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He's like Teflon, setbacks don't stick

Bikram Vohra
Filed on December 4, 2019 | Last updated on December 4, 2019 at 07.48 pm

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), his parent party, became a power at the hustings because of this one man.

It becomes imperative to see Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an individual outside his party to be able to make a reasonable assessment of his staying power in the second term.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), his parent party, became a power at the hustings because of this one man. When we now say that the BJP has lost its lustre it didn't really hold the nation enthralled in the first place and was always a bit of a dues paid member of the Hindutva club.

If it wasn't for the morally bankrupt Congress party and its complete surrender of legitimacy as a political entity, the Modi juggernaut would not have done a Ben Hur and lopped off its chariot wheels. The messianic appearance of Modi as the deliverer was timely. The country needed a saviour. Hail Modi.

So, if you assert in any argument that the BJP is less loved it is a moot point because its cadres are so imbued by their own image they are blind to public opinion or any sort of criticism which they see only through the prism of nationalism. Indeed, the question that needs to be asked is whether the Modi magnetism will pull this lot along through the next three years. After all, after five, there has to be a certain loss of sparkle as familiarity breeds contempt.

The 'one man show' has only so much traction and, so far, Modi has held sway. They call him the Teflon PM because nothing sticks to him. Not scandal, not the shenanigans of his team, not even the failure of the economy, the genesis of which lies in demonetization, and the imposition of GST. This is the lowest growth year of the last five years hitting only 6 per cent.

Is Modi worried? On the one side he should be, on the other his luck holds.

Yes, like water, the splashing about has visibly reduced and found its level. The Mann Ki Baat (talk from the heart) is muted in comparison to a 100 days ago. The government approach towards students has alienated this huge swathe of young men and women, no longer swayed by sweet rhetoric. The complete dog's breakfast that is the formation of government in Maharashtra should have indicted Modi and his frontline and his party squarely for condoning and encouraging corrupt political practices. It has literally been unscathed with the media patting itself on the back for clever and brave headlines on the issue but having no real impact on the question of ethics. In another democracy a president faces possible impeachment, in India it is a passing moment, changes nothing.

Losing the counsel of stalwarts like Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley and relying on the more Machiavellian thought processes of Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh robbed Modi of that pretense of an intellectual shawl on his shoulders. So bereft, he has opted for a lower profile for the moment.

Yes, with restless farmers, growing unemployment, a rising price index, a nationwide anger over female safety, pollution in the cities, general crime and apathy over cracking down on it, the bricks are crumbling.

But that said, Modi has an ace in the hole. For now, he is still the country's best bet. And while the stadiums around the world may not fill up any more nor so many millions tune in on the radio or even display the patience and affection for a little Modi mania, there is literally no one else in a nation of 1.3 billion people to take him on.

But where he is going wrong is in ducking the solutions and falling back on the glories of the past. People only want to know what tomorrow brings, the past is the past.

Not an individual, not a party yet comes close. The Congress is still marooned on the rocks and its dynastic fingers have lost their grasp what with scion Rahul Gandhi literally dancing away from the stage, not even chased by a bear.

So, Modi can sweep aside the litter on his beach and declare war on plastics and ignore the rising clamour of demands but what is now still a sanctuary may not be tomorrow.

For the one factor which emerges from the relatively soggy woodwork of the Indian political structure is the absurd yet real option of the coming together of disparate parties. With no sanctity to manifesto or ethical claim, the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress cobbling we have seen could light up the way forward as the only road to the Modi bastion. To breach that moat and enter the fort this way, if the trend catches on, may now nibble at the BJP's sleep pattern.

It is said this December that the unholy triumvirate in powerful Maharashtra will fail and collapse under the weight of its own absurdity. What if it does not? With Jharkhand in the wings for its tryst with the vote, the message could go pan-India: let's come together and stop the Modi bandwagon. If not the driver, at least a brake on the wheels.

-bikram@khaleejtimes.com


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