Since Narendra Modi is seen as the man behind the BJP’s remarkable success in the U.P. assembly elections, it is not surprising that even the Congress’s P. Chidambaram has conceded that the prime minister is the most dominant politician in the country today.
There is little doubt that Modi’s dominance will continue in the foreseeable future if only because the opposition parties are currently in more of a disarray than ever before. Their disquiet can be seen in West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee getting off her high horse and calling for a cooperative relationship with the centre.
Yet, only a few weeks ago, she was demanding a roll back of Modi’s demonetization drive and considering cobbling together an anti-BJP alliance at the national level. The opposition has had to fall silent on demonetization since it is clear that Modi has been immensely successful in selling his pet initiative.
Of the other parties, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is now seemingly more concerned about the reliability of the electronic voting machines probably because he is not too sure of his party’s success in the forthcoming Delhi municipal polls.
Since the Aam Admi Party’s (AAP) dream of making its presence felt at the national level by faring well in the Punjab and Goa elections has been dashed, he is banking on the municipal polls to show that his is not a one-time success story.
Considering that the BJP has been winning a series of victories in local elections even before its U.P. success, there is a strong possibility of it coming out on top in the Delhi civic polls.
As it is quite certain that the BJP will win in 2019, the chances of Modi turning with renewed vigour to fulfil his promises on the developmental front are high. After all, this is the promise which was behind his success in 2014 and again in 2017.
If he faltered in 2015 and 2016, the reason was that he came up in those two years against powerful regional leaders like the Nitish Kumar-Laloo Yadav duo in Bihar, Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu. Kejriwal, too, was riding high in 2015 on his assurances of providing clean governance.
Since then, however, the scene has changed. While Kejriwal has lost much of his appeal, Mamata’s efforts to rev up the industrial situation in West Bengal have led to nothing. Nitish Kumar, too, is currently more preoccupied in fending off the challenge from former foe and present ally, Laloo Yadav, whose wife, former chief minister Rabri Devi, has hinted at the possibility of one of her sons, Tejashwi Yadav, becoming the chief minister in Bihar. Tejashwi is now the deputy chief minister.
Considering that Modi’s opponents are currently in no position to pose a major challenge – the Congress’s Mani Shankar Aiyar thinks that only a grand alliance can stop Modi – the corporate sector is more likely to invest in India than before. Once there is a substantial flow of foreign direct investment (FDI), the problem of unemployment faced by the Modi government will be diminished to a considerable extent. The resultant boost to his position will make it all the easier for him to cross the electoral hurdle in 2019.
But even if there is economic buoyancy, Modi can still be in trouble if the BJP’s success encourages the Hindu fundamentalists to up the ante. Evidence of their antics can be seen in the concerted manner in which they have been vandalizing the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film-in-the-making on Padmavati, the Rajput princess who entranced the Muslim king, Alauddin Khilji, who ruled in Delhi from 1296 to 1316.
The BJP’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has also been emboldened in recent weeks to target its bête noire, the Left-leaning students of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Although Modi has succeeded in silencing other Hindu militants who had been organizing ghar wapsi or the home coming of Muslims to the Hindu fold via reconversion, the attacks on Bhansali’s sets in Rajasthan and Maharashtra show that the Hindu Right is alive and well.
But it isn’t only the storm-troopers who can bring the BJP government into disrepute. Since there are “educationists” like Dinanath Batra in the saffron camp who claimed that “whether it be the first spacecraft or television or car or plastic surgery or rockets, there is nothing that wasn’t conceived, designed and executed by Indians aeons ago”, or an education minister who says that cows both inhale and exhale oxygen, there is every chance of the Modi government inviting ridicule rather than admiration in the days to come.
Hearing gems of this nature at the Indian Science Congress, Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan called the sessions of the Congress a “circus”.
Winning elections is not the only means of establishing dominance. A leader has also to show that he is in sync with the modern times who not only accelerates a country’s economic growth but boosts its intellectual attainments as well and not let it wallow in absurd myths. The jury is out on whether Modi is equal to both the tasks.