Lal Krishna Advani has now gone beyond merely describing Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an ‘excellent event manager’. Along with his colleagues, in the BJP’s Margdarshak Mandal, he shot off a joint letter demanding fixing of responsibility and accountability for the BJP’s Bihar electoral rout. The RSS may well throw ‘holy water’ to douse these flames of disquiet. However, such cries are echoed by large sections. Hence, make no mistake, an internal churning in the BJP has begun with such rumblings growing. In any case, this is an internal party matter for the RSS/BJP to resolve. We shall have to wait to see how this will play out.
The BJP, notwithstanding the aggressive campaigning they had undertaken with Modi addressing an unprecedented number of public meetings, virtually projecting himself as Bihar’s future chief minister, was roundly routed electorally. The BJP’s explanation that Delhi and Bihar are only an aberration in an otherwise spotless record of spectacular electoral successes does not stand the scrutiny of facts. Even prior to the Delhi elections, in the round of by-elections held in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan for 50 assembly seats, the BJP/NDA won a mere 18 compared to the 35 where they had big leads in the 2014 Parliament elections. In Haryana, they formed a government with a mere 31% of the polled vote. In Maharashtra, this voting percentage was only 29. Their ‘project 44’ in the Jammu & Kashmir elections failed. They had to join Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as a junior partner to enter the state government.
More recently, in the elections to Uttar Pradesh panchayat polls, held after the election process began in Bihar, Modi had to bite the dust in his own parliamentary constituency, losing 50 of the 58 panchayats, including the village the prime minister had personally chosen under the MP’s development scheme. Likewise, in the Union home minister’s Lucknow constituency, the BJP has won only four out of 28 seats. In the Deoria constituency of the Union minister for micro, small and medium enterprises, the BJP lost 49 out of the 56 seats.
Unfazed, Modi criss-crosses the globe. He appeared unperturbed with the Bihar results in the designer telecasts of his London visit. The late Manmohan Desai, the Hindi film-maker who ruled the roost in Bollywood, was once asked about the secret of his churning out one hit film after another. He replied: Never let the audience think while they are watching the film. Keeping the audience pre-occupied in a ‘dream world’ was the secret of his success. Cut and paste this formula on to Indian politics. Lo and behold, you have Modi and his style of governance. Keep people engrossed in one event after another hoping that they will not have time to protest against the increasing burdens being imposed on them. Transport them in a bubble to a ‘dream world’.
Political leadership in India requires not ‘dream merchants’ of this variety who seek to transport people into a ‘dream world’ escaping from the realities. What the Indian people and the country require is a vision to change this reality that imposes greater misery, both economic burdens and social strife, on the vast majority of our people.
During his foreign visits, Modi appears totally unconcerned with people’s agonies back home. The staple daal roti has gone out of reach. Notwithstanding all the hype about industrial growth, Make in India, etc, this government’s own data shows that the index of industrial production fell to 3.6% last week from 6.4% last month. Worse, manufacturing fell to 2.6% from 6.9%. The crucial economic indicator, gross fixed capital formation has declined with investment: The GDP ratio fell from 30.7% to 30%. This indicates there is no upturn in investment this year. Indian exports continue to decline further given the state of the global economy. All these put together are further depressing employment generation in the country.
Agrarian distress continues to deepen. The increases in the minimum support prices are nowhere near the promises made by Modi during the 2014 election campaign of pegging them at 150% above the production costs. The current announced increases are so meagre that they do not even cover the production costs. This is accelerating the distress suicides of our farmers.
On top of this, petrol and diesel prices have been hiked once again. Various railway charges have been increased. A cess for ‘Swachh Bharat’ has been imposed. Leaving aside the thousands of crores of rupees spent on the prime minister’s publicity around this campaign, we were told that this campaign would be financed through ‘corporate social responsibility’. Instead, people are being burdened. The FDI in 15 crucial sectors, including defence and agriculture, has been opened up permitting foreign capital and its Indian collaborators to maximise their profits by exploiting both our resources and markets at the expense of people’s livelihood.
‘Dreams’ cannot change these miseries of the people. Modi and his government, however, suffer from a schizophrenic vision. The forked tongue that the RSS/BJP excels in has been well-documented. This is: The myth of economic betterment for the vast masses and the vision of converting our social democratic Republic into the RSS project of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. This is the pervasive duality employed by Modi.
Mouthing unrealisable promises to the people and sharpening of communal polarisation and the spread of intolerance bordering on terror. The relentless efforts to replace Indian history with Hindu mythology and Indian philosophy with Hindu theology. The anniversary of Nathuram Godse’s hanging is being celebrated as balidaan divas while Modi waxes eloquent on Gandhi while in London. Another schizophrenic duality: Godse in India, Gandhi in London!
Sitaram Yechury is general secretary of the CPI(M)
The views expressed are personal