Prima facie, the Narendra Modi juggernaut is still trundling along. However, it is experiencing a few
bumps on the way. Nothing major, of course, but they show that the political journey is not as smooth as the prime minister may have expected.
For instance, although the BJP has been able to form a government in Jharkhand, it was able to secure only a bare majority with the help of the five seats won by its ally, the All Jharkhand Student’s Union, since its own
tally was 37, down from the 58 it won in the assembly segments in the last general election.
Moreover, its front-ranking leader, former chief minister Arjun Munda, lost, thereby necessitating the choice of a non-tribal, Raghubar Das, as the chief minister. Since Jharkhand is known as a tribal-dominated state although the population of the tribals is around 28 per cent, it is not known how the selection of a non-tribal chief
minister, for the first time in the state’s 14-year history, will be received.
The choice, however, is in keeping with the latest trend in such nominations by the BJP, for it chose a non-Maratha, Devendra Fadnavis, in Maharashtra, a non-Jat, Manohar Lal Khattar, in Haryana and now a non-tribal in Jharkhand. It will not be a bad thing if the BJP can pull off this experiment of ignoring caste- and community-based norms in the context of its present emphasis on development-oriented politics and disregard for identity politics.
But, one doesn’t know whether it is courting trouble at a time when the party is seemingly unable to control the anti-minority hawks in the saffron brotherhood. For the present, however, the BJP will be able to wear another feather in its cap if it is able to come to power in Jammu and Kashmir as well. If it does so, it will be a remarkable achievement for a Hindu-dominated and allegedly communal-minded party to be in power in a Muslim-majority state. Moreover, the BJP’s assumption of office will be in the company of parties which it has generally regarded as “soft” separatists and, therefore, anti-national in the eyes of the saffron hardliners.
For these parties, too, an understanding with the BJP is likely to be seen by the radicals in their ranks as unmitigated opportunism. Not surprisingly, both of them – the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which has won
the largest number of seats, and the National Conference (NC), which had been in power till it fared poorly in the polls – have been wary about the back-channel negotiations with the BJP.
What the present proximity between the latter and either the PDP or the NC shows, however, is the remarkable complexity of the Indian political and social scene. For even as the surreptitious negotiations are on, saffron
hotheads are feverishly engaged in reconverting groups of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism in a proselytizing
manoeuvre called ghar wapsi or homecoming since the hotheads believe that all minorities were originally Hindus.
Not only that, another group of saffron extremists belonging to the Hindu Mahasabha is planning to release a documentary on Nathuram Godse, the killer of Mahatma Gandhi, and installing busts of the assassin all over the country. Rarely before has such contradictory impulses been witnessed almost on a daily basis. There is little doubt that if Modi is unable to rein in these rabid elements, the shadow over his economic policies will become darker. Little wonder that the opposition parties have taken advantage of the furore created by the saffron extremists to stall parliament, forcing the Modi government to issue ordinances to pass several crucial measure relating to economic reforms.
Apart from bypassing the opposition, the government is probably also in a hurry to divert attention from the antics of the hardliners in the saffron camp. There have been also been reports that Modi spoke of resigning although leaving the battlefield is not in keeping with his style of functioning. In all probability, he is putting up a fight, which is probably why the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat was said to have rushed to Delhi for a meeting with the BJP bigwigs after his endorsement of the ghar wapsi (homecoming) campaign annoyed some of the party men.
With the BJP facing internal trouble, the opposition should have been in a joyous mood. But, neither the Congress nor any other party appears capable of reaping any advantage from the present situation. In the Congress, it is becoming increasingly clear that Rahul Gandhi will not be able to revive the party. As a party member told this correspondent, the Congress vice-president has nothing in his head – which is not exactly
a state secret in Lutyens Delhi. Since Sonia Gandhi is not in the pink of health – she was recently hospitalized – the Congress’s future is palpably bleak because the party men cannot conceive of life without the family and the family is so focussed on its own political future that it is unwilling to search for a potential leader who is not a Nehru-Gandhi .
Among the other parties, the Left has faded away and the so-called Janata “parivar” comprising remnants of the old Janata Dal such as Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and H.D. Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) has been unable to get its act together under its new standard-bearer, the Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav. The BJP, therefore, has only its in-house opponents.