No one in India perhaps understands more deeply the inextricable connection between elections, political narrative and mind games better than the Union home minister and BJP’s dextrous strategist, Amit Shah, who, in his remarks at a party event in Dibrugarh, Assam, set the mood and tone within the party as without by voicing a generally reflected feeling in the country that it is nearly inevitable and a bit of a foregone conclusion that, come general election 2024, we will see the third consecutive victory of the Narendra Modi-led BJP with a comfortable majority.
It would again be over 300 plus seats, Mr Shah portended, in stating what is not just a political survey or popular feeling but also a smart, narrative-setting mind game to test the resolve of the combined Opposition. It might well be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There are several reasons why the BJP can both believe and work towards a repeat of the incredible performance of 2019. The biggest is the perception of the leadership capability of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of his intent, integrity and work ethic as well as his emotional connect with the masses. Not only is Mr Modi the larger-than-life phenomenon in Indian politics who currently has no matching rival but he is also one who, across the political pantheon of Independent India, perhaps equals only Indira Gandhi and Pandit Nehru in terms of overall impact.
Besides Mr Modi’s image, the BJP can also boast of having delivered like few governments have in India before, with alacrity, passion and uncompromising resolve. The second term of the BJP witnessed, among others, the resolution of historically vexatious issues like the Ayodhya Ram temple and Article 370. The government also launched and sustained a free food distribution programme for over 800 million people for more than two years while fighting the coronavirus, and provided two doses of free vaccines to nearly a billion.
While doing all this, Mr Modi has also ensured that India remains one of the world’s fastest growing large economies, whose development, welfare and rise globally are all parts of a positive report card.
And then, there is Mr Shah, who has built an election-winning machine, with greater resources than all of the Opposition’s combined, populated by cadre of the entire Sangh to be deployed with a passion and reach that parties can only envy but not match. In terms of narrative, the saffron side has large planks like Hindutva, nationalism, honest delivery of welfare, transformative infrastructure development and fight against family rule and corruption.
It is really for the Opposition to pick up the gauntlet and respond to the war cry. It is one thing for a de jure position of leadership of the Opposition, and another to believe that it is historically destined for you and take on the responsibility. From amongst the various contenders like Arvind Kejriwal, Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, K. Chandrasekhar Rao, M.K. Stalin, Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi, it is time one decided that before they rival and challenge Mr Modi, they would have to challenge Mr Shah. This is the time when India’s people will wait to see, if at least one leader will stand up to say with conviction that the BJP will lose in 2024. That, too, could be a potential self-fulfilling prophecy.