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SAFFRON SAGA: BJP on downhill ride

COMMENT INDIA POLITICS BJP By PREM CHANDRAN THE BJP's fortunes might as well be sinking. With the central party leadership .....




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07-03-2021
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Thumbs up SAFFRON SAGA: BJP on downhill ride


COMMENT INDIA POLITICS BJP

By PREM CHANDRAN

THE BJP's fortunes might as well be sinking. With the central party leadership and the governance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing serious odds, it's natural that the Opposition is increasingly feeling confident -- that it can drive the BJP out of power at the Centre if a collective effort is put in. The change of chief minister in Uttarakhand, decided on Friday, should come as a new embarrassment for the central leadership of the BJP.

Tirath Singh Rawat had been made the CM four months ago, and it is clear to the party by now that it was a wrong choice. He was not able to lead the show in any effective manner and the dissidence that saw the exit of Trivendra Singh Rawat from the CM post only continued with a new vehemence. It was a foregone conclusion that Tirath Singh will not be able to lead the party to victory in the assembly polls that are less than eight months away. The selection of a new CM, howsoever strong he could be, is unlikely to help the BJP retain power in the state. Time is too short for a new CM to win over the support of the masses.

The days of Narendra Modi winning assembly polls for the BJP is simply over. Not just in Bengal. The PM no more holds the charisma he held until 2019, up until the BJP government unveiled the Kashmir card. It was a master-stroke, and history would thank Modi and the BJP for the vision and courage they demonstrated in the abolition of Article 370. The way the law and order situation was handled effectively, thanks largely to home minister Amit Shah, the established political stalwarts in Kashmir virtually turned voiceless and scurried for cover. The one with some dignity still left in him is Gulam Nabi Azad. The Abdullahs are a gone case. So is Mehbooba Mufti. It is reckoned that the need now is to build on the gains there. But, a question is, what will be the stand that a non-BJP government at the Centre will adopt after the next Parliament polls in 2024 in relation to the changes in Kashmir? The Congress, itself, is in two minds.

Kashmir apart, the second Modi term remains lackluster except for the support it extended to the judiciary to solve the long-held Ayodhya dispute. But, credit should also go majorly to then CJI, Ranjan Gogoi, to have facilitated such a good turn. This, granted that the political input from the BJP and Modi was also integral to a resolution of the Ayodhya dispute via the legal channel.

BJP leadership had a cutting edge when Amit Shah held its reins. Not anymore. The dissidence in Uttarakhand is, in part, a demonstration of the weakening of the BJP?s central leadership's hold over the party. Dissidence is evident also in Karnataka, where a section of the BJP state leadership is set against chief minister BS Yeddiyurappa. Yeddi is promoting an unacceptable political culture, with his family deeply into matters of governance as an extra-constitutional authority. Problem is that the BJP is not able to identify a leader as strong as Yeddi, who so far enjoyed the support of the Lingayat community, the mainstay of the BJP in Karnataka. Karnataka is the only state where the BJP could gain power. Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the two Telugu states are no-win scenarios for the BJP.

Assembly elections are due in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa next year. The BJP is in power in all these states except Punjab, where the Congress led by Captain Amarinder Singh is holding forte. Though there is dissidence against the Captain, the BJP is unlikely to gain from this. The AAP of Arvind Kejriwal has built strong support in various segments of the population and it will enter the poll fray this time with more confidence. Kejriwal's sincerity of purpose is well-appreciated. He has proven himself to be a different kind of politician in the present messy state of political affairs in the country. The farmer agitation added to the woes of the BJP though Modi did well in not budging to the pressure exerted by farmer leaders and the leftists. Leftists have a tendency to fish in troubled waters and are irresponsible in their conduct, and this scenario worsened under Sitaram Yechury's leadership of the CPIM.

In Punjab, the SAD-BJP alliance itself was on the rocks though they might pull along together for the assembly polls. The SAD is widely condemned for the corrupt ways and family rule of the Badals, and yet Parkash Singh Badal enjoyed popular support in the past. His son Sukhbir Singh Badal might not make such a claim. It is unlikely that the SAD-BJP retakes power there.

In Goa too, the going is not good for the BJP. There is dissidence and there are problems with its allies too. The Congress might stand a chance to grab power in the state.

The Uttar Pradesh scenario is being keenly watched. The Samajwadi Party of Akhilesh Yadav had a good showing in the recent polls. Muslims are likely to extend full support to the SP in the coming polls, unlike in the past when the Congress, the SP and the BSP shared Muslim votes in substantial numbers. This had helped the BJP win the last time. Unity of the Muslims behind the SP would mean a loss of power for the BJP. Mayawati of the BSP has ruled out any alliance for the coming polls. But, what stand she ultimately takes will be important. As of now, she might be in a mood for the best bargain. The BSP is steadily losing its support among the Dalits, its main base. Other players are entering the scene, like Chandrasekhar Azad, the Bhim Army etc, which are targeting other states too. If Asaduddin Owaisi takes his AIMIM to Uttar Pradesh, he would not be able to cut much ice with the Muslims there. They know that giving their votes to him, under the present circumstances in UP, is a wasteful exercise.

