Rahul Gandhi’s INC has been more aggressive in its approach to the next Lok Sabha elections, and yet Narendra Modi’s BJP is at a huge advantage, going by the sight of 2019 from this point in time
The Indian National Congress showed to the nation its roadmap to the next general election by throwing its weight behind the Bhima-Koregaon miscreants, if its cynical caste alliance for Gujarat 2017 was not indicative enough. With the chorus of support added to the gross indiscipline betrayed by four Supreme Court judges in calling a press conference to complain against the way of functioning of the Chief Justice — and with Sitaram Yechury hinting at the INC’s support to the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s plan to impeach CJI Dipak Misra — the INC has made it clear it will support every disruptive element on earth, scoring brownie points in the process, to take on the might of an apparently invincible Narendra Modi. If that was not horrible enough, the oldest party is also celebrating the fabricated findings of a ‘povertarian’ NGO of the league notorious for projecting India in poor light — Oxfam — at a time when the Prime Minister is selling the country’s business potential internationally at the World Economic Forum. In comparison, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign, relying on its sole star campaigner, has been rather staid. While Modi, the politician, cannot be blamed for the terms he must have set for the interviews with Zee News and Times Now, the anchors of these channels must hang their heads in shame for the bland, submissive, virtually adulatory questions they asked of the chief executive of the country, throwing out of the window their fundamental training in journalism. The BJP would be injudicious to believe these scripted talks made for good public relations material. In fact, the premier’s dialogue with the world’s industry heads and speech in Davos has been much better; Modi spoke like a statesman, endearing to the people of this country as much as to the business magnates and heads of states present at the venue.
Yet, the voluble sound-bytes from either side apart, the BJP is at a huge advantage in the electoral competition. It might not have fulfilled the promises it had made in 2014, but the alternative path Modi walked on after the defeats in Delhi and Bihar have met with the objectives envisaged. Modi’s BJP, unlike Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s, is a party neither of the Brahmins and Baniyas nor of the middle class. The most populous section of the electorate, the poor, is increasingly endorsing his governance. Other than the recent dip in the growth of the Gross Domestic Product, most economic indices are healthy, and most world agencies expect 7-8% growth in the near future. To the utter chagrin of the opposition, hardly any allegation of connivance or complicity of the government with vandals or lynch mobs could be established. While Hindus are by and large underwhelmed by the so-called saffron party’s rule, the BJP, unlike the INC, is not hounding them by law with the premise that they are perforce the rioting side in any case of a communal flare up. On the other side, not much is left to be said about the intellect — or lack thereof — of the president of the largest opposition party. With Lalu Prasad Yadav in jail for the fodder scam and J Jayalalithaa dead, Mamata Banerjee, who looks down upon the West Bengal unit of the INC, is left to lick Rahul Gandhi’s wounds at the Centre. The Biju Janata Dal has always been non-committal and nobody fancies Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s chances in the national scheme of things. Since the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party do not get along, the gentry that cannot stand the sight of Modi can draw solace only from a bunch of leftists howling every night on television, lucky as the communists have always been in enjoying a projection much larger than what their real status in Indian polity deserves. Add to all this the popularity ratings of Modi that are going up, up and away, and a workhorse Amit Shah who refuses to rest though his position as the BJP chief is quite secure!
The BJP has only two factors of concern. The middle class, especially the part that revels in economic thinking, is disappointed; its apathy may rub off on a section of the poor voters. The second issue, one of complacency, has been addressed somewhat by the close call that the Gujarat Assembly election was. As for the INC, Gandhi’s toying with the idea of being an Arvind Kejriwal is costing it dear; a perpetual whine might work in a city-State like Delhi; it doesn’t on the national scene. If, to them, Modi is a problem, the INC must chalk out a different strategy that offers solutions within the first six months of 2018.