As Modi eyes legacy greater than Nehru’s; why are his followers losing confidence?

Kumar Ketkar Kumar Ketkar Have BJP supporters begun to realize the hollowness of their politics? Why has the party become so dependent on one person’s so-called messianic appeal? The entire media and politicians of all hues described this year’s Union Budget as election-focused. Incidentally, on the same day as this “election Budget”, the BJP lost three by-polls in Rajasthan to the Congress – for two Lok Sabha seats and an assembly seat.In India, elections are an addiction. If there are no elections around the corner, politicians, mediapersons, pollsters, pundits and the public start suffering massive withdrawal symptoms. Narendra Modi has taken this election addiction to a new high- his addiction is too strong for his much-touted ‘one nation, one election’ formula to succeed. Ever since he won his third successive election in Gujarat in 2012, Modi and his Sancho Panza, Amit Shah, have turned the BJP into a huge election war machine, which doesn’t just intimidate opponents but also its own party cadres as well as senior leaders. Fear of purges is so widespread that there is an uneasy quiet in the whole Sangh Parivar.If leaders like L.K. Advani, Yashwant Sinha, Murli Manohar Joshi etc can be purged, that too non-violently, what would be the fate of local chieftains? Wasn’t it inevitable, then, that this Budget would be election-oriented? Modi has put things in election overdrive already. Sitting MLAs and MPs don’t know whether Modi and Shah will give them tickets again. There is also palpable fear that the defectors from the Congress and other parties may get preference over the loyal flag- and lathi-bearers. After all, one way to make Indian polity “Congress-mukt” is to integrate Congress leaders into the BJP, either by luring them with power, or through persecution and blackmail.BJP’s declared aim is to win 350 seats in the Lok Sabha in 2019, or in late 2018, if the elections are brought forward. But Modi wants to surpass Indira Gandhi in popularity and national appeal, and has the ambition to rise even beyond the international stature of Jawaharlal Nehru. As far as global vision goes, Nehru had one, which could be appreciated or criticized.  Nobody knows what Modi’s global vision is, beyond his penchant for visiting countries and hugging heads of state/government. But that can’t create a foreign policy format; if anything, for Modi, globe-trotting is part of his election campaign back home. The Indian diaspora consists of close to 30 million people, spread out from Abu Dhabi to Australia, Africa to America. But every speech Modi delivers to these people is aimed at home audiences. He has mastered this art of global connectivity – he is his own world wide web. He wants his seats to increase, whatever be the vote share. The BJP won 282 seats with just 31 per cent of the vote, while Indira Gandhi had to win 41 per cent to get the same number of seats in 1967. Modi does not want to depend on NDA allies, who he and Shah think are not reliable. The duo hates the likes of the Shiv Sena and the Telugu Desam Party. Their think tank fears that the party reached its peak in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. They cannot win more seats than that. So the only way is downwards. Whatever number they lose in those states cannot be recovered from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal or Punjab. So, in this game of snakes and ladders, a loss of 82 seats would bring the BJP down to 200. A loss of 100 seats, not beyond the realm of possibility, would bring the number to a Vajpayee-esque 182, achieved just after the Kargil War. And yet there is a grapevine talk of a possible (and limited) war with Pakistan, mainly to generate nationalist frenzy. The embedded media is already spreading the fire, and is demanding a shock-and-awe like operation. Nobody asks the Prime Minister what happened to the narrative that “terrorism will end once the fake and black money supply to terrorists stops”. Terrorist excursions into India have doubled since demonetization. BJP leaders and their fellow travellers have already begun to ask in hushed tones: If Modi does not come back, who can rule the country? Wouldn’t there be chaos? Do we want anarchy? Just two years ago, they were saying that Modi will rule till 2029, if not beyond; that the Congress can never recover, it is doomed, and with Rahul Gandhi at the top, it is end of the dynasty, and with it, the party.Why have these strident supporters and Bhakts begun to lose confidence? Is it because they have begun to realise the hollowness of their politics, or have they lost the stamina and the script? These were the same people who used to ask, “isn’t there anyone in the Congress other than the Gandhis to lead the party?” The same question can be put to them now: Isn’t there anyone other than Narendra Modi to save the party and polity? Why has the party become so psychologically and politically dependent on one person’s so-called messianic appeal?

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