(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)
‘Wake-up’ call for Modi and the BJP is the recent electoral drubbing suffered at the hands of united opposition political parties in 4 Lok Sabha and 10 Assembly seats following loss of power and face in Karnataka. Modi and the BJP must carry out introspection and mid-course correction. Delay and dithering over key issues will further erode their credibility.
In November 2017, Pew research foundation released a report claiming that popularity rating of Modi was 31 percentage points higher than that of Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party, and is 30 points more than that for Rahul Gandhi. Mohan Guruswamy drubbed it as “bogus” report.
As per ABP News-CSDS latest survey, Modi’s popularity rating has come hurtling down from 68% to 36%. In contrast, Rahul Gandhi’s popularity has increased from 16% in 2014 to 24% in 2018.
Following the dip in Modi’s popularity rating, can he lead the BJP to cross the half way mark and win 2019 General elections? Already there are rumblings in the Sang Parivar for change of leadership for 2019 elections, particularly high personalities in the RSS backing Nitin Gadkari. And, the united opposition political parties are leaving no stone unturned to topple BJP that may plunge the nation into political instability.
Barely one year is left for Modi to shift from reactive-defensive mode to pro-active offensive mode to reclaim rapidly waning popularity among the electorate and to quell dissidence within the BJP. Unless Modi-Amit Shah duo shed their confidence of invincibility bordering on arrogance borne out of electoral gains, despite demonetization and the GST, the electoral prospects for Modi may not be bright.
Some of the key changes that Modi must address with utmost expedition are –
- Stop undertaking foreign tours. For such tours cannot get votes in elections. Allow Sushma Swaraj-V K Sing to manage external affairs.
- Focus and proactively deliver on key domestic issues on undelivered pre-poll promises of 2014:
- Speed up reconciliation and judicial process so that Ram Mandir foundation stone laying and construction starts well before the next round of State Assembly elections. Otherwise, it would be treated as the “Great Betrayal” by the Hindu majority and a lost opportunity for the community to gain very narrow electoral minority advantage.
- Proactively address all outstanding farmers issues – implementation of MSP, waiver of loans, input financial aid to tenant farmers, crop insurance etc.
- Proactively address the clamor for enhanced wages for workers particularly agricultural worker wages – NREGS wage increases in tune with DA increases of government employees based on reference to the percentage increase in the 12 monthly average of All India Consumer Price Index.
- Fulfill the outstanding OROP demands of armed forces personnel instead of trumpeting and claiming credit for the truncated OROP award. Former General V K Singh and Colonel Rathore must voice their concerns ion every single cabinet meeting.
- Address outstanding SC/ST issues and demands.
- Exercise strict control over inflation.
- Observe strict austerity – lead by example – in life styles particularly changing dresses almost for every event/meeting. Replicate Gandhi’s austere life styles to endear to the masses. Have meals in poor SC/ST huts without fanfare and escorts for others to follow.
- Actively participate in debates during Parliament session. Realize and accept that last minute forays during pre-poll campaigns cannot reclaim lost popularity ratings what with charisma – personal appeal – rapidly waning.
- Refrain from invoking high ideals and lofty rhetoric. Stop trumpeting on past achievements and super sloganeering. Remember “India Shining” slogan in 2004 failed.
- Avoid reflecting “colonial royal ethos” fit for Emperors by going around in NSG escorted high-fly convoys.
- Regain credibility as “Chaiwala” focused on welfare of downtrodden families.
- Inescapable imperative to expedite extradition of Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi, Choksi and others from alien nations ASP and initiate prompt actions.
- Undertake monthly tour of states by rail-cum-Rath Yathra’s particularly visiting non-BJP strongholds or vulnerable constituencies. For example, two to three-days tour with eight events at different places can cover 4 Southern States and even Northeastern region.
- Minimize Mega-Meetings organized at a great cost to the party and local leadership particularly before issue of notification by the Election Commission.
Modi-Amit Shah and the BJP must admit and accept that the undercurrent of Hindu polarization swept them to gain power in 2014 elections. But, their rallying and mobilization power is rapidly declining due to non-fulfillment of pre poll promises.
Admittedly, Modi’s foreign tours have failed to yield substantial economic gains. His magnetic charm appeal over Indian Diaspora is also waning. In particular, there has been no breakthrough on the H1B Visa issue with the USA and even immigrant workers issues in UK.
Also, going around trumpeting achievements of the last four years cannot per se contribute to BJP winning 2019 elections. Recognize Modi and the BJP that “Dil Mange More” syndrome afflicts “Aam Aadmi”.
Modi and the BJP must recognize that “Hindutva” plank alone cannot win elections howsoever they may attempt to polarize Hindu society, which is divided on narrow caste lines. Even the “Swatch Bharat” initiative has lost its appeal. And, the latest “ban plastics” initiative is a low key issue that will not sway people to vote in favor of Modi and the BJP.
Thus, stoking old Hindu rage-and-shame over thousand years of slavery under Muslim and British rule cannot hold sway particularly over SCs and STs what with the liberal and pseudo secular intellectuals – grandiose intellectual conceits – up in arms denouncing the claims of Hindu majority.
The past theme of RSS – one more Mahabharata – may not rally Hindu’s all over again under the ‘Saffron” banner. Today, their irredentism based on a mainstreamed rhetoric of Hindu national aggrandizement can have a backlash from SCs and even STs.
Today, the united front of opposition parties are making every effort to drive a wedge in the Hindu Society based on narrow caste sectarian lines particularly focused on SCs whilst forging alliances with OBCs-Muslims-Christians.
With all opposition political parties aligning together on a single platform with focus on drubbing Modi and the BJP in concert with quite a few Jaichandras and Jaichandranis within its ranks and also so called allies abandoning the sinking NDA alliance, Modi and the BJP cannot adopt the posture comparable to the famous quote “When Rome was burning; Nero was fiddling”.
Wake up – Modi and the BJP before it is too late. Ipso facto, Modi and the BJP must take cognizance of latest poll findings of rapidly waning Modi’s charisma to sway the voter’s sentiments and emotions to win 2019 elections – declining from a high of 68% in 2917 to just around 36% with a lead of around 10 points over Rahul Ghandy as on date. And, they must remember the lesson of 2004 elections based on the slogan “Incredible and Shining India” that failed Atal Bihari Vajpayee-L K Advani.
Quite a few corrupt leaders continue to roam around freely under Modi’s nose in Delhi. Remember Modi and the BJP must that black money trade is almost back to normal after his demonetization effort. And, the implementation of GST is yet to satisfy all stake holders.
Three key stake holders – farmers, former armed forces veterans and workers – are dissatisfied with Modi and the BJP for not fulfilling their demands. Also, Bank employees have gone on 2-day strike demanding increase in their salaries.
Spiraling oil prices are hurting not only the economy but also increasing inflation. “Aam Admi” with access to IT cannot be fooled any more over escalating oil prices. Even al layman knows that increase in oil prices is due to very high central excise duty + VAT + other charges. Even if the crude oil international price is $80 per barrel (say Rs6, 000/ per 159 liters), the “Basic Cost after Refining of Petrol and diesel may be around Rs.45/- per liter.
And, the escalation of prices is on account of proportional increase in central excise duty and VAT.
So, if Modi and the BJP think that they can “fool the people all the time” pleading increase international crude prices, they are living in their “own fool’s paradise”. With a flick, “Aam Admi” can compare fuel costs with neighboring nations. Even the TINA – There is no other Alternative – factor may not work. Such will be the vicious power play.
In sum, Modi must “Act fast and smart” and focus on pressing domestic bread and butter issues; or get decimated at the 2019 polls.