Issue :   
June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019

POLL ANALYSIS

Modi ‘saviour’ of Hindu pride

N D Sharma

PM Modi in Varanasi for thanksgiving visit, offers prayers at Kashi Vishwanath temple The enormous mandate received by Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections bewildered the opposition and stunned even BJP leaders. It was like the cyclone Fani which recently devastated parts of Odisha.
Even Modi was perhaps not expecting this much support. He had started his election campaign with visible confidence, but towards the close of the two-month electioneering, he had started showing signs of desperation in his speeches, jumping from topic to topic.

During 2014 campaign, Modi became more and more aggressive with his attack on UPA government as the campaign progressed. In 2019, he did start as an aggressive orator attacking Congress and other opposition leaders but gradually became subdued talking about his poor childhood, his backward caste, then his most backward caste, saying Congress was dreaming of killing him. In his last election rally at Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh, he was almost choking when he entreated the people in the audience for their blessings and called them his ‘malik’ (masters).

Newly-elected MP Pragya Singh Thakur with LK Advani in New Delhi The enormous mandate Modi’s uncharacteristic condemnation of Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur’s ‘Nathuram Godse was a patriot’ statement only betrayed his nervousness. It was, though, a belated reaction. Perhaps the feedback about the adverse impact of Pragya Singh’s statement on polling in the remaining constituencies forced Modi-Shah duo to take some ‘drastic’ step. If the two felt that Pragya’s statement was against BJP’s ideology, they would not have allowed the statement to be aired on channels and displayed on media for full 24 hours before taking some action like issuing a show cause notice to Pragya Singh and entrusting the matter to the party’s disciplinary committee; and Modi should have come out spontaneously with his feelings (‘I can never forgive her’) instead of waiting for some TV reporter to ask him one day later.

It was the first time that the leader of the ruling party which had been in power for five years was seeking the mandate for another term without outlining any concrete plans for the uplift of the people or without citing what his government had achieved in the past five years. Even when he mentioned some such thing, it was just in passing without focussing on it. His stress throughout was on the killing of 40-odd CRPF jawans at Pulwama (which many suspected was orchestrated by Modi himself through NSA Ajit Doval) and the strike by IAF on Balakot inside Pakistan territory. Along with the constant rhetoric of security of the country was the assertion that only a stable government with a strong Prime Minister can ensure that – ‘and I will even lay down my life to protect the country’. This seemed to have influenced the approximately eight crore first time voters, most of them still studying but bubbling with enthusiasm, who had not experienced the hardships of the ill-conceived schemes like demonetisation and GST and had not yet faced the employment market.

The constant stress on PulwamaBalakot-nation’s security implied protecting the majority community which helped strengthen polarisation. The message was: the Congress and other parties had always ignored the majority community and tried to appease the minorities and here I am to protect you. Even otherwise, the BJP has evolved out of communal divide and is known as a Hindutva party. BJP president Amit Shah made this perception of insecurity of the majority more explicit by promising in almost every speech to scrap Article 370 (which gives special status to the Muslim majority State of Jammu and Kashmir) and introduce National Register of Citizens (NRC) into other States (with substantial population of minorities). The process of finalisation of NRC is already creating communal strife in Assam and other States of the north-east.

Indians are, by and large, swayed by emotive issues; practical problems like price-rise, lack of education and health facilities or non-supply of drinking water are only for coffee table discussions. Having been trained in the RSS, both Modi and Shah understood this well.
So their constant stress, directly or indirectly, was on the neglect of the Hindus by other parties. This narrative of protecting Hindus seemed to have brought the cyclonic support to Modi in the States where Hindu sentiment is strong. In southern States it could not do any damage except to some extent in Karnataka because these States are not that sentimental about Hindutva. They have a different culture.
In Punjab also, where the BJP got two seats of Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur, the Hindutva feeling is stronger in the areas adjacent to Jammu and Himachal Pradesh than other areas. In West Bengal, the BJP could make substantial inroads by appealing to the Bengali Hindus. As Modi had projected himself as the saviour of the nation (read Hindus), he had started seeking votes in his own name: he had stopped even taking the name of the candidate in whose constituency he was addressing the rally.

Not only did the opposition leaders fail to assess the impact of Modi’s narrative on Hindu psyche, they also could not see their own weaknesses. The biggest culprit in this respect was the Congress party which presumed that it had the strength to take on Modi.

The opposition leaders clearly failed to gauge the impact of Modi’s Pulwama-Balakot-nation’s security narrative. A highly educated executive of a large commercial firm told me that Modi had the courage go inside Pakistan territory and kill 300 terrorists there. “I said when 300 coffins were taken out for burial, it would have created a havoc in Pakistan and the family members and relatives of the deceased could have stormed the Pakistan Prime Minister’s residence.” The executive’s confident reply was that they were quietly buried there itself and no one was allowed to know. Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s laborious explanations about his schemes to improve the conditions of farmers and ensure a minimum income of Rs 6000 per month to every poor family were drowned in the blare of Pulwama-Balakot-nation’s security narrative. (Perhaps the only satisfaction that the Congress can draw from this election is that Rahul Gandhi initially spoke clumsily but Modi made him a mature speaker).

Rajya Sabha member and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, who was the party’s candidate for Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, went to the ridiculous extent of gathering hundreds of sadhus who performed a yagya for Singh’s victory. Not satisfied with that, he organised a march of the sadhus through Bhopal’s streets to show to the people that he is no less a Hindutva champion than any BJP leader.

Digvijaya took refuge in sadhus to take on Sadhvi Not only did the opposition leaders fail to assess the impact of Modi’s narrative on Hindu psyche, they also could not see their own weaknesses. The biggest culprit in this respect was the Congress party which presumed that it had the strength to take on Modi. Its structure is in a bad shape, organisational elections have not been held for decades, officebearers are handpicked mostly because of their fluency in sycophancy, and so are the State party chiefs who are most of the time at war with rivals in their own party. More sadly, Congress has over the years lost its identity. BJP is identified with Hindu pride, resurrection of mythical past and privatisation; Bahujan Samaj Party is primarily concerned with the welfare of Dalits while Samajwadi Party’s main concern is OBC; Telugu Desam Party’s main concern is development of the region.

Where does the Congress stand? Can it still call itself a secular party while its leaders are trying to compete with BJP in projecting themselves as pro-Hindu? Rajya Sabha member and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, who was the party’s candidate for Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, went to the ridiculous extent of gathering hundreds of sadhus who performed a yagya for Singh’s victory. Not satisfied with that, he organised a march of the sadhus through Bhopal’s streets to show to the people that he is no less a Hindutva champion than any BJP leader.

He was defeated by Malegaon blasts accused Pragya Singh Thakur by over 3.60 lakh votes. Not surprisingly, Pragya Singh is a bigger Hindutva ‘icon’ than Digvijaya Singh can ever become. It was horrifying to hear an educated middle class woman say that Sadhvi Pragya Singh was trying only to kill Muslims.
Anyway, being the larger party with a pan-India existence, the Congress was expected to show a spirit of accommodation to form a joint front to check the Modi-Shah juggernaut. One cannot say that a larger and formidable alliance of opposition parties could have substantially changed the outcome of the Lok Sabha polls which Modi and Shah were fighting entirely by appealing to the emotions of the people, but a combined strength of the opposition parties could have got these parties some more seats. Congress could surely not have to go once again without its nominee being recognised as ‘Leader of Opposition’ in Lok Sabha.