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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Don’t let brand ‘Modi’ be diluted by the political ineffectiveness of a few in BJP


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I am a huge admirer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I have been an admirer of his style of governance since the time he was Chief Minister of Gujarat because he has a vision, he is planned and most importantly he is determined, dedicated, and devoted to our nation.

I was most disappointed by the performance of the BJP in Karnataka because with Narendra Modi leading the charge it reflects on him even though the faultlines lie squarely with the ineffectiveness and callousness of the local leaders in Karnataka.

While I was disappointed by the gains made by Congress over BJP and JDS in Karnataka, I was not surprised by the results. I expected it because most of the BJP local leaders were cut off from the reality of the situation on the ground and did not read the ground swell building against the party over the last twelve months.

People do not care about corruption in the high echelons of power because it does not directly impact their day-to-day living but when corruption becomes a pain to them, then it will become a bane to the government in power.

We can deliberate on corruption by the political parties or their leaders and of course, political history will show us that Congress has been one of the most corrupt parties but the BJP too in Karnataka is not bathed in milk. There were reports of rampant misuse of power to facilitate corruption.

People electing Congress to power in Karnataka must know that it does not mean that corruption will end. For all you know corruption will touch new highs. Narendra Modi is leading a war against corruption and has been eloquently raising his voice over corruption. But to some, it appears to be mere rhetoric because he is failing to address concerns over corruption in BJP-led governments. He failed to deal with it in Karnataka. This eventually became a prime talking point for the opposition in Karnataka and led to BJP losing its foothold in one of the most prominent states in South India.

BJP did not lose its vote share. It was very marginally gained. That was also only possible because of the spirited campaign of Narendra Modi and some committed local leaders in the state. But the gain was not adequate to beat the Congress that gained the maximum vote-share in Karnataka elections ever for a political party.

The votes expected to go to JD(S) went to Congress. The people of Karnataka did not want to have a hung assembly. They decided to give a mandate to one political party. In fact, minorities consolidated against the BJP viciously. They silently allowed for BJP to assume that they will vote for their leaders but strategically and without a whisper mobilized ground swell against the BJP.

In fact, Jesuits from the Catholic community played a decisive role in working against the BJP as admitted by Fr Cedric Prakash in a letter that has gone viral. He expressed:

On ‘Voting Day’, the Jesuit houses in Bangalore played hosts to several Jesuits from all over the State who had come in to exercise their franchise in the city. Interestingly, several Jesuits from Bangalore had gone to other cities and places in the state where they were registered voters. The Provincial of the Karnataka Jesuits had motivated all his men to cast their vote, whatever the distance or inconvenience. They were also asked to encourage others to do so. The Karnataka Jesuits have undoubtedly played a stellar role in the enhancement of the democratic process in the State. Their efforts began some months ago; they did so unitedly as a province, through their communities and institutions, individually and collectively, in the urban and rural areas and among all sections of society. Above all, they collaborated intensely in every possible way, with civil society initiatives like the ‘Bahutva Karnataka’ and the ‘Wake up Karnataka’, ‘Eddelu Karnataka’ campaigns and also with the Archdiocese of Bangalore. Some Jesuit institutions provided lodging and hospitality to human rights defenders and activists and also provided facilities for programs.”

Even the Muslim community worked toward a plan. Karnataka Waqf Board Chairman Shafi Sadi put forth the demand before the Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge reminding him that the community had stood behind the party. Sadi was elected as the Wakf Board President during the tenure of the outgoing BJP government. “Before the elections, we had demanded 30 seats for Muslims but we only got 15 out of which 9 candidates have won. In 72 constituencies, Congress won only because of Muslims. We have stood with the party,” Sadi expressed to the media. 

This time they opted for Congress and not BJP. Narendra Modi’s campaigning helped BJP marginally increase its vote share but it was not sufficient to win a majority and certainly did not cut ice with the Muslim or Christian minorities in the state.

