The Indian political landscape has become a delightful sight. The ruling party, as a result of the sheer momentum that it has acquired, is growing and getting stronger every day and the opposition parties seem to look like a bunch of delinquent political adolescents trying to reluctantly get into a huddle to share the beating and blame. The ruling party has acquired the skill-sets to reach out to people with promises and plans that are like fairytales that make even the hungry and distressed to go to sleep and, at the same time, has been using the digital communication to carry out an extremely low level and malicious political propaganda to wean away the few committed and indecisive left outs who, in a confused state, are already sitting on the fence and trying to convince themselves, and each other, that it is only the Modi-Amit combo that can bring prosperity and happiness and wanting to cross-over to be a part of the new saffron mainstream.
The 2019 elections would bring back Modi to the Lok Sabha with an even larger team. That is almost given and it requires no political analysis or number crunching psephology to come to this conclusion. The mood of the people is evident and the confidence of the BJP is at its aggressive best. BJP seems to have been given a walkover by the opposition and, ironically, not as a part of a strategy to prepare for winning the next game but for reasons of being in a state of complete hopelessness. There is no opposition for Modi and while he seemingly enjoying his effortless joy-ride, deep within himself he must be feeling terribly frustrated. No competition for a person in a leadership role at work-place sets in frustration and makes the organization complacent and inefficient. That is exactly what is in store for the ruling party. The irony is that the biggest name in contemporary Indian politics, as a result of this frustration, still defends himself against the accusations of a political half-wit with the vigor and vitality of a electioneering district level politician.
If the people of the country have given an overwhelming mandate to BJP and its allies, it only goes to prove that they were not happy with Congress and its allies and wanted to experiment with a change and BJP under the leadership of Modi was a wonderful alternative that was made available especially in the background of there being no visible respite from the incompetent and dynastic leadership that has become a fait accompli for the de-motivated and dwindling cadres of the Congress Party.
The Indian voter has, for years, been like the typical upper-class urban modern person who finds reasons to fall in love with his/her partner before getting married and, also, for building up the arguments in the divorce petition that he/she files a few years of getting married. There is nothing like party loyalty that can be taken for granted. Why should the poor voter be expected to be loyal to a party when leaders are not – so often are senior leaders seen switching parties that it is difficult to keep track of their current party affiliations. At times, it is seem that leaders elected on party tickets move en-masse to the party that they contested against to enable them to be a part of the government.
If politics is all about activities carried out for increasing one’s status and getting into power, no one understands politics better than the Indian politician. While the Indian politician is valueless, ideology-free, corrupt or corruptible, wealth obsessed, feudal, power hungry and a megalomaniac, the voter – the average Indian voter – is a gullible dreamer who is looking for some relief from the drudgery and harassment that he has to go through in keeping himself and his family fed and safe. The average Indian voter – who spends his entire life in thinking about and working for keeping his ‘survival kit’ operational – had not experienced a perceptible change in life in the previous political dispensation that was in power and was lured to vote for the other party hoping that things would change and change fast. The build-up of change expectations from Modi camp has become unmanageably large. It would be difficult for Modi and his team to meet expectations of their voters and at the same time he would – as a part of his own ideological belief or under instructions from the so called apolitical supporters – give enough political fodder to his opponents to project him as a person who is out to destroy the secular ethos of the country. Unless there is a huge mid-course correction this would happen and would happen for sure in the second term of the NDA – between 2019 and 2024. Absolute power would strengthen Modi’s authoritarian instincts and that is the time when the possible slide down could begin. People would have realized by then that a nicely packed gift is not necessarily the best gift that one gets and that promises have to be looked at against deliverables and that things like promoting or keeping quiet about a phenomenon like lynching of people from a particular community to generate a fear psychosis within the community with the objective of forcing a buy-in into the BJP way of Indian social and cultural ethos do not fit into the Idea of India that the founding fathers of the Constitution had contemplated and which has become a part of the political sub-conscious of Indians.
BJP in its communication packages, for some reasons but very proudly, mentions that “the party’s agenda is to unite people on the basis of the love for their country” and this by natural deduction means that people who are opposed to BJP do not love their country. Suspecting that people do not love their country or challenging people on this issue is something that only divides people and just cannot be a strategy for getting people together. Also, there is need to reflect on the emerging public outrage on how the BJP, and BJP alone, has usurped the right to nationalism. It is outrageous for anyone or any group of people to become the custodians of nationalism.
Politician-leaders have the compulsions of towing the party line (till they are in the party) and being extremely tactical in their approach for the sake of getting into or remaining in power. Modi in the present avtaar is an extremely efficient politician and given the fact that he has this huge mandate – which, for sure, is going to get even better in 2019 – he needs to acquire the character and the qualities of a statesman and emerge as one if he wants history to remember him as leader who was a disruptionist, challenged the status quo and brought about the required political transformation for strengthening the institutions and reinforcing the psyche for the development of a stronger democratic and secular India and which played an important role in global economy. And, for this to happen he has to take decisions that are in the interest of the nation and not driven primarily for electoral gains, take people along with him and work through consensus building rather than confrontation, respect religious and ethnic diversity of the country, learn to respect the good contribution made by his predecessors and not run them down, respect the views of the opposition and look at issues through the prism of humanity and not religion. If, in the last three years, Modi can travel to 31 nations (and a few of these, multiple times) to develop relationships with adversaries and re-enforce relationships with friends and emerge as a recognized leader in the international community, there is reason for him to travel through the country to meet people of all walks and political ideologies, understand the problems of the country independently and not viewing these through his party shades, define a consensus based blue-print for the development of the country, work out a peace-seeking solution for the turmoil in the region, create a strong lobby for sustainable global development and get world leaders together for fighting issues relating to health, nutrition, education, environment, women empowerment, racism, etc at the global level.
The famous 19th Century American theologist James Freeman Clarke left a piece of advice for Modi about a century and a half back when he said “A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation”. Mr Modi, this is the time to rise to the occasion – otherwise your successors would be as indifferent to you and your contribution as you are about your predecessors.
Cartoon in words: Two beggars in tatters sitting by the side of a wall and a passerby dropping a coin in their begging bowl. One beggar to the other: “Since we provide the ‘service’ of reducing the guilt of the rich, would our income come under GST”.