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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 9, February 21, 2015

Modi on the Backfoot

Monday 23 February 2015, by SC


The Delhi Assembly election results last week continue to impact on both the party and the Union Government. Had the BJP leadership not been shamed by the all-pervasive rout of the RSS’ principal political outfit in those elections which found the minorities (Muslims, Christians et al.) voting en masse with secular democrats of all hues against the BJP to deliver a massive blow to the latter’s ego, US President Barack Obama’s public warning in New Delhi on January 27 (that India’s success was contingent on the country and its people not being “splintered along lines of religious faith”) would not have had the desired effect forcing the party to dismantle from its high horse of arrogance. Thus at a recent public function in the Capital the PM, who has yet to live down the stain of the post-Godhra pogrom in Gujarat during his stewardship of the State thirteen years ago, had to declare that none should be targeted for her or his religious belief; and in the same breath he had to stress on the unique diversity of our nation (beyond the confines of Hindu religion and culture).

This was a different Modi speaking, one would imagine. And it was followed by even the RSS and VHP leaders chiding their followers and activists now holding important posts in the BJP (and even ministerial berths in the BJP-led government at the Centre) for speaking out of turn.

So far so good. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Belatedly the PM and RSS-VHP leaders have pulled up their members. But, mind you, no punitive action has been contemplated against any one of them. Not even against Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti for her open castigation of non-Hindus as haramzaadon. Needless to say, such actions are long overdue; and yet they have not come.

The reasons behind the latest statement by the PM are, of course, not far to seek. Besides the transparent testimony of the party’s isolation from the public due, inter alia, to the extremists’ pronouncements in support of the party, lately Narendra Modi has been admonished by a few of his admirers, among them Columbia University Professor Jagdish Bhagwati and HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh, for having allowed the Hindu chauvinist elements a free run. Hence his tactical (not strategic) retreat.

That Narendra Modi is clearly on the backfoot is evident from today’s developments in Bihar. The attempts at horsetrading by Jitanram Manjhi, with full BJP backing, having misfired, the Mahadalit CM had to do a Charan Singh, that is, resign without facing the State Assembly, just before its Budget session was scheduled to start. The whole BJP game-plan having been exposed and defeated due to the solid anti-BJP phalanx of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress-Left, Nitish Kumar is all set to return as the Bihar CM with the backing of all sections of the people of the State (including the Mahadalits some of whom vociferously defended him in the Assembly premises today).

Modi and his followers are learning the hard way the limits of their influence on the nation’s polity.

February 20 S.C.