The Return of Narendra Modi – His New Challenges
The Rs 15 lakh promise may not haunt him anymore but Article 370, Ram Mandir and Uniform Civil Code will.
The fading old champion with clearly tiring legs suddenly perks up. Inspires his team mates, ignores his baggage and in the dying moments, runs in to score a devastating victory. All is forgiven. when he returns to the pitch his adoring fans are hysterical and he is the favourite for yet another championship. Narendra Modi’s win this week featured a beleaguered Prime Minister, hurt by various unfulfilled promises, scoffed at by world leaders and threatened by what seemed like a stronger opposition. In December 2018, Modi was at his lowest, appeared completely vulnerable and lost. But like all champions, he simply grabbed the slightest of opportunities offered to him in Pulwama, dug his heels in, forgot all his weaknesses and put everything into his favourite tackle, a mixture of heady nationalism with a topping of violent Hindutva and sailed home.
There will be many questions asked during the post mortem. Did the opposition fail because it was not united? Given the 50% plus vote share for the BJP in most constituencies, this question is moot now. Was Rahul Gandhi the villain in this entire strategy, not allowing the Congress to stitch up pre-poll arrangements with like-minded parties? Did the Election Commission, with its blatant pro-BJP stance on issues like NaMo TV and hate speeches, influence victory? Were the EVMs tampered? Did VVPAT work well enough? Was Mamta making a tactical mistake in referring to Jai Sri Ram? Did Mayawati not bring in enough Dalit Votes? And why did the Yadavs not vote en bloc for Akhilesh? Why was Lalu not successful in Bihar? What happened to the regional parties? They were set to get 200 seats and form a government with UPAs 100. The third front failed to even reach 100, even as the UPA managed to inch itself to 92. Also, the BJP seems to have increased its vote share from 31 percent to 37, but does that not mean that 63 per cent people still did not vote for Modi?
There was sharp focus on Muslims in the unidimensional speeches made by Amit Shah, Narendra Modi, Menaka Gandhi and Pragya Thakur. Muslims migrants, termites, baby boomers, terrorists…. The analogies used against the largest minority were many and equally repulsive.
After the results are out it would not surprise anyone that there is no Muslim among the 302 seats that the BJP has won. The Muslim MP number has now gone up to 27, far less than in 1980 when the Parliament had 49 Muslim MPs. However, it is slightly better than the 23 in the 2014 elections. Almost everyone, including the bhakts, have reiterated the fear – will a reborn Modi allow his party and his followers to wreak further havoc on India’s most vulnerable minority in the next five years?
This time around, Mr Modi starts off on a much happier state. In 2014, he had promised vikas or development. He had indicated that he would credit 15 lakh rupees into every India citizen’s ban account. His government would root out all black money and vanquish corruption. 2 crore jobs would be created. India would have 100 smart cities, a bullet train and cleanliness everywhere. This time around the Prime Minister has kept his sheet clean. There are no promises made. All his speeches revolved around his strong message to Pakistan, his resolve to use the nuclear option anytime and the corruption in the Congress party over the last 70 years. This time, there will no be tough questions he must escape from.
However, he does have some major challenges. On the political front, while his fan following excused him for not delivering on the Hindutva agenda during 2014-19, they will demand a quick resolution to the Babri Masjid legal dispute. The Ram temple will have to be built, either by brute force or by exerting constant pressure on the Supreme Court. Article 370 will have to be amended, whether through an impossible consensus with the Kashmiris or by simply bulldozing a strong Centre against a weak state. Also the Modi 2 cabinet will have to grapple with the RSS demands over the continuation of minority character of educational institutions across the country, reservations for the SCs and STs, citizenship rights for non-Hindus and a Uniform Civil Code.
On the economic front, it will be interesting to see if the government will continue with old schemes? What is the fate of Ayushman Bharat and healthcare provision to 50 crore Indians? No ruling party candidate was seen talking about this initiative that was launched with much fanfare last year? Will we again see a demand for complete removal of income tax, a reform Baba Ramdev has been vociferously suggesting? What about farm subsidies, Minimum Support Prices and crop insurance schemes, that the BJP is ideologically opposed to but had to succumb to populism after losing major rural states in December last year? A major drought is looming with poor rains forecast; what will the new government offer the poor farmer?
On the international trade front, will we finally see some action against the belligerence coming from Trump? Will Imran Khan’s dream of peace between the two countries come true, now that his favourite Prime Minister is back in power in Delhi? The rupee is still struggling at nearly 70 to a dollar, and exports have been floundering. It will be interesting to see if the new Finance Minister takes some steps in this sector. Finally, the big question everyone is curious about – Will Arun Jaitley get sacked? How will Modi reward Amit Shah, and will we have someone with his reputation as our new Home Minister? Smriti Irani had got the HRD ministry last time after losing Amethi. Now that she has won, what will she get as bonus?