Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lost his mojo after the devastating reverses faced by the BJP in the three of its ruling states — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The Modi magic is gone and ominous signals have been given to the BJP by the people of the Hindi-speaking states five months before the scheduled elections for the Lok Sabha. Prime Minister and the BJP President Amit Shah tried every trick to win the elections in its so called strongholds and mobilised massive resources and RSS muscle power. Even in the last part of the campaign, the Prime Minister stooped too low by openly telling in the meetings that Sonia Gandhi and her family would be named by the extradited Agusta Westland deal middleman Christian Michel as the recipient of the bribes. The hearing was just on and there was no such possibility but the PM tried to influence the voters. He failed.
For BJP, this is the worst hour of its political life after its historic victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections under the leadership of Narendra Modi. BJP had two perceived assets which the Party had been capitalising from time to time — one is PM Modi’s image and the other Ram Mandir. PM was the candidate of the Party in all constituencies where the BJP candidates were fighting. The party leaders campaigned – to vote in every constituency for PM who would bring Naya Bharat in 2022. That magic wand of Narendra Modi is exhausted. After the assembly elections, the BJP is left with no weapon with which it can fight the Lok Sabha elections. But this has dangerous implications also. Desperate BJP, being orphaned, can opt for a ferocious campaign for the building of Ram temple and try to depend only on communalism to fight the Lok Sabha poll. If that happens, that may lead to serious consequences in the society and polity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to have more shocks in the coming weeks. The Supreme Court has reserved its judgment on the PIL on Rafale deal. The three judge bench led by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has gone into all the issues regarding the decision making process in the deal. There is every possibility that the Supreme Court will question the way the PM hijacked the deal to favour a private company. The Supreme Court bench also will give judgment shortly in the CBI’s ousted director Alok Verma’s petition challenging the government decision of sending him on leave. Here also the issue is the authoritarianism and the irregular practices resorted to by the PMO. In all, the authoritarianism of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under challenge — both at the level of the Supreme Court and at the level of people.
The NDA government has cheated both the farmers and the workers. Former Prime Minister of BJP Atal Behari Vajpayee said after his loss of power in 2004 Lok Sabha elections that the farmers anger contributed to his defeat. That anger is more widespread in end 2018 on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not yet understood the dimension of the farmers distress and the discontent and even after the massive rally of the farmers on November 30 in Delhi, the BJP leadership tried to take it as a onetime isolated phenomenon. But the movement has intensified and this farmers discontent is going to be joined by the two day trade unions general strike on January 8 and 9 against the anti-labour policies of the Modi government. The election results have created a mood among the disgruntled and the disillusioned that it is possible to remove this government, Narendra Modi is not invincible, as the BJP leaders, the government machinery and the big media are projecting. The tide has turned and that is the big message from the results in the elections in the three BJP ruled states.
The organised working class under the central trade unions have allied with the unorganised for the big strike action next month and this unison of the farmers anger and labour discontent are sure to lead to an intensive anti Government mood in the pre election months. The rural India has still not come out from the adverse effects of demonetisation that took place two years back. The informal sector of the rural economy is still in doldrums and the Modi government has never thought of taking immediate measures to control the damages caused to the rural economy by demonetisation. The Government and the BJP took the position as if nothing much has happened and it will heal over time.
The scars are still visible. The November 2018 labour statistics are an improvement over the October data but they are still dismal. According to CMIE, labour participation rate around 47 to 48 per cent before demonetisation fell sharply after demonetisation and it has still not recovered. There was a rise in September but that increase was negated in October this year. Urban employment rate rose to 7.56 per cent from 7.27 per cent in October while rural employment dropped to 6.14 per cent from 6.72 per cent in October. In a little more than a year, the number of unemployed has more than doubled. Urban labour participation and employment rates are at their lowest. The number of persons employed in November came down. The employed persons in India stood at 402.29 million in November 2018 as against 409.49 million in November 2017. The NDA govt is gloating over high growth rate whereas the job losses are taking place in a big way and the unemployed number doubled in the year.
The situation on the ground regarding labour and farmers are really explosive and this is the situation which the opposition parties including the Congress have to take into account while framing their strategy to defeat the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections. The assembly results have shown that the Congress has to be more receptive and respectful for the smaller parties. An understanding with the BSP would have helped the Congress immensely in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. This is Rahul Gandhi’s first comprehensive victory after taking over as the Congress President in December 2017.The countrymen is looking for a fresh common minimum programme freed of crony capitalist practices and incorporating pro-people agenda benefitting the farmers and the workers.
Starting with the winter session of Parliament which began on December 11, the opposition parties including the Congress and the Left have to project a united face based on a sustainable programme to meet the challenge of the BJP and its allies. The sectoral battle is won but the main war is still five months away. The victory in that war can only be ensured by the Congress leadership with a broad approach to its allies and a vision for real change. (IPA)