Mani Shankar Aiyar

The four year toll

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BJP-led government might be good at coining acronyms but the people know that it has only marginally built on the legacy of Congress-led governments.

If Ravi Shankar Prasad (‘Before and after four years,’ IE, May 26) cannot hear the bells tolling all the way from Kairana to Bhandara, he must be tone deaf. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls,” Ravi Shankar ji, “It tolls for thee”.

There have been two truths evident since 2014. First, it was not the BJP that won that long ago Lok Sabha election; it was the Opposition that lost it. For, the UPA alliance quietly and patiently stitched together in 2004 by Sonia Gandhi to bring down the Vajpayee “India Shining” government, and then carried forward for an entire decade, started unraveling in the latter days of UPA-II. By the time 2014 came around, there was virtually no UPA left. Narendra Modi and his team moved into the political vacuum.

All it will take to get that vacuum vacated is for an alliance of non-BJP parties to again come together. Alwar, Ajmer, Gorakhpur, Phulpur, Bhandara and Kairana have all shown that the Opposition has only to hang together to stop being hanged separately. There is no Modi magic, no unbeatable oratorical charisma, and nothing in the record of the last four wasted years but lies, fibs and dodgy statistics.

Therefore, the Modi-Shah duo are left struggling on the horns of the dilemma as to whether to save their fortresses of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh by bringing forward the Lok Sabha elections to the winter of 2018 or keep to the May 2019 deadline, even if that means going into the election with the shame of defeat in these states hanging around their necks. Either way, the end of the Modi regime has been signaled. “Chand roz, meri jaan/Faqt, chand hi roz”.

The second clear truth is that it is not till the math is right that the chemistry will kick in. An Opposition destined to lose will stick to their individual identities to live to fight another day. On the other hand, an Opposition that sees victory on the horizon will, as in the past, work towards a common identity, a common agenda. Post Karnataka, little doubt remains that Opposition unity will determine the outcome of the next Lok Sabha election as decisively as disunity in UPA ensured the wipe-out of 2014.

Exactly a hundred years ago, the huge gap between an isolationist United States and a Europe in disarray enabled Germany in 1914 to launch its assault on the Allies. By 1918, the excesses of the Kaiser’s men brought the US into Europe and resulted in the crushing defeat of Imperial Germany. By a fascinating coincidence, exactly a hundred years later, in 2014, Modi’s BJP successfully assaulted a hopelessly divided Opposition. Four years on, as in 1918 so in 2018, the forces sent reeling back have regrouped and launched the counter assault. The Allies humbled the Germans on November 11, 1918. It is entirely on the cards that if, in panic, Modi-Shah bring forward the next Lok Sabha elections to coincide with the clutch of coming state elections, November 11, 2018 might see a new Indian Prime Minister being sworn in.

In UP, the BJP won 71 of 80 seats in 2014 and then registered a massive victory in terms of the number of seats in 2017. But in 2017, UP had actually voted overwhelmingly against Modi and his cohort, as revealed by the 22 per cent vote share of the BSP and the 27 per cent vote share of the SP, plus the contribution of the Congress and the RJD. Taken together, these parties would have won well over half the vote and around two-thirds of the seats — thus finishing the BJP as decisively as the entry of the US into Word War I in April 1917 spelt the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end for the Germans. The SP and BSP have now shown that they have learned that lesson.

Ravi Shankar Prasad may trot out all the renamed schemes he likes and claim credit for his party for all of them, but the people have long realised that while the BJP is excellent at coining acronyms, it is only building marginally on the development legacy that the earlier Congress and Congress-led governments left for the country. The most egregious example of such befooling of the public is Modi’s claim to have electrified 100 per cent of the country when it’s well known that it is only the last 4.6 per cent that have benefitted from Modi’s largesse — 95.4 per cent having been accomplished before that dreadful summer day four years ago when Modi was sworn in.

If the BJP had actually lived up to its 2014 promises — bringing back black money to the extent of Rs 15 lakh per Indian, ensuring farmers a healthy remuneration for farm produce; moving in the direction of doubling farm incomes, accelerating growth to the vicinity of double digits; genuinely promoting “cooperative federalism”, carrying all sections of society for the progress of all such as to end minority marginalisation and vulnerability, actually delivering on Gandhi’s dream of Swachh Bharat, settling matters with Pakistan and and bringing peace to Kashmir — there might have been that “journey of hope and development,” claimed by Ravi Shankar Prasad. This could have given the BJP enough accretion of credibility to overcome the mathematics of Opposition unity.

After all, Jawaharlal Nehru’s good governance led to his increasing his vote share and seats in every successive general election he fought from 1952 to 1957 to 1962. Moreover, Nehru reached out to his opponents to the point where one of the giants among them, Hiren Mukherjee, titled his biography of Nehru, The Gentle Colossus. Modi believes he is a colossus but no one in the Opposition wants him. His arrogance has consolidated the Opposition, which might have never happened had he respected and reached out to them as Nehru did. Indeed, Modi has so alienated such large swathes of the Sangh Parivar, especially by his disgraceful treatment of the veteran Lal Krishna Advani, that even if his party would want the BJP to win, they would much rather that the Modi nightmare ended.

Courtesy Indian Express

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