THERE is no doubt that the Modi-Amit Shah duo has worked in tandem and blazed a winning trail with few parallels. The BJP led NDA is in power in 19 states and the saffron colour is splashed across the India map.
This new year 2018 brings with it major challenges for Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the BJP enjoying a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha. It is handicapped in the Rajya Sabha as the NDA continues to be in a minority and its efforts to rummage the numbers have proved to be in vain.
It is a semi-final year for the Lotus party with assembly elections scheduled in eight states including Karnataka. With five months remaining for the poll, the party brass has already begun drawing up its strategy in this crucial southern state where the Congress is at the helm of affairs. This is the lone southern state where the Lotus party has held the reins of power and is keen on enlarging its presence particularly in Tamil Nadu.
The five southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana along with the lone Union Territory of Puducherry account for 130 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. Assembly elections are also due this year in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where anti-incumbency against the ruling BJP can pose problems. It is in this context that the saffron brigade wants to enlarge its poor arithmetic in the South to offset the possible losses in the North which facilitated Modi becoming the Prime Minister in May 2014.
Along with its allies, the BJP led NDA crossed the Rubicon of 300 reaching a comfortable tally of 340 odd seats in the Lok Sabha less than four years back. In the 43 months that Modi has been the Head of Government, the BJP has managed to remain several steps ahead of the Congress, which has been found wanting because of its organisation being in shambles. A debilitating factor is that the Grand Old party lacks leaders having a mass base in the states. The all-powerful Congress High Command must accept responsibility for its high handedness and peremptory style of functioning throwing the party in disarray.
Now, that the baton of Congress president has passed on to the Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi after an extended apprenticeship, there is a lot of work to be done. And in quick time.
Delaying the dynastic accession any further with Rahul’s mother Sonia Gandhi, having the distinction of being the longest serving Congress president for 19 years, might have been counter-productive.
The outcome of the crucial assembly elections in Modi’s home state of Gujarat recently gave ample indication of the prime minister’s honeymoon with the people taking a hit. In the last two to three decades, it has been invariably seen that the Head of Government’s popularity begins taking a dip sharply on completing 36-42 months in office.
There is no doubt that the Modi-Amit Shah duo has worked in tandem and blazed a winning trail with few parallels. The BJP led NDA is in power in 19 states and the saffron colour is splashed across the India map.
The Congress performance over the last three-and-a-half years has been abysmal. It is in power only in Punjab and Karnataka. Rahul has the inevitable task of enthusing the Congress workers along with keeping the old guard in good humour. He needs to think out of the box in revitalising the party organisation.
The focus should be on evolving policies enthusing the rank and file of the party along with focussing on why the Modi government’s much touted “achhe din aane wale hain” has bombed so far.
BJP president Amit Shah has emerged as a successful vote catcher aided by a well-oiled machine at his command. His major failing in Gujarat compelled the saffron brigade to settle for two-digit figures of 99 seats, far less than its tally of 115 in the last 2012 assembly elections.
The state assembly has a strength of 182 members. Compare this to his setting, a mind-boggling target of 150 seats in the assembly, which his own party leaders felt, was nothing short of wishful thinking.
The BJP has so far managed a high of 127 seats in the assembly, even though its win for a sixth consecutive time was never in doubt. For all practical intents and purposes, the Modi government has endeavoured in ironing out the irritants with implementing the GST not to speak of the hardship faced by the people on account of demonetisation.
However, his oft repeated slogan of “sab ka saath, sab ka vikas” with emphasis on creating direly needed employment, overcoming the distress caused to farmers and the economy continuing to be sluggish are the areas that need to be tackled on a priority basis.
There is hardly any doubt that the upcoming 2018-19 general budget needs to be pro-people. There are indications that the maximum IT slab may be reduced by five basis points to 25 per cent.
The ideologue of the BJP, the RSS has warned the political leadership that the twin issues of farm distress and galloping unemployment could be the main pressure points.
It emphasised that the BJP was in trouble in Gujarat because of the simmering anger in rural areas particularly the disgruntlement among the educated youth. It attributes the present state of affairs to the ruling party’s faulty economic policies warning that without expeditious corrective measures, the situation could worsen.
The RSS has put the BJP on guard that matters could get worse in the ensuing assembly elections and cast its shadow in next year’s general elections.
That is some food for thought for the prime minister who has maintained a remarkable winning streak so far. It is widely believed that a second term as the Head of Government is very much in Modi’s grasp with the opposition in disarray at this juncture.
The writer is a senior journalist and commentator.