India 2014: Winds of change
by Rijul Singh Uppal on 06 Oct 2013 2 Comments
Although officially announced as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate on September 15, 2013, Narendra Modi unofficially rang the poll bugle in February earlier this year with his speech at Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce. Since then, Modi’s appeal has grown throughout the country as witnessed in the crowds at his thundering rallies where Modi uses his charm to mobilise the people and voters towards the BJP. Crowds chanting his name in chorus have out-sounded Modi on stage; such is the enthusiasm of the people; enthusiasm for change, enthusiasm for development, and enthusiasm for a better tomorrow for themselves and their future generations.


At his first post-candidature rally, Narendra Modi used the platform at Rewari, Haryana to acquaint the people with his background, unfulfilled dreams and aspirations. He thereby established a rapport with the youth, sending out a signal of hope for those of equally modest backgrounds and unfulfilled aspirations. Addressing ex-servicemen at the rally, Modi realised the crowd was perfect to flourish the nationalist card, and he did so to be applauded and chanted by the audience. He attacked the Government on the issue of our soldiers being killed by Pakistani troops and blamed it for having weakened the morale of our troops.


A few rallies later, he took the national capital by storm. Here, addressing a gargantuan gathering, he took the Congress head-on. Modi lambasted the Congress heir for his behaviour towards the Prime Minister, literally betraying Manmohan Singh while he was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, and was yet to meet US President Barack Obama and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.


This unexpected defence of Dr Singh captured the imagination of the nation, left Congress flanks exposed, particularly because it was timed with Nawaz Sharif’s derogatory remark about the Indian Prime Minister, to an Indian journalist. In powerful oratory, Modi said that notwithstanding political rivalries at home, Dr Singh is the Prime Minister of a 125-crore strong nation and Nawaz Sharif had dared to insult the Indian leader only because the Congress vice-president had denigrated him in public. This utterly unexpected defence of Manmohan Singh and assault on Rahul Gandhi compelled the Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi, to launch a vigorous defence of the Prime Minister. It also took the sheen off Rahul Gandhi’s success in getting the Ordinance against convicted lawmakers withdrawn.


This rally may not impact the Delhi Assembly polls owing to the leadership crisis in the Delhi unit of BJP, but the effect of Modi’s rallies are national and will translate into an increased groundswell, and hopefully vote share and Lok Sabha seats, for the party. Of course, the party as a whole will have to work sincerely to this end, and not leave Modi running a one-horse wagon.


Delhi could return to a Sheila Dikshit-minus Congress with someone like Ajay Maken at the helm. Many feel that in the event that Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) makes a good debut (as per certain opinion polls), it could easily support a Congress government in Delhi led by a fresh face. As of now, the only votes attracted to the AAP are those that were headed towards the Delhi BJP from the Delhi Congress.


In a great political move, advised by many to the party for years, but hardly practiced by the BJP top leadership, Narendra Modi took a great leap southwards to extend the appeal of the BJP in the southern states, rather than just relying on pre- or post-poll alliances with regional political maestros. He has thus taken the first steps to nullify the Congress-Left propaganda that the BJP is primarily a northern phenomenon, reliant only on Hindi-belt votes, and without a pan-India presence and approach.


On his visit to Kerala to facilitate spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi on her sixtieth birthday, Modi triggered fractures within the Left establishment. Prominent Marxists like former Supreme Court judge VR Krishna Iyer showered praise on Modi and welcomed him as the country’s next Prime Minister. And of course, Mata Amritanandamayi’s numerous devotees were delighted at the presence of the country’s most controversial leader at their celebrations. He wowed the crowd by speaking in flawless Malayalam and cemented his place in their hearts. He went to have darshan of Sree Padmanabhaswamy and called upon the head of the Travancore royal family, Marthanda Varma. Though this visit is not perceived as a game changer on the ground, the writer believes that in such times when the country is in complete dismay, the Kerala electorate might look for new options outside the pernicious circle of the Congress-Left, and BJP could make a Lok Sabha debut in the southern-most state.


In Tamil Nadu, Modi’s Trichy rally has been widely criticised as a futile exercise as the party has no electoral standing without an alliance with either the AIADMK or the DMK. But the rally should be seen as an effort to polarise public opinion towards the BJP at the national level (the state level could follow in due course). The rally perhaps sent a message to AIADMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa, who said her party will go alone to the 2014 general elections.


In Hyderabad, Modi questioned the Centre about the killings on the LoC and accused the ruling party of engaging in vote-bank politics and the policy of divide and rule. He lambasted the Government on the Chinese incursion in Ladakh, where the Army was asked to withdraw from its own territory; the ceasefire violations by Pakistan and the death of Kerala fishermen at the hands of Italian marines. This rally had its own effect, with the YSR Congress chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy opening a door for a future alliance with the BJP and the Telugu Desam Party’s Chandrababu Naidu attending a programme in Delhi with Narendra Modi and praising former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The haste with which the Congress-dominated Centre ratified the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh can be credited to the ‘Modi effect’ and may fortify the BJP’s fortunes in the state.


In numerous addresses to the nation, regardless of the stage, Modi has been demolishing the UPA’s claims of development, to telling effect. When Atal Behari Vajpayee left office in 2004, the country had a growth rate of more than 8 per cent, inflation was well under 6 per cent and the nation had a strong foreign exchange reserve. Today, a decade under an economist Prime Minister, the country is in decline. The currency has depreciated to lifetime lows, the current account deficit is alarming and the fiscal deficit keeps growing. Add to that double digit inflation and an under-5 per cent growth rate, and you get the picture of where we are headed - nowhere.


The UPA’s own submission before the Apex Court admits that whilst the NDA added 24,000 km of roads to the National Highways in its six years, the UPA has added only 16,000 km in its nine year rule. Matters have reached such alarming heights that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under new Governor Raghuram Rajan even flirted with the idea of somehow acquiring the wealth of the more famous and rich Hindu temples (where wealth has traditionally been received in the form of offerings of gold, precious stones, jewellery).


The vibrant economy bequeathed by Vajpayee has been run into the ground. People are infuriated with the working of the UPA, the sheer number of scams and corruption scandals, the zero accountability, and the fact that the government has simply failed to deliver on so many fronts, including something so fundamental as law and order and the defence of the borders.


The sense of the nation is clear; there is a yearning for strong leadership at the centre to reclaim the nation’s glory and the confidence of the citizenry. There is a growing realisation that the nation needs a central government that cannot be blackmailed by coalition partners; this, coupled with the fury against the Congress (at central and state levels), could well result into the BJP crossing the 200 mark in the Lok Sabha.


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