By MR Lalu
Just a year before the National Elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) proved its thickening significance once again in the northeastern part of India. Emerging victorious in three key states, the party under the efficient leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has all reasons to rejoice. Small they are compared to the states that are going to polls this year but for the BJP its battle readiness makes it all the same. For the party, its efforts and plans will be the same in every corner of the country that goes into the polls. That is the biggest merit of the BJP. It has a reason to gather its resources to give the best. More importantly, the leadership of the party is convinced of the requirements and the amount of dedication and resource mobilization that the party establishment is in need of in the form of its cadre from the grassroots to the upper layer. You will see a party that is restless with its plan of campaign reaching out to the last man in the line irrespective of the intricacy of the locality. From the dryness of the deserts to the frozen pockets of Jammu and Kashmir to the green patches of Kerala to everywhere in the country, it has well structured its party cadre.
Its victory in the northeastern states of Tripura and Nagaland can be called as a segment of the semi finals. Parts of the semifinals are due in some big states. The BJP has to sharpen its claws further for retaining power in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. And to wrest power from the Congress in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will be of tremendous importance. Both Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh in real terms would not give a giggle of satisfaction to the party as the leadership in these saffron bastions are stung by anti-incumbency on the ground. Whatever, at present, the morale of the party workers is high and the country’s G20 presidency and the eminence of the Prime Minister going beyond the boundaries of India bring the workforce of the party golden subjects for campaign. The BJP’s victory in Nagaland, a state with a huge Christian population sends positive signals to states where this minority community makes a significant presence.
Results in the northeastern states must worry the opposition parties who are restless in substantiating a united opposition against the Modi fiefdom. Tripura sent shockwaves across party lines as the opposition unity between the Congress and the Left parties fell apart. The coalition failed to engrave its presence in the state and the BJP with the Prime Minister jumping into the fray came out with a comfortable margin. The weakening element for the Congress is that the celebrated Bharat Jodo Yatra and the much acclaimed renewed vigor of the party could not get translated into electoral gain. The Prime Minister’s popularity seems to be engulfing all the parties that accuse him of scams and scandals. The recent wildfire of accusations leveled against him in connection with the Adani meltdown also did not help the opposition to win votes. Modi seems to be gaining confidence from the millions of beneficiaries of his schemes across the country. He clearly indicates in real terms as to what gives him the strength to keep the ball rolling. When Modi says “Instead of a dynasty, I am a member of the family of 140 crore Indians”, he is referring to the chord that he could successfully draw between every Indian and him through his welfare schemes. A connection he believes will not be possible to break with baseless allegations alone.
The warring opponents of Narendra Modi are claiming the need of framing an amicable course correction by unifying a coalition against the BJP. Their plans seem to be losing ground when they start strategizing their priorities. Frantic calls for opposition unity can be heard from various parties. Ambitious leaders like Nitish Kumar are taking the lead to stitch alliances among like-minded parties. Ruling out any pre-poll alliance for 2024, Mamata Banerjee decided to go solo. With more regional leaders seemingly trying to pull the strings for coalition leadership of an embroidered alliance, a still weakening Congress would turn out to be a liability. Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra could not cut much ice with the regional parties. Their disbelief in his leadership capabilities would keep the Congress an underdog. Minimizing chances of a major coalition among the opposition, the BJP is expected to attract some fence sitters to its fold. A diplomatic outreach to some regional parties, an essential emergence of a pre-poll alliance, can be expected from the saffron side.
For much of the nine years since Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister, the eminent notion of his popularity is seen polarized with a large number of Indians calling him a messiah or a redeemer of India, while his political opposition heavily comes on him in India and abroad. Rahul Gandhi’s demeanor in Cambridge should be seen as a self-inflicted ideological blow on its own image as the Congress approaches the elections. His party’s ideological ineptness is vividly displayed in his anti-Modi rhetoric at the foreign institution. While ‘crying wolf in the foreign soil’, Rahul Gandhi once again proved his incompetence as a matured political leader. His usual ‘democracy under attack in India’ would satisfy his foreign masters who are willing to pump money for destabilizing India’s social amity. Would the Indian polity accept Rahul Gandhi’s extreme anti -Modi stand which at times turn against the collective interest of the country? The essential point is that the Congress and the BJP are fighting an ideological war on the idea of India. When the former deliberately presents India as a union of states drawing theoretical description from the constitution, the latter is trying to see India as a unified cultural entity which though different in linguistic expressions, holds a common cultural lineage.
Modi’s frequent visit to the Northeast in the last nine years helped his party capture power in almost all the states in the region. The BJP’s bonhomie with small regional parties in the area has widened its scope for the National Elections. With the region receiving a huge push in infrastructure, Modi knows the area is not far away from the country’s capital. Like any other mainstream state, every northeastern state bubbles with great patriotic fervor. Disregarded for decades by the successive governments since independence, the area suffered a despicable alienation. Narendra Modi’s ‘look-east policy’ not only revamped this beautiful landscape with greater facilities but helped it tap the real potentiality of tourism development. The political opposition of the ruling BJP is putting its arithmetics into perspective for holding Narendra Modi from entering a third term. With its 45 per cent votes the saffron party ruled the country almost a decade now. More than 50 per cent of the votes were polled against the Modi rise but got split across numerous parties and this is the key element, the strength of the BJP – a divided opposition. But the real ghost that haunts the political imagination of the anti-Modi camp is that they lack leaders who can capture the gist of the moment as evocatively as the Modi persona does. It’s a bona fide challenge.
(Author is freelance journalist and social worker based in Kerala. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author.)