell. I’m assuming you’re not Indian because of the impersonal way in which your addressing the population. If you are, oh my! what does that say about you?

  10. There is a sixth element in his quiver. To destroy any and all opposition. He and Shah have excelled at that, crushing anybody, within and without, mercilessly.

    • You pretty much described opposition politicians. mind set. Congress can not live without power and any member of that party will go to any length to be in power even if they are bought. Do’t blame BJP. Other side must be ready to go at any length to be in power.

  11. As long as Modi is on the scene, the BJP will benefit from his image in the minds of the people. The degree of benefit may wax or wane depending on the current situation on ground. The real challenge to the BJP’s electoral fortunes will be when he quits. Then his own record will be subject to brutal scrutiny and therefore it is better he gets cracking on the economic front or else his legacy will suffer a fate worse than J Nehru.

  12. Writing is a business, like all products on sale are not equally good the same applies to articles and contributors in terms of their inclinations.
    Only if the Print can demonstrate a balance in opinions it would be worth spending to support the journalism.

  13. Five elements make up Modi’s charisma. 4 are beginning to lose lustre.
    ONE ELEMENT OF MODI’S CHARISMA NO MEDIA WANTS TO TALK ABOUT WILL NEVER LOSE THE LUSTER.
    IT IS THAT ELEMENT WHICH THE PEOPLE RESPECT HIM FOR AND WILL KEEP HIM IN POWER.
    UNFORTUNATELY EVEN IF ALL THE JURNOS COME TO GATHER THEY WILL NOT BE ABLE TO WRITE MORE THAN ONE SENTENCE ON IT.

  14. Modi is no Hindu Friday Samrat. In the last 6 years he has done nothing that would qualify him to be that. On all fronts, starting from temple administration, administrative, judicial, police reforms to empowering the common Hindu by getting the government out of his/her life and building up the economy, this government has failed. What we now have is the same old failed policies of big government, unlimited bureaucracy and the government having it’s finger in every pie just as it was under the Congress from Nehru to Indira Gandhi. No wonder the political equity of the BJP and Congress is the same both being sides of the same coin.

  15. Adding to your comments.
    A point the media and Press appear to miss is that just as today’s Congress does not have any connection with the “original” Congress, so also the BJP is now the “MJP” i.e. Modi Janata Party. In his operations to remove the old guard, Modi has also personalized the Party. The question to ask is “after Modi who?” As an Indian, I’m bothered that India’s position will be pitiable with no Modi and no opposition. The basic story is that in our first-past-the post electoral system, 36% have installed a Govt with 64% divided. Economics is not the strong suit of this Govt (or, indeed, Modi’s). Ayodhaya, majoritarianism, CAA etc will not put purchasing power in the hands of people…….
    Love is truly blind! In the last 6 years I haven’t found my life has changed in any way other than for the worst. As for corruption, one can only say that this Govt. has the levers of power and is investigation-free! Is that the same thing as being corruption-free?

  16. Modi. It was a myth. It still remains one. Going forward this myth will implode. That is an imperative. The only question is for how long he can continue to go on fooling the people

  17. I have been a regular reader of The Print and have also subscribed to your YouTube channels. Initially I was quite impressed by your unbiased opinions and data based analysis. However for the past week or so I am getting a feeling that The Print is becoming more of a Congress mouthpiece. One one hand you try to project that Rahul Gandhi is probably the leader who can take India on the path to progress (Really?). I am not a bhakt or anything close to that. I have voted for different parties at different times. So as a neutral audience, I am now getting a feeling that your only aim now is to find different ways to discredit the current government. Criticism of the government is a good thing and I think that is the prime responsibility for the press, however that is not a justification for a biased and prejudiced view.

    • Agree with you completely. The current government has failed on multiple fronts, agreed. But projecting Rahul Gandhi as the leader of India is just inane. His videos, filled to the brim with vacuity, is enough evidence that he will never make a good leader. Don’t alienate your neutral readers @ThePrint!

    • Prashant Deshkar : “I am not a bhakt or anything close to that.”

      You could have certainly fooled us with that. It is clear that the feku is a hollow vessel, a coward. Your feku does not have the guts to mention China. That about says it all.

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