Unlike the faceless chief ministers for the BJP elsewhere, Yogi Adityanath, representing the Kshatriya community and having backing from the RSS, is a class by himself. He has an individuality of his own and he takes strong stands. Yet, under the current circumstances, anti-incumbency factor too would work against him. The loss of esteem for the BJP and PM Modi, overall, too is bound to have its adverse impact on both Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Manipur (and the entire North-East) is a different ballgame. The BJP could as well make a try and retain power there. This, though, will be no comfort to the party. Even if it gets Manipur and still loses the other four states, there will be egg on BJP?s face post poll. This is a strong possibility. Also, this will be Advantage Opposition, and it will boost its confidence and can crow around that the BJP is finished. BJP will be projected as a sinking ship. Public perceptions are important in matters of elections --present, past and future. If such a perception grows, half the battle is won for the Opposition.

There yet are two and a half more years for the Modi government to go. The defeat at the assembly hustings this coming round might not necessarily spell doom for it. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan will follow. BJP could still retain MP by virtue of the hold chief minister Shivraj Siigh Chouhan has over the BCs there. The Congress failed to create a mark under Geholot in Rajasthan and the party is spit between him and Sachin Pilot. This could help BJP make a come-back in Rajasthan.

All said, the writing is on the wall. BJP needs revitalization. Else, its stock will fall. The party relied on Modi's charisma to win polls so far. That could now be a thing of the past. His seven years were mostly wasted other than in the implementation of some nationalistic agenda like improving the communications networks in the border regions, or Kashmir revamp. It means only RSS ideas worked with Modi. His advisers are almost fully from this stock. They lack the cutting edge. This is well-known. Anti-Muslim offensives are both unacceptable and unwarranted. What else does the RSS have? Nationalism is fine, but RSS has a tendency to boast about the past (Bharat Mahan) and remain unmindful of the way things are changing around the world. Nehru's vision due to his exposure to the West helped shape India in better ways after Independence. He had both the vision and the ideas. Manmohan Singh and Narasimha Rao put together was a great combination. Rao's intellectual aura and Singh's IMF exposure helped India reshape from the disastrous Socialist past. Socialism was Nehru's undoing. Builder of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, who studied with Nehru in London, had stated as much (Singapore Story) about Nehru and Bhutto.

The BJP does not have any organizational heft in most states. It simply relied on Modi for votes. Its colourless chief ministers are incapable of winning votes for the party. They are a voiceless breed. Put together, this can spell disaster to the party. Tragedy is, this could feed the ambitions of regional party leaders, dynasts all, and who cannot pull together from the very start. They proved it time and again. India's fate will be pitiable under them.

Tamil Nadu chief minister and DMK chief, MK Stalin, is scripting a different tale, impressive so far, though he came to positions and power by the family route. After takeover as CM, he is demonstrating a firmness in governance, which is famously reflected in his selection of a widely experienced individual as finance minister. Had Modi had such a bent of mind, the destiny of India would have been different. Several of Modi's ministers and the chief ministers he selected are, as per public perception, below par. Governance is ailing also because of the incompetence of the pack that Modi carries with him. If Modi regards himself as a Super Man, and thinks he can do all by himself, he is living in a fool's paradise. Nearly 30 departments do not have ministers for the past two and a half years of the Modi rule. How worse can worse be?

Every segment of governance is ailing today. The ill effects are all too evident. The drone attack at Jammu airport a week ago, for instance. Drones were flying in from the Pakistani side for the past many months. They were disgorging arms, Pakistan-printed Indian currency notes, and weapons for the Kashmiri militants. Now, drones are used for lethal attacks as well. The Modi dispensation failed to see what was in the coming. His National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had failed the nation in the past; as in the negotiations for release of hostages in the Indian Airlines hijack to Kandahar in Afghanistan in 1999.

Releasing the passengers held hostage was only one part of the job. India paid a huge price in terms of ransom money. The ransom money was used for the build-up of the Jaish terrorist organisation to keep bleeding India through a series of high-profile attacks in Kashmir and beyond since then.

Question now is, what was the NSA doing all these months when drones were already posing a problem to the border regions along the LOC and on the Jammu side as well? And, what was Modi's large security apparatus doing? If terrorists could now attack Indian Air Force installation and airport in Jammu with drones, question is also this, Why could Modi and Co not think of using unmanned drones to rain bombs on terrorist camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, on the other side of the border? What was even the need for a surgical strike if drones could simply have done as much? Terrorists use their brain. We, out here in government, have brainless wonders, good only for big talks from the pulpit. Period! premcee@gmail.com

-- Prem Chandran is a media consultant and former Editor

Last edited by Premchandran; 07-04-2021 at 12:50 AM
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