Hawks in BJP set to queer Modi's pitch
There are probably two reasons why Narendra Modi is said to have sounded his party's Chief Ministers about bringing the general election forward.
One is that his confidence level is so high that he does not want to wait for another two years before cashing in on his present political bull run. The other is that notwithstanding his recent successes in U.P. and a large number of municipal elections, the Prime Minister is too politically astute not to realise the fortuitous nature of some of his victories in the state elections and also note the setbacks suffered by BJP.
Even a political novice could have anticipated the BJP's runaway success in Uttar Pradesh given the fratricidal strife in the former ruling Samajwadi Party between father and son and uncle and nephew. There is little doubt that Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother, Shivpal, handed the state over on a platter to the BJP by undercutting their more popular and forward-looking son and nephew, Akhilesh.
The scene in U.P. epitomises the BJP's good fortune of not facing a credible opposition at the national level and also in most of the states. The only exception is Punjab where the comfortable victory of Congress's Amarinder Singh showed that a strong regional leader could stop BJP just as Arvind Kejriwal did in Delhi in 2015 before he shot himself in the foot.
Moreover, even where there aren't any leaders as widely acceptable as Amarinder Singh, the BJP's opponents can still push the party down to the second place as in Goa and Manipur. It is another matter that some nimble politicking by the BJP enabled it to snatch victory in these two states from the jaws of defeat. But Modi cannot but have realised that the 3-2 score line in the Congress's favour in the last Assembly elections (before it was craftily changed to 4-1 in the BJP's favour) coupled with the BJP's defeats in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Puducherry in 2016 – and in Delhi and Bihar earlier - suggest that the BJP is not as securely placed as its supporters believe.
Hence, the idea of preponing the general election not only to take advantage of the favourable momentum created by the U.P. outcome but also of the present disarray in the opposition ranks. Besides, there are several other reasons why the BJP cannot be entirely sure of its success in 2019. Foremost among them is the spectre of unemployment for young people as automation and digitalisation mark the beginning of a new era in the industries.
As a result, the availability of jobs fell to its lowest level in 2015 and 2016 with the creation of 1.55 lakh and 2.31 lakh jobs, respectively, compared to 10 lakh new jobs created in 2009, which was the Manmohan Singh government's best year before Congress president Sonia Gandhi scuttled the economic reforms by favouring "socialistic" welfare measures, thereby paving the way for the party's defeat.
Another reason why the BJP may not regard its three years in power at the Centre as a period of consolidation is the social tension caused by the gau rakshaks and those who vandalise film sets if the portrayal of a historical character does not conform to their notions. Although Modi has personally criticised the cow vigilantes and the government occasionally says that no one will be allowed to take the law into his own hands, there is no end to the occasional instances of violence which have affected not only Muslims – the Saffron Parivar's prime target - but also Dalits.
The reason why the saffron militants continue to run amok is their belief that they are pursuing the "real" agenda of the BJP and the RSS, which is to marginalise the minorities and establish a Hindu Rashtra. Modi, to them, has become an outlier to the Hindu cause, having fallen prey to the multicultural tenets of the Constitution, which he calls a holy book, pushing Savarkar and Golwalkar to the sidelines. A glimpse of the views of the militants is available from a blog doing the rounds in the cyber world, which asks if the BJP "is hampering the Hindu revival?"
Another blogger says that "the Modi Sarkar has been nothing less than a scared chick. It wants the world to declare Pak a terrorist state but won't do so itself. Modi continues the MFN status to Pakistan, shows no courage in expelling their envoy and recalling ours. Harvests the worst ISI-sponsored journos… is unwilling to tackle the menace of Paki stooges in India – whether in Bollywood, media or assorted Pak-funded pigs in NGOs. Ditto for Maoist sympathisers".
The presence of these doubters in the Hindutva ranks probably makes the BJP wonder about the longevity of its government because the so-called jobless growth of 7 per cent may not be enough to keep discontent at bay. Apart from unemployment and vigilantism, the unrest in Kashmir, the belligerence of Pakistan and the rise of China have cast a dark shadow over Modi's reign. He wants a general election, therefore, before it gets any worse.
(The views are personal.)