Thursday, June 13, 2024


Dhaka Tribune


Mandate India

The Modi government might be slipping, but who is there to land the checkmate?

Update : 26 May 2024, 04:21 PM

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's aura continues to radiate brightly at the global level. However, domestically, the Modi factor in the 2024 election has diminished compared to his prominence in the 2014 and 2019 elections. Since assuming office in 2014, after defeating the Congress, PM Modi has maintained uncontested leadership, with no significant checkmating contestant emerging in this election in a nation boasting a population of 1.45 billion. 

The outcomes of the initial five phases have now determined the fate of 429 MPs, leaving the remaining two phases to determine the future governance of India. Unlike elections in neighbouring countries, India's electoral process, as an advanced democracy, does not undergo ground-level scrutiny by election observers abroad. Nevertheless, this year saw visits from several political parties from Bangladesh, Australia, Nepal, and Israel, eager to witness the electoral fervour. Over the years, the BJP has diligently fostered ties with political parties worldwide, including those with left-leaning ideologies in Nepal and Vietnam.

Unemployment stands as a paramount social concern within India's vast youth electorate; however, it has not translated into a significant electoral issue. Similarly, the BJP has not faced substantial backlash over the rising prices of essential commodities. Instead, the party proudly highlights its economic and administrative management prowess.

The significant middle-class demographic in India often cast votes based on economic promises. However, the opposition has struggled to inspire confidence among the lower middle class, failing to provide a compelling alternative to the BJP's manifesto.

"Poverty is closely linked to inflation in the country," remarked Dr Dalbir Singh of the Congress and an observer of general elections in Uzbekistan. He noted that the fabric of plurality has been distorted over the years.

Political Hindutva is not yielding significant gains, with people viewing the Ram Mandir more in a spiritual context than as an electoral issue. In Uttar Pradesh, home to around 39 million Muslims, the BJP's strength has waned, although it is still expected to win at least 65 seats. Interestingly, the party is now targeting pasmanda Muslims, who are underrepresented in electoral politics despite comprising a large share of the Muslim population. With initiatives like the Universal Triple Talaq and the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), the BJP may have garnered sympathy from a segment of Muslim women voters.

When asked about the BJP's success in winning Muslim votes, Dr Suvrokamal Dutta -- a New Delhi-based conservative political and economic policy expert leaning towards the BJP -- asserted, "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Viswas, Sabka Prayaas, has has been the main mantra of the government and PM Modi. Minorities in India feel safe and secure under Narendra Modi's rule. All the benefits and social schemes of the Modi Government have benefited every caste, creed, region, and religious community in India. In fact, minorities have benefited the most from the social and economic schemes of the Modi Government, ranging from gas connections to free ration to health insurance to Jan Dhan bank accounts to farming loans, and more."

This marks the first time the Union Territory of Kashmir has gone to the polls since the abrogation of Article 370. The voter turnout in the valley indicates some positive administrative developments, although the BJP did not field any candidates there. In West Bengal, the BJP is expected to retain its seats more or less. In Berhampore, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury -- who led the Congress in West Bengal -- is facing off against Dr Nirmal Kumar Saha of the BJP and cricketer-turned-politician Yusuf Pathan from the TMC. There is uncertainty regarding Mahua Moitra's chances of winning. In Gujarat, BJP will win almost all the seats except two. Down south, BJP will increase its vote share in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The way opposition leaders are targeted and sent behind the bars is shocking. "No one is an enemy but a competitor in politics but we have never seen such animosity before," opined Dr Dalbir Singh, who was also an Indian Army veteran from Gorkha regiment and who fought in the 1971 War and trained the Mukti Bahini.

In the 2014 election, corruption was an electoral issue, ranging from Anna Hazare’s movement to BJP’s vehement allegations against Congress. But BJP is no longer as vocal in the states, since several corrupted political workers from other parties switched to their camp. The Bharat Yodo Nyay Yatra, the long pedestrian march of Congress, reactivated and revitalized the party cadres but their mass appeal.

In 2014, there was Anna Hazare -- a man of the moment -- and Modi was the mandate. In 2024, there’s no one to checkmate Modi. Had the opposition block and regional parties come to confront Modi much earlier rather than electoral benefits, equations would have been different.

Prime Minister Modi believes in authoritative decision rather than consensus, as noted by author and political commentator Suhel Seth in a TV show. Under Modi's leadership, the BJP has evolved, diverging from the days of PM Vajpayee. As India marches as the largest democracy, it's evident that the allure of euphoria often eclipses the need for substance in politics.

In politics, mass leaders are becoming a rare tribe, replaced by the rise of populist politics, where even film stars, cricketers, and artists are trading their passions for the allure of the political stage. Perhaps it's time for a curtain call on this dramatic spectacle, and a return to the essence of governance with substance over spectacle.

Ayanangsha Maitra is a New Delhi based Indian journalist and foreign policy scholar.


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