Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When Left turns Right

Modi and BJP aren't going away in a hurry

Article first published in +Swarajya click here to read

Since the state assembly results were out last Thursday (May 19th) – two sets of views are dominating the op-ed space in print. The first – media pundits across board are finding merit in Amit Shah – Narendra Modi’s strategy for creeping expansion of BJP’s footprint to hitherto unconquered geographies. The second lot — are a series of very convoluted justification of how they were so widely off the mark in their prediction of the West Bengal results. From – a position of taking the outcome for granted – as a cakewalk for Mamata – their hopes had soared for the Left-Congress “Jot” (alliance) gathering traction as the polls progressed. 

The first is more interesting. It took just one election – in which BJP won a single state and in the others managed to only increase its vote share – to change the perspective of the media worthies. Simultaneously, those who till recently were all praise for the new improved Rahul Gandhi 2.0 – post his mysterious sabbatical of last summer – sank into a crisis of confidence apprehensive of India, indeed, becoming #CongressMuktBharat if Rahul were to take full-time charge of the party.

What’s common between the two thesis is – after grudgingly swallowing the outcome – the commentators have changed tack and are freely dispensing advice to both Modi and Mamata on how to make the most of a good verdict. One would have thought by now they would know that these two self made leaders – seldom listen to the counsel of others. But, guess, they feel it is worth a try – if for nothing else - to build bridges and mend fences as neither Modi nor Mamata are likely to go away in a hurry.

What all this still doesn’t explain though – is the abrupt jettisoning of media’s darling — Rahul Gandhi, like the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Papers and channels that were vehemently opposed to Modi and BJP are writing first drafts of obituaries anticipating the imminent decimiation of the grand-old party (in its current form). While some are joining the chorus of “Priyanka lao, Congress Bachao” — others are decrying the formula of “more dynasty” to make up for the talent-deficit in the current generation of the family. The larger eco-system created by the Congress — seem to be more concerned about the future of Congress than, perhaps, Congressmen themselves.

No matter what the political soothsayers have to say about the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes etc — in their heart they know Congress has not only lost its capacity to be the party in power at the centre but its viability as an alliance partner is also under question. Its often cited that BJP itself had been reduced to a party of two members in Parliament and made a determined comeback. Why can’t Congress repeat such an act ? Or for that matter — the return of Lalu’s RJD in #Bihar. 

The inherent fallacy in this wishful thinking is easy to explain. BJPs turn-around was achieved not by any one man or family — it had the entire organisation of the party and the RSS working for its revival. Lalu’s rehabilitation was achieved by the unstinted backing of his community — caste base, who felt one of their own had been victimised — in the power war of the political elite. Unfortunately, Rahul Gandhi evokes no such emotional surplus among Congress’ core constituents. 

Thus the prospects of BJP occupying the central space vacated by the Congress and the motley crowd of regional warlords jostling against it — is not a scenario that excites the media mandarins. But, these elections have brought home a few more sharp realisations that are even more unsettling for the Congress nurtured ecosystem — 
  1. Even without winning elections BJP can emerge as a force to reckon with nationally by sheer increase in Vote Share; 
  2. If the new trend of the electorate voting decisively in state elections based on local issues and sub-national lines, it is likely they will vote in the Lok Sabha elections keeping the larger national picture in mind;
  3. Narendra Modi still remains the most popular and credible National Leader. Therefore, no matter which way some of the forthcoming state polls (Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan etc) might go — and people may yet trust Modi with another term as Prime Minister.
So, it is not the Congress or Rahul Gandhi but Narendra Modi and BJP who can’t be written off in a hurry.