He focused on little things, and on shadows that did not exist but were cooked up and labelled as enemies by the RSS.
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP ruling setup in the country, which he personally exemplifies, the current year has been ushered in on a belittling note. As the previous year was turning, Mr Modi won a victory in Gujarat which his party just cannot celebrate, given its mocking nature. And, just when the year turned, official data suggested that under this leader the country has registered its lowest economic growth in four years.
It is becoming increasingly clear that practically everything that Mr Modi touched has turned to mud. The former RSS pracharak, or full-time volunteer, was evidently born with a good luck charm. The first time he entered the Gujarat Assembly was as chief minister, and the first time he entered Parliament was as Prime Minister, as he has himself informed us.
But this personal luck has not translated to luck for the country, as mindless initiatives have turned sour, demonetisation being a perfect example. Mr Modi will be remembered as a PM in whose tenure economic miseries were piled on the people even as the glue of social and cultural cohesion that joined different sections of society was forced unstuck through violence by lumpen squads unrestrained by the hand of the law.
Not all the prayers to Lord Vishwanath in Kashi, Mr Modi’s parliamentary constituency, are likely to help him. Bhole Baba cannot be pleased with the unholy goings-on in Modi’s India. The Lord has a mind of his own. It cannot be bent by threats or blandishments from keepers of the Gorakhnath Mutt in UP or from Amit Shah, who is the real Master-of-Rolls — no matter what the Chief Justice of India may think — when it comes to keeping the judiciary on a tight leash — in Gujarat or elsewhere.
Mr Modi in 2014 had the brahmastra in his hand, bestowed by a once-in-a-generation parliamentary majority. With it he could defeat any enemy of the people he chose to.
Instead, he focused on little things, and on shadows that did not exist but were cooked up and labelled as enemies by the RSS. The real enemies — unemployment, poverty, farmers’ distress, the woes of small entrepreneur — weren’t even touched.
This is because the PM proved incapable of 21st century imagination. He couldn’t think big. His poverty of ideas restricted him to small talk in a big voice on radio broadcasts on Sundays, and he vowed to destroy his opponents. This was on full display when he accused the Congress Party of conspiring with Pakistan to win the Gujarat election. He focused more on the silliest things like building the tallest statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Even this didn’t cut ice with the voters of Gujarat.
The Narendra Modi raj has alienated the country. This wasn’t immediately evident as he acted under the cover of religious symbolisms of Hinduism, the faith of the majority in the country, with which simple people were taken in. But it is in the nature of rot to spread.
This Prime Minister inherited an economy that, on average, had grown just under eight per cent a year for 10 years even with a conspicuous slowdown toward the end.
The global outlook too was propitious with oil prices at a record low, a luxury his predecessor didn’t have. This is the political equivalent of being born with a silver spoon in the mouth. But Mr Modi blew it.
Businesses have not grown since May 2014 when the Modi government took office. Industrial performance has dipped. Green shoots of recovery that occasionally show up — as is the case right now — wilt before the day turns to night.
The urban middle classes, the BJP’s principal supporters, will be thrown sops in the forthcoming Budget because a clutch of state elections are around the corner and the BJP-led government must prepare for the Lok Sabha polls in early 2019, but will these help retain their affection as the economy slips and joblessness and prices take their toll?
How far can the stunt of invoking Hindu mythology and the promise of Hindu power — as a conscious counterpoise to the poison of Islamist beliefs — really go?
The trick of getting by with calling opponents corrupt has also lost its sting after the so-called 2G scam devised by an evidently motivated Comptroller and Auditor-General of India was roundly decried in a recent court order. The CBI is so discredited that it can’t summon the nerve to challenge this verdict.
Rural society is in the middle of being turned upside down. After a lag of some years, we had a good monsoon in 2016. But the harebrained scheme of demonetisation wiped out any chance there may have been of seizing the momentum.
Agriculture and the informal sector, which provide the bulk of jobs and export earnings, are struggling with negative expectations, especially after the ill-considered implementation of a poorly-crafted Goods and Services Tax, touted as the next best thing after India’s independence, and inaugurated as such with high ceremony at the midnight hour in the Central Hall of Parliament last July in an un-historical, unbecoming and grotesque mimicking of the midnight glory over 70 years ago when Jawaharlal Nehru rose to speak in high cadence of India coming to “life and freedom”, as the Union Jack was lowered for the last time in India and the tricolour unfurled.
Mr Modi has won. But the country is on the mat. The promise of achche din — or better times — now strikes people as a compact that was not meant to be honoured. It rings hollow today.
To recall Mr Shah’s incomparably cunning words, it was no more than a part of a throwaway, election-time jumla (sentence).
We are in a social mess, and the economic front remains dispiriting. But matters are a lot worse. Brazenly discriminatory actions are being taken against the poor. Indian workers headed to the Gulf for their livelihood will have a different colour of passport from the rest of us. Institutions are being subverted.
The Supreme Court is in the news. Just before the Gujarat poll, the Election Commission was up to lousy tricks which fooled no one. Democracy in India is being pushed to the wall.