Modi Sarkar must steer clear of the pitfalls of Atal Sarkar
by Nachiketas on 30 May 2014 8 Comments

The massive electoral victory that Narendra Modi achieved in the recent Lok Sabha polls has raised expectations to the sky. A similar situation occurred in 1998 when the NDA came to power under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Expectations soared and by the end of 2003, the Vajpayee regime was battling a unique kind of dissent which came more from within the Sangh Parivar circles than from outside. It is a sad commentary on the maturity of our electorate that while it tolerates non-performing, corrupt and inefficient Congress governments with helpless resignation, it does not give the same leeway to BJP-led governments.


That Modi is not Vajpayee is quite clear and he may not commit the same blunders which Vajpayee did. However, it is instructive for Modi and his supporters to review the pitfalls of the Vajpayee regime and avoid a repeat of the kind of infighting and dejection in the days to come. Under the pressure of constant criticism from the hostile Indian media, the Vajpayee regime tried to do a balancing act to appease detractors on the one hand and not to lose their core support base on the other.


Vajpayee’s grandstanding on the futile peace talks with Pakistan was a major cause for brewing discontent amongst BJP sympathisers. Vajpayee kept blowing hot and cold while terrorist attacks continued unabated. The massacre of Amarnath yatris in August 2000 at Pahalgam and the December 13 attack on the Indian Parliament became major flashpoints for BJP supporters who wanted to see some decisive action against the terrorists and their masterminds in Pakistan.


The unfinished task of building a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya led to a massive confrontation with the VHP in December 2002 when the tenth anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid was observed. The VHP and Shiv Sena demanded that the Vajpayee government fulfil the promise of building the Ram Mandir for which people had voted them to power. It is a sad fact that the BJP mishandled and diluted one of the biggest mass movements ever to take shape in independent India instead of taking it to an appropriate conclusion. This perhaps is what caused the biggest dent in the BJP’s credibility amongst its voter base.


The Tehelka sting operation on Bangaru Laxman further damaged the image of ‘the party with a difference’. It is ironic that when the NDA is back in power in 2014, Tehelka founder Tarun Tejpal is in prison, facing criminal charges of molesting a female colleague!


On the educational front, Vajpayee’s HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi botched up the long pending agenda of decolonizing Indian education. Misplaced priorities and dependence on a coterie of non-academicians with little credentials derailed the BJP’s efforts to rewrite Indian history and challenge the Marxist narratives which influenced and strangled generations of Indians from reclaiming their civilizational heritage. The controversies surrounding Prof Makkhan Lal who was given the task of rewriting the NCERT textbooks and Prof MGS Narayanan who was made Chairperson of the Indian Council of Historical Research were exasperating and completely diverted the government’s focus from dismantling the Left’s stranglehold over Indian academia. ‘Saffronization’ became the favourite mantra of the left liberal secular intellectuals who launched a blitzkrieg against the Vajpayee government’s educational policies.


The Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Gandhian economic thinkers were at loggerheads with Arun Shourie’s aggressive drive towards disinvestment of public sector companies. Rediff columnist Varsha Bhosle (deceased), summed up the dilemma many supporters of the BJP were passing through under the Vajpayee regime (albeit in her radical style), in a column written in September 2000 titled ‘Riding a dead horse’:

“Which brings me back to the refrain of “give us an alternative.” If not Hajpayee and his Bandar BJP, then who? ... the day you break out of the shackles of being led -- of accepting every ignominy that falls in your way -- is the day when a leader will arise out of you.  YOU are the option, don't you realise that?! This is a republic, a gantantra, and we do not require Hajpayee and Party to fight battles for us.  The people have to fight it out themselves.  The people have to awaken to their Dharma...


I have pledged myself against BJP. For it used voters as a stepping stone to Delhi and, once there, reneged from all the promises it had been making since its inception ... Hajpayee's BJP is a dead horse. The choice is yours: Dismount, or despair.”


In the 2004 LS polls, the electorate did exactly that. It despaired and dismounted. Hence, Narendra Modi must tread cautiously and ensure that a gap does not grow between him and the people who voted him to power. However, given the fact that Modi is known for his Shivaji-like ability to surprise and disable his opponents, I am confident that the Modi sarkar will fare much better than the Atal sarkar.  

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