In 2014, Modi was a conventional, ambitious but more aggressive politician. Now his self-image is that he is in the league of Winston Churchill or Vladimir Putin!
What is the future of political parties, other than the BJP, in India? The BJP has been able to orchestrate a Front of various regional and small parties in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, JD(U) and LJP in Bihar, Akali Dal in Punjab and several local parties in the seven states in the North East. Then there are some other parties like YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh, TRS in Telangana, Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, who are ready to be their fellow travellers.
Together, with partners and fellow travellers, they have a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha and have proven “floor management skills (read subterfuge)” to manoeuvre one in the Rajya Sabha. There are also some independents and a few small parties who have shown enough inclination to back the NDA. They help the ruling alliance by abstaining or absenting themselves or by staging a walkout on crucial occasions.
Therefore it is unlikely that the NDA would face any challenge from these parties in both the houses till 2024. That is the year when the next Lok Sabha election is scheduled to take place. The state elections to be held in Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu may show a little variation in this pattern of local alliances-mainly while negotiating seat adjustments, but finally, they will come on board of the NDA.
Narendra Modi’s “occult driven” messiah image
Narendra Modi’s image as a “decisive” leader, is by and large still intact and ironically his role as a “divisive” or rather polarising leader is also quite strong among the detractors. However, the majoritarian mindset has now got entrenched even among the OBCs and the SCs and STs. The “perception management” through manipulation of the television media and mobilising the huge social media army have helped build the image of Modi as a kind of “avatar”, the incarnation of the divine. It is significant that not only among the less educated, but even the highly educated people actually believe that Modi has equivalent of some supernatural power!
While most opposition leaders treat Modi as “yet another” leader like Vajpayee, V P Singh or Morarjee Desai. But who has been catapulted to the Prime Minister’s post? The fact is he has transcended beyond that now, more through the media and the so-called opinion polls, than actual popularity. It has to be recognised that while confronting the Modi phenomenon, one is dealing with perhaps “occult driven” messiah image. He wants to be omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. He gets angry and even frustrated that even Rahul (Pappu!) makes fun of him and does not accept his super-omni persona.
From Kedarnath To Leh-Ladakh
He has “successfully” projected himself as a kind of “ transcendental” phenomenon. Those opposing him are mere mortals without any supernatural possessions! This image has been evolving steadily since 2012 and particularly after 2014. The 2019 victory and his visit to Kedarnath, just a day before the results that year, exhibited on all TV channels, in his meditating pose with the “sanyasi” robe, further helped consolidate that well-constructed image. His exhibitionist visit to Leh-Ladakh was in the same pattern. Indeed, he wants to be taller in the image than the tallest statue he has built!
He is not a Prime Minister, but Oracle! The “ Oracle” does not have to prove results or achievements. He has merely to announce them- be they relate to demonetisation or Lock Down successes or conquering Corona or surgical or digital strikes! He has mesmerised the educated, but gullible middle class; paralysed his own party men, benumbed the bureaucracy, even judiciary and enslaved the media.
The halo around Modi
That is a journey of the image building exercise since the 2014 election. Interestingly, however, though he has managed to create a halo around him, he has not been able to raise his stature. He is widely recognised, but not as widely respected. He has been able to create awe but not elitist acceptance. No wonder, he despises even Khan Market gatherings. He has contempt for the “intellectual” and hence for the India International Centre or JNU. He is obsessed with Jawaharlal Nehru because he knows that though he has the power and “designation” he does not have the status and erudition! In 2014, he was a conventional, ambitious but more aggressive politician. But now his self-image is that he is in the league of Winston Churchill or Vladimir Putin! (For that he need not know the history of the World War or of Russia or Russian Revolution).
Misfit In The School of Vajpayee and Advani
The Opposition, therefore, has to fight, not just a politician in power, but an image with haloed hubris! In 2014, he was a leader of the BJP, though distinctly abrasive. He was not in the “acceptable” school of Vajpayee or even Advani. They never aimed at “Congress-Mukt” Bharat. They criticised Nehru but never condemned his entire legacy or engaged in obscene character assassination. They had accepted the political and constitutional frame. They did not aim or dare to go for the politics of “regime change”, as it were.
In 2014, when he (rather than the BJP) won the majority with 282 seats in the Lok Sabha, the vote share was just 31 per cent. That means 69 per cent of the voters were not impressed with Modi’s hyped high-voltage campaign of so-called development and cunningly hidden communal Hindutva agenda. Just for comparison, one can point out that for getting 282 seats in the Loksabha in 1967, Mrs Indira Gandhi had to win 41 per cent votes. That means 10 per cent votes more than Modi could win in 2014.
In 2019, Modi has been able to come to power with 37 per cent vote, meaning still 63 per cent voters were outside his charismatic grip. Yet Modi-led BJP has won only 303 seats in the Loksabha. Except in 1967 and 1977, Congress used to win more than 350 seats till 1984. But from Day One, Modi has always claimed that he has the mandate of 130 crore people. Congress was not that audacious even when Rajiv Gandhi had 414 seats in the Loksabha and had 49 per cent vote share.
“Image” More Important Than “Ideology”
So far, no study has been able to show in statistical terms, how much contribution has been there of the allied parties, in the BJP vote share of 31 and 37 per cent. Though in 2019, the NDA has received 43 per cent votes. It is possible that the incremental vote of Modi in 2019 is either negligible or perhaps same, though the seats have increased from 282 to 303. Nor can anybody “prove” that the increase is mainly because of the Pulwama-Balakot driven jingoism.
Be that as it may. The electoral politics hereafter will not be like in the past. Not only because “image” is now more important than “ideology”. The media management is more crucial than any time before and money power far more significant than anywhere in the world. Modi is on the command of money, media and muscle, with the RSS in tow.
Does that make Modi-Shah led BJP invincible? Certainly not. The invasion of Covid-19 and its economic consequences are beyond the Modi-Shah algorithms. The devastating social impact of the pandemic has not even manifested. The cracks in the federal polity, caused by the financial crisis, have still not surfaced. The suppressed discontent in the BJP and the NDA may not implode but can internally cause corrosion in the so-called steel-framed organisation. And it is too early to assess the electoral impact of the India-China conflict, which has further cracked the Superman-Omnipotent and invincible image of Narendra Modi.
Remember the famous dialogue in “Enter the Dragon?”.
The Teacher tells Bruce Lee, “Now, you must remember: The enemy has only images and illusions, behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the Image and you will break the enemy.”