Will Narendra Modi’s luck hold?
A one-sided result of the kind which the electorate has just delivered can be due to two reasons. One is a wave in favour of a party or an individual generated by the belief of a beneficial impact on the country. Narendra Modi’s success is due to this perception. So was Arvind Kejriwal’s in Delhi in December 2013 although the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) recklessly squandered its opportunity.
The other reason is a negative blowback of the kind which the Congress first suffered in 1977 and again this time when its tally of 44 Lok Sabha seats represents its worst ever performance. As the AICC secretary, Sanjay Nirupam, has said, so low is the Congress’s standing at present that even Modi would not have won on a Congress ticket.
However, Congress M.P. Kamal Nath, one of the few survivors of the storm which has battered the party, is wrong to say that politics carries an expiry date and that the people wanted a change. First, no one wants a change for the sake of it if only because the known devil is better than the unknown one. Secondly, the 16 May verdict can hardly be described as a mere change since it marked a categorical rejection of the Congress. That the party is unwilling to acknowledge this harsh reality is evident from the various feeble excuses it is totting out such as that it was unable to communicate its achievements to the voters. The reason for its drubbing, however, is the deep anger, bordering on revulsion, which has been building up against the dynasty. Much of this resentment is felt by the middle class which is the product of the opening up of the economy. Having tasted the fruits of economic freedom, the members of this class, who now spend much more than their parents ever did, find it humiliating to be subjected to the homilies about the largesse being doled out by the Congress’s first family.
The dynasty, on the other hand, continued to behave like a munificent zamindari household ever ready to provide various goodies to the indigent serfs. This feudal ambience was in sync with the subservient Congressmen, who forever agreed with whatever the Queen Mother and the heir-apparent said. It is this regal aura surrounding the family which offended and antagonised the people. Not surprisingly, Kamal Nath has said the Congress would have lost even if there was no Modi.
But, for Modi himself, it was a stroke of luck that his first foray into national politics was against a dysfunctional party led by a family whose instincts have been dulled by years of living a cosseted life. Modi, therefore, faced no real challenge apart from the resistance to his ascent from within the BJP. Once he was able to overcome it, the road ahead was clear since ma-betey ka sarkar was a pushover. What Modi will now probably be interested in is to see whether his luck will hold. For the present, he does not face any political threat from the Congress. As long as the party remains in the dynasty’s stranglehold, it will not recover. But, as in most such cases, when there is no external challenge, the danger can come from within.
This is especially so in a party like the BJP which is part of an exclusivist brotherhood based on sectarian and religious extremism directed against the minorities. The beating to death of a Muslim IT professional in Pune by Hindu fanatics exemplified this fascistic attitude, compelling Muslims in the town to shave off their beards and shed their skull caps and Pathani suits. The change in attire makes a mockery of Modi’s appeal to Muslims during the election campaign to attend his rallies in skull caps and burqas.
The group which attacked the hapless Muslim is also believed to have been involved in the assassination of the rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in the same town in August last year. Since bigotry thrives in an atmosphere of blind faith, modern, scientific rationalism is anathema to it. This is another aspect of the Hindutva brotherhood which will receive a boost as a result of Modi’s ascent. Among those who have been active, therefore, is Dina Nath Batra, known for his zeal for browbeating the publishers of books identified by him as anti-Hindu.
The BJP’s rise in the 1990s was based on demonising Muslims and targeting mosques. Its stints in power at the centre and in the states have moderated its outlook, bringing it closer to the country’s pluralistic ethos. But, the other groups associated with the saffron camp haven’t changed. They remain as rabid as before. With Modi becoming the lord of all he surveys in the political field, they are bound to push their divisive agenda with greater zeal against those whom they perceive as ‘internal threats’, to use Golwalkar’s description of Muslims. They will also intrude into the academic field, and art galleries, to ban books and paintings which they regard as offensive to the majority community. Unless they are checked, Modi will run out of his luck. IPA