I am reminded of a discussion I had with a senior leader of the BJP in charge of the preparations for the Lok Sabha in my state. When we were talking about South Goa Lok Sabha elections, I genuinely inquired about the face that needs to be promoted locally for the LS 2024. He retorted rather ignorantly, saying, “The candidate will be decided at the right time. In the end, it is the face of ‘Modi’ that will encourage people from South Goa to vote.” I smiled because I realized sometimes it is important to keep quiet and let people make their mistakes and come down to reality on their own. In 2019, BJP put a good candidate Narendra Sawaikar but it still lost even after having Modi as a face. The truth is that the reality on the ground in each constituency is different and Modi alone cannot be responsible for every constituency, local leaders have to work and work hard.

There is no doubt that Narendra Modi is a good leader. More importantly, he is the leader India needs at this point in time. But to assume that because of the love and admiration for ‘Modi’ the people of India will accept the ineffectiveness of other BJP leaders at state-level; then I am afraid BJP is reading the people of India wrong. And they did read the people of Karnataka wrongly. Only the loyal BJP voters supported the BJP, therefore it only marginally improved its vote share but still lost the election.

People love Narendra Modi. They do not want to know if some politicians from the opposition abused Modi ninety-one times. They want to see a strong Modi standing even after being abused 91 times and fighting for them, talking about them, and relieving them of the strains of their lives. That is what attracted people to Narendra Modi in the first place. Modi is a hero for the people. They see him as a strong hero that braves all the hardships silently. He gained the love of the people because he was targeted and wronged by the aristocratic politicians of Lutyens Delhi and because he promised a corruption-free India. Unfortunately, the people of Karnataka largely felt victimized by corruption and the minorities gave into the communal overtures of their community against Modi and BJP. Even the traditional vote-bank bastion of the BJP ‘The Lingayat Community’ did not find confidence in the BJP and preferred the Congress.

The problem I see is that ‘Modi’ is tirelessly working for the people and party but there are some within the BJP taking advantage of the name of ‘Modi’ and being ineffective and mediocre in their performance as representatives of the people and in some cases blatantly corrupt. This is going to damage the brand ‘Modi’. While others remain mute spectators within the party and fail to open their mouths fearing being ridiculed by others or chastised by others, Sadly, because of this the true ground situation does not come to the fore to the central leaders that matter.

I am reminded of the beautiful initiative by the BJP to celebrate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday by Karyakartas donating blood. Two prominent leaders in my state turned up to the blood donation camp in one of the South Goa hospitals just to stand around the people donating blood, to have their workers click pictures, and to put it up on social media. So much for the love for Narendra Modi and the commitment to donating blood to those in need on Modi’s birthday.

More recently, when most Indians across the world were celebrating the 100th Mann Ki Baat episode, one BJP minister in Goa did not even bother to organize one booth celebration of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ in his constituency. But the BJP in Goa came out to his defense over allowing a Rs 50 crore work order without a tender. So much for the love and respect for the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi working towards ensuring transparency in government work and fighting corruption. Not going the tender route while opting for allotment through personal choice opens doors for questions on corruption. Saying ‘Cabinet took this decision and that Cabinet Supreme’ is a sign of arrogance; pride always has a downfall.

India needs Modi. And for Indians today, actions speak louder than words.

The minority consolidation will happen in 2024 even if BJP does a minority outreach but the Hindu consolidation under BJP will not happen. But if ‘Modi’ takes certain corrective action against corruption in India within the BJP itself also, with strong outreaches across all religious and caste communities, then there could be a shift. BJP with Narendra Modi must reach 42 to 45 percent from its 37.36 percent in 2019 for that it needs to go beyond polarization, it must unite over the idea of an emerging India beyond religious and caste lines.

In my personal opinion, India needs another term for Prime Minister Modi. I am not a sycophant, I am a friend of Modi, and as a friend, it is my duty to speak the truth fearlessly. Therefore I personally believe that Narendra Modi should not dilute the brand ‘Modi’ by the political ineffectiveness of a few in the BJP.

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