Saturday, April 29, 2017
 
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Modi Tsunami or Vote for change?


By K B Jandial


You may love Modi, you may hate Modi but you can’t ignore Modi. This is the present national political discourse. Barring Delhi and Bihar, election after election Modi led BJP has expanded its footprint on the electoral landscape of different states of the country and emerged as pan-India political force, much to chagrin of many. BJP is in Govt. in 15 States today, alone in 9 or with allies in 6. Correspondingly, Modi enhanced his stature as a strong and decisive political leader comparable with Indira Gandhi in most of her forms, barring personal or family agenda. Modi bhakts may rate him much higher but decidedly he has emerged as a force not easily countered. His unmatched energy, long and tiresome campaigning and perfect articulation to connect with common man and put across his idea of better India made him, for the time being, politically invincible, more so by those who profess and pander to the sole interest of a particular vote bank to the exclusion of majority.


Omar Abdullah might have invited wrath of Congress (Chief spokesman Randeep Surjewalla) but he was echoing spontaneous opinion of millions of people across the country when he tweeted on last Saturday after UP results “At this rate, we might as well forget 2019(Lok Sabha poll) and start planning (and) hoping for 2024.” It was honest suggestion to opposition for forging “mahagathbandan” to survive in ‘Modi tsunami’, admitting that “it is not ripples in a pond.” The Congress reacted sharply saying, “Omar Abdullah should focus on strengthening his party rather than commenting on national politics. He should also take some interest in Jammu and Kashmir affairs and the people’s problems instead of spending time on twitter.” He said the National Conference has not been able to revive itself after losing badly to the PDP in the 2014 Assembly elections. The JD (U) spokesman Neeraj Kumar accused Abdullah of politics of opportunism. “By referring to BJP’s expansion as a tsunami, he seems to have laid down his guns much before the next assembly elections in his state.” I think Omar didn’t deserve this terse reaction as he was airing his honest opinion.




Omar was not alone in getting overawed by ‘Modi tsunami’. Chidambaram in his popular Sunday column, ‘Across the Aisle’, confessed the existence of unstoppable Modi wave. He boldly admitted that “There is no doubt whatsoever that the victories in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Uttarakhand have re-confirmed that Mr. Narendra Modi is the most dominant political leader in the country today. The scale of the BJP’s victory in these two states is unprecedented and mind-boggling.” He conspicuously omitted credit to Rahul Gandhi for Punjab landslide victory and wrote, “Punjab also has delivered a clear verdict in favour of the Amarinder Singh-led Congress.” On Modi, he boldly wrote, “The man of the moment is Mr. Narendra Modi. He has convincingly demonstrated that his appeal is pan-Indian. It extends from Gujarat and Goa to Assam and Manipur.”



While opposition parties are finding excuses for their rout Modi and Amit Shah are busy in strategizing forthcoming phase of elections in Gujarat and Delhi. While Modi’s stunning victory has dampened the opposition parties which are trying to find excuses and accusing BJP of stealing victory in Goa and Manipur by cobbling up numbers despite having lost the mandate, Kashmir is yet to come to terms with the political aftershocks of “congress mukt” results. Going by the local media Kashmir was expecting near rout of Modi in lines with Delhi and Bihar that could have kindled hope of New Delhi loosening its “stranglehold” of Kashmir. Columnists opined that diminishing Modi brand would have helped Mehbooba to be more assertive and Delhi forced to give some quarters to Kashmir including offering some space to separatists. But it didn’t happen the way Kashmir desired. But still Mehbooba got some commitment from Modi to address pending items of Agenda of Alliance amidst jubilation.




Once a baniya party with Hindutva agenda, BJP has made all calculations wrong especially in politically and communally sensitive UP where it wrested 325 seats along with its allies in a house of 403. Fighting on 380 seats with 23 seats by its allies, no Muslim candidate was put up to the shock of many. Its justification of “no Muslim in was winnable” did not cut ice but it still swayed the poll even in high Muslim influenced constituencies. Did it help in consolidating and polarizing Hindu votes? Did Modi equating development of shamshanghat with kabristan, power supply during Diwali (or Holi) with Eid or creating Muslims in UP instead of burial for want of land for graveyards ( as said by Yogi Adityanath) or redefining KASAB polarize votes to the extent of capturing 325 seats? Are these words more polarizing than demolishing Babri masjid amidst Ram Janambhoomi mass agitation that catapulted the party to win hardly 221 seats? Not convincing, at all. In fact, by and large Sangh hawks were restrained from using unacceptable brazenly communal outbursts, for which Modi himself complimented BJP leaders and activists.



