Millennium Post

Honeymoon over for Modi Sarkar

Will the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rout in the Delhi assembly elections change the Modi-led government’s equation with regional parties, particularly  allies like the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal? Does the saffron party’s stunning defeat mark the end of the Modi-led government’s honeymoon period? The answers to both questions are in the affirmative.

The first indication of the BJP’s changing equations with its allies came from Maharashtra. Reacting to the Delhi poll results, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray sarcastically commented that the “Delhi tsunami is bigger than the Modi wave”. Shiv Sena has been a long time ally of the BJP. However, a long bargain with the BJP over government formation in Maharastra has caused a deep strain within their relationship.

Thackeray’s latest remarks about the ‘Modi wave’ and BJP’s dependence on Shiv Sena to retain power in Maharashtra will strengthen his bargaining power. Such acts may cause tensions between the ruling allies. Their respective political compulsions, however, may prevent them from parting ways for now. Power acts as an adhesive between estranged allies. The complex relationship between the saffron party and its second major ally Akali Dal has also been undergoing changes, depending on their performances in successive elections.

In the 2007 assembly elections, Parkash Singh Badal-led Akali Dal failed to secure a majority. The party formed the government with support from its ally BJP, whose highest ever tally of 16 MLAs, gave it a decisive say in how their government functioned.

In the 2012 elections, the Akali Dal-BJP alliance unexpectedly won a majority and formed the government. The BJP’s reduced tally, however, affected its bargaining power vis-à-vis its senior ally. But after the Modi-led government took office in 2014, the BJP started to reassert itself. Some prominent BJP leaders even criticised the authoritarian style of Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal’, alleging that he had converted the state police into his party’s political wing. Alternating positions of power among the allies has caused much strain in their relationship. In fact, some BJP leaders are pressing their senior party leaders to part ways with the Akalis.

The Modi-led government’s hitherto failure to aid the bankrupt Punjab government has dismayed senior Akali leaders. The Modi-led government has been pressing the state government to maintain financial discipline, which is further aggravating its acute financial crisis.

The BJP’s debacle in the Delhi Assembly elections is bound to give the Akali leadership in Punjab the upper hand. Notwithstanding the tensions generated by conflicting interests, the ruling allies are not likely to part ways during the “lifetime of Parkash Singh Badal”. Even after AAP’s sweeping victory in Delhi, Badal claimed that Modi’s image had not taken any beating.             

The signs of the end of honeymoon period for the Modi-led  government had begun only three months after it took office. Some national dailies have now declared that the Delhi Assembly elections demonstrated the end of the Modi government’s honeymoon period.

Ordinarily, elections in India would seldom draw international media attention. But the outcome of Delhi elections has drawn adverse comments against Modi and BJP from several international newspapers. In an editorial, The New York Times said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been brought down to earth by domestic politics. He and his Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, were crushed in the election Tuesday for New Delhi’s 70-member state assembly, winning three seats while the upstart Aam Aadmi Party, or AAP, captured the rest…Since sweeping to power last year with the biggest national victory in three decades, Mr. Modi and the BJP have generated an aura of invincibility, winning a succession of other state elections….So far there has been little concrete return and as the Delhi election suggested, people are growing frustrated.”

Pursuing the politics of personality, Modi preferred to visit foreign countries to build his international image rather than initiate economic reforms. He also invited US president Barack Obama to India.
What must have shocked Modi and the BJP, however, was his “friend” Obama’s words of caution against forces trying to use religion for splintering Indian society. Addressing a town hall meeting Obama said “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along lines of religious faith, and is unified as one nation…….  Our countries freedom of religion is written into our founding documents……Our diversity is our strength and we have to guard against any efforts to divide ourselves along sectarian lines or any other lines.”

Though RSS, Modi’s ideological mentor, must have been angered by Obama’s advice, the prime minister, as usual, maintained silence.

Some of Modi’s utterances during his Delhi election meetings have not only dented his image but also brought down the stature of the country’s highest office. He made remarks unbecoming of a prime minister against Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal. In contrast, Kejriwal used dignified language against his opponents. Using the time-tested formula of “admit faults quickly and smile more often”, Kejriwal won the hearts of  Delhi electorate and secured a whopping 67 out of 70 assembly seats.
Not caring for the time-tested maxim that humility begets love and respect, while arrogance breeds hatred and repulsion, the BJP leadership had to bite the dust in Delhi. Modi had once described the national capital as representative of what India feels. The outcome of the Delhi polls, therefore, is a clear warning signal for the saffron party and Modi. IPA
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