Modi has changed the electoral discourse ~ Arati R Jerath
Narendra Modi has done for the Congress what he ought to have done for his own party but didn’t. He&’s managed to bring its squabbling leaders together for a no-holds-barred battle to demolish him. The BJP almost fell apart over Modi&’s appointment as campaign chief. (It&’s still trying to put the pieces back together.) The Congress, on the other hand, has not looked this focused and united in a very long time. Modi has given the party a mission. All hands are on deck with spokespersons, tweeters, bloggers and professional research teams burning the midnight oil to throw data and dirt at the BJP&’s poster boy. And it&’s working. In just one month, the discourse has shifted from corruption, price rise and policy paralysis to the old communal versus secular debate. A couple of mistimed remarks have made Modi look like he has a dreadful foot-in-the-mouth disease instead of an agenda for governance.
It took just three comments for the Congress to win the first round of the propaganda war. One was the BJP&’s boastful remark that Modi had “rescued 15,000 Gujaratis” in one day from flood-hit Uttarakhand. The second was the “kutte ka bachcha” analogy for the Muslim victims of the 2002 riots. (The English media kindly translated the phrase as puppy, which gave it a softer connotation.) And the third was the accusation that the Congress is hiding its misdeeds behind the “burqa of secularism”.
Everyone seems to have forgotten 2G in the howls of protest that these statements have elicited. Even regional leaders have switched from Congress-bashing to Modi-baiting. The BJP&’s wannabe prime minister started off his march to Delhi disguised as Mr Development. In just six months, the mask is off. He&’s back to basics with Hindutva as his calling card. The economy is floundering as the rupee plummets and prices soar, but for the two national parties, polarisation seems to be the name of the 2014 game.
The BJP is looking to consolidate the Hindu vote while the Congress has its eye on the Muslims. The Babri Masjid was brought down 21 years ago but these two parties remain in a time warp.
It must be good to be Nitin Gadkari these days. After being roasted for financial misdeeds and denied a second innings as BJP president, Gadkari has suddenly become the toast of the BJP. He&’s being wooed frantically by both his successor, Rajnath Singh, and his senior, L K Advani. It was lunch at Rajnath&’s and tea at Advani&’s, all in one day, on his return from Norway.
While Rajnath pleaded with him to assume charge of the forthcoming Assembly elections in Delhi and revive his unfinished projects like leadership training camps, a governance cell, etc., Advani advised him to only accept offers commensurate with his stature as former party president and decision-maker. It seems Gadkari has become the prize catch in a tug-of-war between the pro- and anti-Modi camps. Both factions see him as a hot line to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who holds the BJP&’s remote control firmly in his hands.
In the ‘hot’ seat
It was initiation by fire for the new home secretary, Anil Goswami. The day after he assumed charge, he had to present himself to the parliamentary consultative committee, which grilled him on poor disaster management during the Uttarakhand floods. The National Disaster Management Authority is an arm of the home ministry and MP after MP went at Goswami for its callous response and shoddy performance. The hapless home secretary was hard pressed to defend the organisation, which so clearly failed to live up to its mandate.
A few days later, he found himself at the receiving end of MPs’ tirade again. The issue was increased infiltration and militancy in the Northeast. Worried MPs wanted to know what the Centre was doing to control the problem. Goswami is getting a taste of what it means to be in the hot seat.
Ignoring the stars
Astrologers are surprised that the BJP chose to appoint Narendra Modi during its Goa meeting. It was the period of amavasya and believers feel amavasya is an inauspicious time to start anything new or challenging. Apparently, the Modi camp was advised by an in-house astrologer to wait till a more auspicious period. The best time, the gentleman said, would be the first week of July when the stars are good. But he was brushed aside by the Modi gang who scoffed at this business of celestial gazing as a whole lot of humbug.
Given that Modi&’s elevation set off such an adverse reaction in the party, with L K Advani resigning in protest, a section is beginning to think that it may have been wiser to wait. One more month of consensus building may have prevented the impression that is a gaining ground, that the BJP is a party at war with itself. Maybe there&’s something to astrology after all.