“National Security Safe with Modi” narrative painstakingly built by the ruling party top policy makers in the wake of the Pulwama’s terrorist attack on CRPF convoy and retaliatory Indian attack on terrorist camps at Balakot inside Pakistan is losing steam fast with reports of popular doubts reaching New Delhi.
Top policy makers comprising of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval are reported to be worried that narrative that they expected to create a national wave in favour of the BJP in the coming general elections is ebbing so fast.
Slogan that Modi hai to mumkin hai is being countered with Modi hai to desh ki mushkil, Modi hai to desh par mushkil has added to the worries because the opposition is going to people telling them that all your problems are because of Modi and nation’s problems are because of Modi.
One of the consequence of the failure of the BJP-RSS combine to create a national wave for ensuring a presidential kind of election is that the coming electoral battle until May 19 is going to fought region-cum-state wise and precisely on the constituency level.
As real issues of rising unemployment, price rise, non-fulfillment of promises, wrecking of institutions like the RBI and judiciary, undermining of the Constitution and student unrest because of attack on academic institutions take over pushing Pulwama-Balakot national security insecurities in the background, contest between the ruling
BJP-led NDA and the opposition is no more hands down for Modi. It appears to be an open and balanced contest with no side enjoying an edge
Revelation that the Prime Minister’s November 8, 2016 decision to declare currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination illegal tender was done without the Reserve Bank of India’s approval has gone to confirm the impression that the government violates the autonomous functioning of its institutions,
At the same time, the revelation that came out in a RTI reply has refreshed the public memory of four senior Supreme Court judges holding a media conference over the government’s alleged interference in judiciary. Ongoing case in the Supreme Court over purchase of 36 Rafale jet fighters and the Attorney-General K K Venugopal’s first submission that papers from the official files that are being quoted by the petitioners were stolen which was a crime and therefore should be rejected by the apex court went on raise several questions about the Modi government’s credibility.
The Attorney-General later revised the government’s submission stating on oath that papers had merely been photocopied and not stolen. In any case, it further strengthened the popular impression that the government was lying and was inefficient in governance. Despite the Modi government’s efforts to announce several popular schemes to lure voters in its last budget, there seems to be no groundswell of popular support for the ruling party visible that reflects in public meetings
and rallies. Media reports about Modi’s several rallies are not very exhilarating.
Dalits and minorities other than Muslims had voted for the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections but treatment meted out to them in the wake of cow vigilantism and lynching incidents has eroded the confidence that these groups had in Modi. Suicide by research scholar Rohith Vemula, killings of Dalits in Una in Gujarat and elsewhere in the country, jailing of a Dalit leader from western UP Chandrashekhar Azad “Ravana’ under NSA for about a year by the BJP government and similar incidents are etched in public memory. Sweet words and deeds like issuing of an ordinance to upturn the apex court’s order are not going to help much.
Adding to the woes are the emerging electoral alliances between opposition parties in states. While in UP, the BJP had ensured that the electoral contests in the biggest state is not direct but should be at least three-cornered if not multi-cornered, news from West Bengal from where the Modi-Shah duo was hopeful of reaping a reasonable good harvest to compensate its losses in the Hindi heartland is not very encouraging.
Faced with multifarious challenges and considerable erosion of the credibility of Modi brand, the BJP is now going to embark upon an aggressive and no-holds barred campaign to paint most of the opposition leaders as corrupt, unscrupulous, self- promoting dynastic lot.
Recent Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate and CBI raids on either leaders or their close associates like that on the former IAS officer of UP cadre Netram who served BSP leader Maaywati are an evidence of the BJP’s frustration.
With this in mind and sticking to the aggressive path, the Prime Minister launched “Main Bhee Chowkidar” (I am also a guard) campaign. Modi is heard saying in a video that “Your Chowdkidar is standing firm & serving the nation. But I am not alone. Everyone fighting corruption, dirt, social evils is chowkidar. Everyone working
hard for progress of India is chowkidar. Today every Indian is saying “main Bhee Chowkidar.”
The campaign that is primarily aimed at blunting the Congress’s charge that Chowkidar chor hai. The campaign had raised an accusing finger on Modi who had asked for votes portraying himself as a chowkidar (guard) who would protest their interest while sitting on the prime ministerial chair and it had made adversely impacted Modi’s popularity. The BJP, by launching this campaign, is hoping against hope that it would generate positive sympathy for the Prime Minister and result in votes as
a similar approach had benefitted the party in 2014.
While Union Minister Piyush Goel was one of the first to join the campaign, other ministers are going to follow suit with lakhs following them thus creating a flood of support in the virtual world. It remains to be seen whether this campaign would generate enough traction to garner support in terms of popular votes or not. In normal times when the credibility is high, such campaigns succeed but such attempts in the past like “India Shining” have failed too.
DR. SATISH MISRA IS A VETERAN JOURNALIST & RESEARCH ASSOCIATE WITH OBSERVER RESEARCH FOUNDATION.