Modi in 2019 is a study in contrast to his own self in 2014. In 2014, he was selling to the Indian people a new hope and dream. In 2019, he is peddling fear. In his first bid to the prime ministerial office, Modi was a lot more positive. Today he is negative to the extreme. Even if the BJP claim that the promise to bring back all the black money stashed outside and deposit it to the bank account of every Indian at Rs 15 lakh per person is taken on its face value, the promise of ‘achche din’, where there would be plenty of opportunities to work for the able and willing; and money in hand to enjoy a better life, enthused the common man to come out and vote for Modi. But as Modi is about to complete his term, they got neither. If anything, their plight has worsened.
Obviously, Modi has changed his narrative for 2019. This time he wants people to vote him because he is required to be around to protect them from danger, both external and internal. Detractors have not missed the similarity between his new line and the infamous Indira Gandhi doctrine of India is Indira. BJP supporters have stopped short of calling Modi Bharat, but they insist that he has to be there to make India go. The idea is to scare. Modi has made national security the defining issue in this election campaign. There is need for a strong government so that there can be a strong nation. And only BJP can provide a strong government. Pulwama, Balakot and the surgical strikes define the contours of the 2019 Modi narrative. And he is seeking votes not on his own behalf, but in the name of Indian security forces, members of which have made the supreme sacrifice in protecting the nation.
His lieutenants have even made it appear that the credit for the achievements of Indian security forces belongs to the BJP, creating a storm of protest, with calls all around not to drag the security forces into politicking. Modi is right in warning against national security. But the threat may not be from across the border or from within as he claims. There is threat to the Indian nationhood because the state has failed the Indian people. And unfortunately, Modi has solution in hand. Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan hit the nail when he said in a recent article that there is threat to national stability, but not necessarily due to cross border intervention, which according to him India is capable of handling. “…our national security depends primarily on our economic strength.
If we do not have strong job-creating economic growth in coming years, we will suffer on multiple fronts. We will not have the resources to upgrade our military’s equipment. We will not have the economic clout that will persuade other nations to arrest our terrorists and extradite those who flee our laws. And we will have rising levels of internal political unrest as our unemployed youths start venting their frustration. One cannot have meaningful national security without strong job-creating economic growth,” he wrote in a newspaper article.
That is certainly not music to the ears of the BJP leaders, who have been presuming an adversarial role for the former RBI governor ever since he advised Modi not to go ahead with his ill-fated demonetisation plan. In the end, events proved Rajan right and Modi wrong. Modi is fully aware of the pitfalls of his government when it comes to national security on this count. That is why his government has initiated a whole new manufacturing process to produce favourable job data. The saffron camp knows for sure that there is a perception battle to be won.
Perhaps the Modi government is facing its biggest threat on account of its dismal job creation record, which has been cited by several opinion polls as the biggest worry of Indians these days. The numbers are not at all reassuring for the saffron supporters. According to a statistical analysis of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, there are about 140 constituencies, where the average size of jobless exceeds 50,000. A most worrisome part is that the margin of victory for whoever got elected from these constituencies was less than 50,000. And this means that the unemployed voters are in a strong position to decide the fate of candidates in these constituencies.
It should cause real concern to BJP and the NDA partners that at least 40 of these seats were won by them, and if the disgruntled unemployed voters decide to punish the Modi government, they have the wherewithal to do that. And in a situation where most pre-poll surveys are forecasting trouble for BJP in hitting the magic number, this could turn out to be crucial.The writer is freelance journalist. Views are personal.