The BJP’s campaigner-in-chief Narendra Modi is desperate for a second term as the Prime Minister and believes if the people at large can give the Congress nearly six decades on the majestic Raisina Hill, why should they grudge giving him two terms of five years each as the Head of Government.
A desperate Opposition, particularly the Congress, spares no opportunity in attacking Modi for failing to deliver the multitude of pledges made by him encompassing job creation and tackling acute farm distress among others. They are emphatic that the people should send the Modi regime packing for making false promises.
At the same time, the BJP-led NDA has provided strong leadership in tackling the menace of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism as evidenced in the strike by the Indian Air Force across the Line of Control smashing terror training camps in Balakot in Pakistan.
In the election campaign thus far Modi has spared no effort in bringing to the fore the various programmes of his government in ameliorating a lot of the poor encompassing loan waivers to farmers, improving the life of women in the country’s outback by providing cooking gas cylinders as well as insurance for better health care in hospitals.
Amid all these ‘poll sops’, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been trying to keep pace with Modi in announcing people-oriented schemes along with promising a uniform financial assistance to the poor if after assuming power at the Centre.
There is no doubt that the recent air strikes on terrorist camps across the border has given a definite boost to Modi’s image helming the saffron brigade. Be that as it may, the Congress inexplicably remains oblivious to the ground realities continuing to strive for the last minute alliances in UP where it has been rebuffed by BSP supremo Mayawati challenging them to contest all the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the country’s most-populous state.
She maintained that the BSP-SP combine was strong enough to send the BJP packing in UP. The question is will that alone be enough for the regional satraps to take the road leading from Lucknow to the national capital hoping to form a non-BJP government at the Centre or is it being rather hasty and presumtuous.
The stakes are indeed high for all contenders in the ensuing April-May seven-phase general election for the 17th Lok Sabha. There is intense political competitiveness with scant regard for the ground rules amid a virtual freedom for all. Modi’s opponents are beginning to sense danger and are desperately trying to mobilise those who have felt disempowered by his governance. It is for all the Opposition parties to realise that the democracy itself is at stake if the campaign is aimed at communal polarisation.
Voters in this country have remained committed to the democratic system of governance. This is evidenced by the ever-increasing turnout to exercise their franchise aimed at boosting their empowerment. Modi and the saffron party appears to be enjoying a definite advantage thanks to the strikes in Balakot destroying terrorist camps operating in the neighbourhood without causing any harm to civilians in Pakistan.
That has been a compelling aspect for the powerful military establishment in Rawalpindi to hold its horses in the wake of the air strikes and pressure being brought to bear on Islamabad by the Western powers to steer clear of precipitating matters as both the neighbours are nuclear powers.
The electoral stakes are high for the contenders this year with Modi positioning himself as the messiah of the poor and downtrodden and the Opposition with the Congress in the vanguard warning the BJP-led NDA’s continuance at the helm of affairs on the majestic Raisina Hill spells doom for this country’s democracy and its institutions. Modi realises the advantage lies with him as people realise there is a leader in their midst willing to take bold decisions targetting terrorism and its masters across the border.
The international community and the major powers have been one with India in isolating Pakistan for aiding and abetting terrorism. The critical issue afflicting this country is national security particularly in the wake of the Pulwama suicide strike in which more than 40 CRPF personnel were killed. It is widely believed that it is time for the country to have a doctrine on national security.
A large section of non-BJP politicians view the ensuing election as pertaining to the rights and freedoms of the people. That has knit the non-BJP parties together even though with the election drawing close, the inherent dislike for the Congress for a host of reasons cannot be brushed aside.
The grand old party has dilly dallied in striving for coalitions which was viewed as being imperative for seeing the back of the BJP which has enlarged its footprint countrywide as evidenced by the saffron splash across the Indian map. The divisions in the Opposition unity might well cost it dearly at the hustings nine weeks later on May 23 when the counting of votes takes place.
T R Ramachandran is a political commentator. Views are personal.