Analysis: BJP In The Throes Of Doubt Before Votes Are Cast

Analysis: BJP In The Throes Of Doubt Before Votes Are Cast

The BJP is panicky before the moment of truth and is therefore resorting to every trick it can to somehow retain power which it fears is slipping out of its hand

SNM AbdiUpdated: Monday, April 01, 2024, 10:04 PM IST
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There is clearly a huge confidence deficit in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party. If the BJP was sure of itself, would it get Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Bharat Rashtra Samithi’s Kalvakuntla Kavitha and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal arrested by the Enforcement Directorate or Central Bureau of Investigation in the run-up to the Parliamentary elections?

The onslaught on Opposition leaders inevitably sends a message that Modi is not confident of becoming the PM for a third straight term. Modi and his men are publicly boasting of winning 370 seats and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance romping home with 400 Members of Parliament, but in reality they are wracked by self-doubt and are full of apprehensions. If it isn’t so, why is the Modi regime determined to hold Opposition-mukt elections so as to ensure a BJP victory?

Modi is very sharp, extremely intelligent and an uncompromising, hardcore realist. By no stretch of the imagination does he live in a make-believe or illusionary world. He knows too well that the electorate is not going to vote for the BJP blindly and unquestioningly. He is India’s tallest and most charismatic leader no doubt, but he is fully aware that his face and persona are not enough to carry the BJP to the shores of victory.

Modi knows that the public will cast its vote after assessing the government’s performance. Joblessness is at an all-time high. And amid the unemployment crisis and stagnant income of those who are lucky enough to have jobs, prices of essential commodities are going through the roof, making life unbearable. Inequality is becoming more glaring with every passing day, with the rich becoming richer and the poor poorer. Modi and company are obviously factoring in all this in their internal assessments of the BJP’s prospects at the hustings, making them jittery.

The situation is so grim that the BJP is even fielding former chief ministers in the coming Lok Sabha elections; Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Karnataka’s Basavaraj Bommai are prime examples. Moreover, harried and restless top leaders are burning the midnight oil deciphering the caste arithmetic in seat after seat to know what lies in store for party candidates.

The BJP is suffering from such acute insecurity that the Income Tax department has reopened assessment proceedings against the Congress Party for accounts submitted in 1994-95! This is like digging out corpses for post-mortem examination three decades after burial. On the one hand, Modi and other BJP leaders accuse the Congress of being corrupt and a party of thieves and robbers. And on the other, the BJP is embracing leaders with criminal records.

It has just inducted Janardhan Reddy who has 20 police cases against him, including nine CBI cases for looting forests and mines — and attempting to pay a bribe of Rs 40 crore to a judge for bail! Such defections reinforce the Opposition’s description of the ruling party as a washing machine through which tainted leaders pass to emerge spotlessly clean. Last week, the CBI filed a closure report in a massive corruption case against Praful Patel, who had crossed over to the BJP eight months ago. Naveen Jindal is another feather in the BJP’s cap. The Congress MP from Haryana, who is a ‘Coalgate’ accused, crossed over to the BJP along with his mother, Savitri Jindal, to work alongside Modi in developing India. So what’s driving the BJP to court politicians belonging to other parties mired in landmark corruption cases and taking them under its wing?

In the Parliamentary elections post Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, the Congress party had won more than 400 seats. Since then, no other party or coalition has broken that record. For three decades after 1984, no single party could even win 272 seats to a form a government on its own. But in 2014 the BJP got 282 seats by encashing the Congress party’s myriad failures and promising “achchhe din” (good days). And in 2019, the BJP increased its tally to a mind-boggling 303 by exploiting the massacre of central forces in Pulwama to the hilt. Before the bloodbath in Pulwama, the BJP was projected to win far fewer seats. But Pulwama was a game-changer. After the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22, the BJP had hoped to trigger an electoral tsunami in April-May. That’s why immediately after the temple’s launch the BJP started announcing from housetops that it would bag 370 seats singlehandedly and the NDA’s tally would cross 400, signalling Hindutva’s victory over secular-liberal India.

But for a pragmatic party like the BJP it didn’t take long to realise that winning a two-thirds majority is no child’s play. There is hardly any scope for the BJP to wrest more seats in north India than it already has under its belt. And in states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Punjab it simply doesn’t have the organisational bandwidth to increase its tally. In 2019, the BJP had bagged 25 out of 28 seats in Karnataka. But with Siddaramiah-Shivakumar now at the helm, it won’t be surprising if the BJP wins fewer seats. And despite BJP rule in Maharashtra in alliance with Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, NDA is unlikely to go anywhere near its 2019 tally of 41 seats out of 48. Similarly in Bihar, where NDA bagged 39 seats out of 40, the current picture is nowhere as rosy despite Nitish Kumar’s return to the NDA.

All this explains the BJP’s crisis of confidence, acute insecurity and debilitating doubts ahead of the hour of reckoning. The BJP is panicky before the moment of truth and is therefore resorting to every trick it can to somehow retain power which it fears is slipping out of its hand.

The author is an independent, Pegasused reporter and commentator on foreign policy and domestic politics

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