The Modi Cult will Survive Despite Setbacks
STORIES, ANALYSES, EXPERT VIEWS
Despite election setbacks and cover related issues, India Today’s Mood of the Nation survey revealed that 74% of the respondents rated Modi’s performance as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, a small dip from his 78% rating in August 2020. Since then however, things have changed considerably, writes Jawhar Sircar (former culture secretary) after the second wave struck.
His latest popularity index, as calculated by the much-quoted US data intelligence company Morning Consult, says Sircar “shows a fall to the lowest point ever. People who ‘approved’ Modi fell from 82% exactly one year ago to 63% now, while those who specifically disapproved his policies rose from a mere 16% to 30%. But these surveys still affirm that he is way above the 31.1% of popular vote with which he swept to power in 2014 and also far higher than 37.4% he cornered in the 2019 polls — whichever be the method of extrapolation one may seek to use.”
However, there is “precious little to challenge his fiercely entrenched, flush-funded and ruthlessly professional electoral machine…….In any case, the peeling off appears to be restricted to the outer layers of the support base and were mostly add-ons to Modi’s fan club from 2014 or thereafter.”
The angst against Modi may or may not “last beyond the second wave of COVID-19…..”
Second wave may not hurt Modi politically
Roshan Kishore (Data & Political Economy Editor, Hindustan Times) is of the view that the second wave may not be the beginning of the dip in political fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“India’s left-liberal intelligentsia, which constitutes the intellectual elite, dislikes Narendra Modi the politician. Modi has exploited the ideas of political Hindutva to unleash a revolution (or counter-revolution) against the established constitutional consensus. Whatever anyone may say, this process has had democratic sanction. Significant sections of voters do not see the removal of Modi or the defeat of Hindutva to ‘save the Republic’ as the primary political fault line in the country.
“The government’s critics also believe that communalism is not the only problem of the current regime; it is accompanied, they claim, by misgovernance. There is an element of truth of this charge, and the inept handling of the pandemic is a case in point.” Yet, “the BJP may not pay a political cost for this…..
“Large-scale policy-inflicted suffering is only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition for unseating a political hegemon……Large mandates are almost always born out of the wombs of powerful narratives. Hindutva was the building block of Narendra Modi’s political success in 2014. But what gave wings to his campaign was the promise of a capitalist revolution, aka the pan-Indian scaling up of the Gujarat Model. It is this promise which was sold in the name of ‘Achhe Din’ (good times).” That may still survive.
Modi will survive even macroeconomic ineptitude
Surprisingly, Modi’s popularity started rising even as the economy started sinking. It did not dent his popularity, because “unless it is given a political narrative, macroeconomic ineptitude doesn’t necessarily turn the masses (as opposed to economists) against the government…….The criticism on the economy did not resonate deeply, for people appeared to think that if it was broken, only Modi could fix it. Nor did allegations of corruption regarding the Rafael deal. The fact that millions received welfare benefits helped neutralise the discontent too.”
The economic pain, argues Kishore “will be discernibly higher in the run-up to 2024. But it will be a mistake to assume that the Modi government can be defeated with promises of enhanced welfare benefits. There is in fact a lesson from 2014. The Gujarat Model campaign worked because Gujarat was a more industrialised state and voters in places such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were enamoured by it. Unless the Congress, or a bunch of opposition parties, demonstrate success at the state-level, their claims of better governance will not have credibility………”
In fact, “2024 will also be an election where the state of health care could be made into a key issue.” The second wave was devastating, “but here again, the Opposition will have to demonstrate that a better model can be built in the states where the BJP is not in power that can then be replicated nationally.
“Thus, what will hurt the BJP is a forward-looking narrative which has maximum, if not universal, appeal across caste and class divide. But whether or not such a narrative can be built will depend on two political factors.
“One, political ambitions will have to be portrayed as subservient to a larger agenda. And two, there will have to be a process of creative destruction in the opposition ranks, with leadership being invested in a person or set of persons who have delivered tangible gains at a state-level and want to scale these policies. Neither variable is present at the moment, giving Modi a cushion that his detractors are unable to see.”
‘Congressisation’ of the BJP may hurt Modi
However, according to P. Raman (covered politics for national dailies since 1978) the threat to Modi can be from the ‘Congressisation’ of the BJP. Raman wrote about it in Business Standard on August 21, 1995. This was then considered an exaggeration. “Twenty-six years after the Congressisation began, the BJP’s new brass has concluded another process – bureaucratising the party organisation. The whole set of party functionaries – from general secretaries to panchayat level leaders – have been turned into the prime minister’s foot soldiers. As Karnataka BJP chief whip V. Sunilkumar lamented, there exists no forum in the BJP where party functionaries are allowed to air their opinions.
Under the new party “management model, the once vibrant bodies like the national executive, national council and parliamentary board have been rendered comatose…..Now all decisions are taken by a couple of party heavyweights, often on the advice of consultants. In post-democracy BJP, the only functioning organisational body is that of the office-bearers consisting of president J.P. Nadda, his nominated general secretaries and vice-presidents. The general secretaries report to Nadda or, at times, Union home minister Amit Shah. This change has taken place because the new party management matrix looks down at all deliberative platforms of internal democracy.
“The devaluation of the party organisation is a major component in the post-democracy leadership’s new winning strategy. Under this new framework, the BJP’s organisation and its network of party cadres are just one of the many tools used to win elections. The leadership gives more importance to social media platforms, technology-driven outreach programmes and information management. The enforcement agencies also play a crucial role in effecting defections and taming rivals.”