For the first time after 2014, the invincible aura of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah seems to be diminishing. Can the Modi-Shah duo arrest the slide before the reckoning in 2019?
Self-belief, no doubt, is a desirable trait for politicians. It is what propelled Narendra Modi to power and prime ministership in 2014 and made his partnership with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah a winning combination. But when that very self-belief starts looking like arrogance, it could signal the beginning of the fall.
As the BJP’s defeats in the assembly elections in three Hindi heartland states five months before the 2019 general election could well signify. Yes, the party did well give the anti-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh and the perceived strong anti-government sentiment in Rajasthan, but the rout in Chhattisgarh was complete even though Raman Singh had given the state its first stable government since it was formed in the year 2000.
And it is not only the Opposition that has tasted blood with the recent wins. The rumblings have begun within the BJP itself, with many wondering, if not openly articulating, where a continuation of the present style of functioning will leave the party five months from now.
The duo’s over-reliance on bureaucracy and a select few partymen, even their supporters say, has insulated them from ground realities. This, when Modi was once known for keeping his ear to the ground through information collected from third-party sources. Shah’s band of devoted followers, too, seemingly don’t have the courage to speak the truth, preferring instead to tell him what he wants to hear. That is what has led to their disconnect with the people who matter in the party as well as among the NDA allies.
Nor is their negative campaign against the Congress, whether it is ridiculing party president Rahul Gandhi as a Pappu’ (simpleton),or advocating a Congress-mukt (free) Bharat, doing them or the party any favors.
And with the tailwinds getting stronger for a mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) of opposition parties following the recent assembly polls, 2019 is looking far from a sure shot win for Narendra Modi and the BJP. Already, questions are being asked on how the duo plans to tackle Uttar Pradesh (which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha and is a must-win if the BJP is to return to power) should Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav join hands.
Should the mahagathbandhan materialize, the BJP will have to secure more votes than it did at the height of the Modi wave in 2014. There are already murmurs that case the BJP slides below 240 seats, the NDA partners might insist that someone other than Modi is made the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
That said, Modi and Shah are made of sterner stuff than most. After all, the duo helped the BJP win elections in 13 states and form governments in another four since they came to power in 2014. And the assembly election defeats still leave the BJP with five months to correct their political course.
Also, if there is one thing that Narendra Modi still has going for him, it is the fact that his reputation of personal integrity remains intact. The prime minister is still seen as a doer. He has ensured better delivery of the many schemes his government has initiatedUjjwala, Saubhagya, Jan Dhan, Awas Yojana (rural and urban) Mudra, among others even if one discounts government claims of the benefits reaching 90 percent of the people they are intended for. This can be attributed to the digital monitoring system that Modi and Shah have put in place to track the various schemes.
Also, as a team, Modi and Shah remain in perfect sync with each other. Shah continues to play a complementary role, directing and managing not just the party’s electoral strategy but also having a considerable say in many of the government’s initiatives. The Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme is a case in point. Progress reports on the scheme go to both him and Modi.
The duo may seem down after the December defeats in three states, but it will still take a lot to stop the Modi-Shah juggernaut.
News credit: India Today