Message from polls: Modi is unstoppable

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Sunday, December 11, 2022, 11:09 PM IST
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PM Narendra Modi | File

The results of the latest round of state elections yet again reaffirm the pole position of the BJP and its unquestioned leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. No other party can match his singular pull at the hustings. And it goes without saying that Mr Modi’s popularity remains undiminished despite eight years in power as Prime Minister. Indeed, he seems to have further enhanced his charisma from when he first became PM back in 2014. To put it bluntly, Mr Modi seems on course to win another five-year term in office in 2024 when the next Parliamentary election will become due.

His critics might have a long list of grievances against him from consumer inflation to the continuing stalemate at the China border, or might cite the alleged constriction of civic rights, or of an induced fear psychosis in the minorities, particularly among the Muslims. Yet, regardless, Mr Modi the politician seems to go from strength to strength. He may be the top leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party but he is now bigger than the party. Without him it is inconceivable that the BJP can register half the success it has come to register routinely in the State and parliamentary elections.

As the poll for the Gujarat Assembly shows, the BJP winning more than 50% of the popular vote was only due to his strong bond with the Gujarati voter. Now, even if the Congress and the AAP had joined hands the outcome might not have been any different. Neither the 27 years of anti-incumbency, nor a lacklustre Chief Minister mattered. They were voting for Mr Modi above all else. Or, to put it differently, a vote for BJP was a vote for Mr Modi. The old-fashioned might protest at the emergence of a personality cult in the BJP, a party which had all along prioritised ideology and programmes above individual leaders, howsoever popular they might be. Never in their long stewardship of the Jana Sangh-BJP did Vajpayee or Advani become the sole arbiter of the party. Nor did they have the veto to overrule colleagues peremptorily. The RSS and the BJP prided itself on decision-making by consensus — all important decisions were to be taken by senior leaders. No longer, though. Now it is Mr Modi’s writ that alone runs in the party and even in our cabinet form of Government. A strong leader might make the decision-making process smoother but there is always the danger of the Fuhrer complex eroding the democratic core of the system, if not its externalities.

The strong endorsement of his leadership by the voter in Gujarat was also accompanied by an unexpectedly good showing by the BJP in Himachal Pradesh as well as the election to the Delhi Municipal Corporation. In Himachal, despite the long-standing tradition of power changing hands between the Congress and the BJP in each election, the saffron party came within 1% of the popular vote to nix the tradition. The Congress won 40 seats polling 43.9% popular vote while the BJP got 43% vote but only 25 seats. Mr Modi’s connect with the voter had negated a strong anti-incumbency against the Jairam Thakur government, very nearly helping the BJP to retain power. As for the Delhi corporation poll, contrary to every pollster and election-watcher who predicted a pasting for the BJP which had (mis)ruled for 15 years, the party surprised everyone, winning 104 of the 250 seats in the House. The difference was made by Mr Modi’s charisma which persuaded the voter to ignore the failures of his party and still repose trust in his leadership. Undoubtedly, what helped the BJP was the most cynical leadership of the AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal who was not above using falsehoods and subterfuges to hoodwink the voter. Besides, the Muslim vote had moved away from the AAP, given its flirtation with soft Hindutva. The point is that as of now there is no one in the political horizon who can stop Mr Modi from winning a fresh mandate in 2024. Bar an unforeseen event, or calamity, the Opposition — united or ununited — will fail to deny him another five years in power. That message come out loud and clear from the state polls last week.

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