UP election has redefined secular vote bank politics. They expanded Modi’s slogan of “SAB KA SATH SAB KA VIKAS” to outreach minorities and dalits claiming that that talk of doing away “triple talaq” has created a new vote bank of Muslim women for BJP. The joke on social media is that Muslim voted for SP, BSP or Congress, his four begums voted for Modi. Jokes apart, other parties are afraid of offending traditional conservative Muslims on religious reforms but Modi is more forthright. Did it pay off to BJP? The caste and Muslim cards of SP and BSP failed to steer these parties despite huge claims of pro- people and good performance. Pro- minorities’ rant doesn’t necessarily make parties secular. The ruling Samajwadi party and some of its likes had different practice of secularism in a bid to nip the anticipated communal tension in bud. Some of the post-poll posts on social media exposed these parties’ duplicity.


While it is difficult to believe the social media as authentic, yet it is claimed that during SP rule, policemen were deployed at the entrance of the famous Hanuman Mandir in Lalitpur area of Bundelkhand to prevent devotees from ringing of the big temple bell as preventive step to avoid communal tension as Muslim devotees offer namaz at nearby mosque. Similarly, administration removed loudspeakers from many temples in areas which are resided by Muslim families as these tend to whip up communal tension. It is said that just eight days before Holi an order was issued that in case walls of the mosques get pinch of colour during Holi, administration would repaint these at the Govt. expense. Didn’t such actions too contribute to BJP victory?




In UP and Uttarakhand states the ruling Samajwadi and Congress parties made to lick the dust, giving power to BJP. Akali-BJP alliance had their waterloo in Punjab for their misrule reposing faith in Congress. Fractured mandate came in Goa and Manipur with the both ruling parties- BJP & Congress, failing to get clear mandate. BJP is accused of “stealing the mandate” by adopting what the opposition says unethical and immoral methods as in both the State BJP played smart and quickly cobbled the numbers despite being the second largest party in terms of seats won.



The Congress smarting under the criticism from its own party leaders including newly elected MLA in Goa took the issue of appointment of Manohar Parrikar to the SC but it declined to stay the scheduled swearing-in ceremony. In the fractured mandate the smaller groups and independents have the hay day as they settled the price of their support to form the Govt. It has been the practice in the past and it was followed this time as well. In Goa, BJP which had its Govt there was reduced to 13 from 21, eight short of majority. Now the effect of fractured mandate was that in the ministry of 10, BJP had only three members including the Chief Minister. Parrikar comfortably won the vote of confidence. Similar was the story of Manipur. Academically it was a vote against BJP in Goa where the Chief Minister too was unseated. While it was a vote against BJP (10 short of last Assembly) it cannot be said that it was in favour of single largest party- Congress having 17 seats, still short of four members.


Govt formation in Goa and Manipur has become controversial as the Congress described it as unconstitutional and unethical for not inviting the single largest party (Congress) to explore possibilities of forming Govt. Constitutional position is very clear on it. Article 164 of the Constitution (section 36 of J&K Constitution) says, “The Chief Minister shall be appointed by the Governor and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister, the Minister shall hold office at the pleasure of the Governor;” Now issue is simple, political upheaval on it notwithstanding.. In a fractured mandate or otherwise, the party getting majority or cobbled up the required number to transform into majority, stake claim to form Govt. The Governor after satisfying about the number and stability invites the elected leader of the majority group to form the Govt. This satisfaction has to be put to the litmus test of floor test. Now any group, smaller or bigger joined hands and achieve the magic number how can the Governor say no to them on the ground that the first right is of the largest single party. SC didn’t find any wrong in Governor’s action. The Goa floor test vindicated Governor’s decision. Congress is faced with rebellion with one MLA resigned from his seat and also from the Congress amidst report of one more MLA resigning.



While BJP is entitled to attribute success in 4 out 5 states to Modi Tsunami, the fact remains that it was vote for a change. Voters in none of these five states have voted conclusively for the party in power. Whether Modi’s stunning victory in UP amounts to people’s approval of demonetisation and surgical strike which was made a strong poll issue in UP by the SP-Congress alliance or not, the fact remained that voters cannot be taken for granted by any party including Modi as they have wisdom to write obituary of any political party or leader when they fail to deliver. Every election is a new challenge and a fresh opportunity to re-gain people’s confidence.




(The writer is former Secretary Information, health, transport, CAPD departments and a member of Public Service Commission, feedback: [email protected])




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