Disgruntled bhakt advises [email protected]: Stick to Hindutva, keep selling dreams
Amid the intensifying struggle between Narendra Modi's "mission" of Congress-mukt Bharat and Nitish Kumar's Sangh-mukt Bharat, the NDA government is celebrating its second anniversary.
Two years ago, Modi's detractors warned about the potential dangers of his ascension to prime minister. Since then, hardly a day has passed without them reminding us how right they had been. Well, they do have a case.
This dispensation had promised "maximum governance" but has often been mired in controversies that have little to do with "Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas".
The recent assembly elections have further shrunk the political space for the Congress. On the other side, while the BJP formed its first government in the Northeast, it failed to reach double-digits in terms of seats won in any of the other four states.
Modi's supporters are interpreting this outcome as a new beginning. They cite vote shares to argue that the party has managed to make inroads in states it had little presence in earlier. Its rivals, however, point out that the BJP could not even save it deposits in over 500 of the 700 seats it contested across the five states. Many analysts, therefore, see the outcome as Congress' failure rather than Modi's success.
Nevertheless, the prime minister should be reminded that his real electoral challenge will come next year in Uttar Pradesh. This will be followed by an even bigger battle of the general election in 2019.
As he celebrates completing two years in office, Modi would do well to introspect. The soul-searching must begin with a review of his promise of Achhe Din. Have Achhe Din really dawned for the common man? The prime minister and close associates must take stock of the promises they have kept, and those that have turned out to be mere jumlas.
The Modi government can't complain that it is constrained by the "coalition dharma", for unlike Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Modi enjoys a majority.
One can discuss contentious issues like Ram Mandir, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code later. First, the government must explain why it has failed to move ahead with key pieces of legislation like the GST bill? What has prevented it from using the option of a joint session of Parliament to pass some of these bills?
Mr prime minister, you can't fault people if they expect urgent action on corruption charges against Robert Vadra, or if they want to know the truth about the National Herald case and the Augusta Westland deal?
Caught in a rut
Modi and his party owe answers to the foot soldiers who fought for their victory in virtual as well as the real world.
How should grassroots BJP workers explain Lalit Modi's connections with Vasundhara Raje or Sushma Swaraj? Hadn't these same workers gone out of their way to highlight corruption during the Congress rule in the run up to the 2014 election? What should they think about Vyapam scam in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, and the mysterious deaths associated with the scam? What should they make of Amit Shah's statement that the promise to bring back black money and depositing Rs 15 lakh in every Indian's bank account was just a jumla? Should they be offensive or defensive on these issues?
Although the prime minister is said to have a tight grip on all departments under him, even the most vital of the ministries do not seem to be in good shape.
Rescuing our education system from the clutches of the Leftists and painting it in nationalist colours is central to BJP's ideological agenda. Modi used his prerogative to entrust this responsibility to Smriti Irani. But the government has had to face embarrassment on a host of issues concerning Irani's ministry. Be it the JNU controversy, FTII agitation, Rohith Vemula's suicide, minority status of the Aligarh Muslim University, the government found itself on the backfoot.
Issues like non-NET fellowships and the recent UGC circular have only given an impression that this government is hell-bent on destroying the education system. The latest agitation at Benaras Hindu University is the latest case in point. While the university administration has acted tough against students demanding 24-hour library facilities, the HRD minister is busy engaging Congress spokespersons in a Twitter spat.
It's hard to believe that the head of the government is unaware of remarks made by "fringe leaders" like Sadhvi Niranjan, Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj. Even the staunchest of Modi's supporters cannot discern how such non-issues as love jihad and beef ban are going to benefit this government. Surely, the prime minister wouldn't have forgotten how he had to answer the international media on Dadri lynching on his foreign trips.
"Ironman Modi", known for his unwavering commitment, seems to be tiring now. It is unclear whether he still remains at the centre of power. This was evident when Mohan Bhagwat ranted against the reservation policy during the Bihar election campaign. Although Modi did his best to contain the resulting damage, it was all in vain.
The real issue behind the event protesting the hanging of Afzal Guru organised by some JNU students was left behind. Instead, BJP leader Gyandev Ahuja made silly remarks about the use condoms on the campus, which were widely ridiculed. The recent social media spat with Left leader Kavita Krishnan on the issue of free sex strengthens the doubt that the fringe elements in the BJP are now becoming mainstream.
Losing the perception battle
The prime minister is considered a genius in handling social media as well as the mainstream media. Yet, he has not been able to spruce up his Information & Broadcasting Ministry. The ministry has miserably failed to take the good initiatives of the government to the masses, while even the smallest lacunae in efforts such as Swacch Bharat, Clean Ganga and Yoga Day are highlighted by the corporate media.
The government has retrieved Rs 21,000 crore of black money over the past two years. Another Rs 50,000 crore were collected by preventing the theft of indirect taxes. But there is little discussion of this achievement whereas Amit Shah's jumla gaffe is on everybody's lips.
On 10 May, the government reduced the prices of 54 life-saving drugs by almost 55%. It was the third review of drug prices in as many weeks. Yet, the media skipped the issue.
The frequent foreign visits made by the prime ministers have been severely criticised. Even the visits of some foreign leaders to this country were ridiculed. The media went ballistic over the strain in the relationship with Nepal. But little was said about the positive results of Modi's sojourns.
Reaching out to small island nations in the Indian Ocean is an important step towards countering China's rising influence in the region. The Chabahar port deal with Iran is a diplomatic victory for the country. Earlier, the government was successful in sealing a vital land deal with Bangladesh. It was also able to persuade Myanmar to destroy anti-India terror camps on its soil. Modi's flip-flop Pakistan policy, however, has drawn flak from the opposition. Overall, though, this government has failed to showcase its foreign policy achievements.
Allying with the PDP to form the government in J&K was considered a political masterstroke. However, the deteriorating security situation in the state has put the Modi's government's J&K policy in the spot.
The Shayara Bano case was a golden opportunity to initiate work on the Uniform Civil Code. But the government developed cold feet, even though it did not think twice about issuing an ordinance to reverse Supreme Court's decision on NEET.
The poor 'Ramlala' in Ayodhya has been languishing in a tent for 24 years. The government is not willing to even mention the issue.
Leave apart sending Robert Vadra behind the bars, not even a case has been registered against him. The less said about Modi government's action on the corruption cases against Sonia and Rahul Gandhi the better.
The government is largely on the defensive - on economic policy, railway reforms, internal security. There is an outcry everywhere, yet 270 BJP MPs are sleeping. This is not a good situation for BJP and the government.
Still, all is not yet lost. The prime minister must stick to the agenda of Hindutva and keep selling dreams to the masses. A publicity blitzkrieg to highlight the government's achievements is also needed. This is the only way Modi can retain power in 2019.
The writer is a freelance journalist
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.