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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Narendra Modi 2.0 for battle 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pressed the reset button and sought to reclaim the political narrative at the beginning of the year .

editorials Updated: Jan 03, 2019 08:05 IST

Narendra Modi showed, quite convincingly, that short term sops will not address the conditions that give rise to farm indebtedness and misery in the first place.
Narendra Modi showed, quite convincingly, that short term sops will not address the conditions that give rise to farm indebtedness and misery in the first place.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
         

In his most expansive interview in recent times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi portrayed himself as a statesman committed to the constitutional process, political pluralism and rule of law. He combined a robust defence of his government’s record with an attack on the political opposition, but with humility and without bitterness. Mr Modi also sought to project an image of a leader who thought about the long term, who addressed structural issues, and would not give in to easy populism — be it on the cultural or economic front. What sceptics would term as image recalibration and supporters would term image reinforcement has happened in a particular context. The opposition has sought to portray Mr Modi personally as a PM who is authoritarian, who disregards institutions and seeks to control them, who is insensitive to the farmers and the poor, and who — even if not intolerant of the country’s minorities — turns a blind eye to majoritarian violence. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) itself — for the first time in four years — is on the defensive. Its morale has taken a hit after the losses in the three state polls. And it is struggling to counter the opposition’s relentless attack.

Mr Modi has pressed the reset button and sought to reclaim the political narrative at the beginning of the year to counter precisely this criticism and turn the tide. On the economy, he reiterated his pro-poor credentials by alluding to welfare schemes such as Ayushman Bharat. He sought to reach out to the middle class by according it respect and dignity and pointing out how his government’s initiatives will eventually benefit them. Mr Modi also, somewhat unpersuasively, defended demonetisation as bringing in structural changes. But it was his response to the farm loan waiver that stood out for the PM showed, quite convincingly, that short term sops will not address the conditions that give rise to farm indebtedness and misery.

In the realm of politics and society, Mr Modi most emphatically came across as a moderate leader. He spoke of the BJP’s commitment to allies; of respecting their desire to grow; and even emphasised the need for a strong opposition and redefined what ‘Congress-mukt’ meant. On the Ram temple, he refused to give in to the militant demands of a section of his own support base when he made it clear that the legal process must take its course and the legislative route would not be adopted till then. And he condemned once again cow vigilantism and lynching. Once the BJP lost the recent state polls, and in the run up to 2019, the party could have either toned down its political aggression, become more inclusive and introspect about the economy. Or it could have turned more belligerent and adopted communal tactics aimed at majoritarian consolidation. Mr Modi has, correctly, taken the first route. This is a lesson the party should now internalise. Whether it is enough to win over the floating voters once again, and retain its core vote, is the big question for the BJP in 2019.

First Published: Jan 03, 2019 07:41 IST

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