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India

Updated on: Saturday, June 01, 2019, 08:23 AM IST

Even bypoll jolt can’t keep modi down

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He is a net gainer of the by-election results with no loss except of media steam

Gandhinagar : A wise man gets more use from enemies than a fool does from friends. On September 16, 2014 all manner of media craftsmen went to work dissecting the result of 29 of the approximately 3,826 Vidhan Sabha seats in India to say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s magic is waning. The very same man who secured 282 seats, largely on his own steam to give his party, the BJP a clear majority in the 543 member Lok Sabha in the 2014 general elections. Four months down the line he is careening downhill, is what the wisdom machines of New Delhi would have you believe.

Modi knows the inner mechanics of the media too well to be perturbed by such pre-pressed, instant analysis that is hardly incisive and tends towards the facetious. Most tend to miss the woods for the trees, not used to dealing with a person who defies stero-types, keeps his own counsel, thrives on unpredictability and prefers a boss-subordinate relationship with the closest of associates. Not even an Amit Shah can ever think of taking him for granted.

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Modi ruled from a pedestal in Gujarat and he is doing so in Delhi as well. True, the by-election results to nine seats in Gujarat, where the BJP lost three sitting seats, was forewarned. CM Anandiben Patel herself had pointed out the inherent dangers but national party chief Amit Shah had his way.

In UP and Rajasthan, where the BJP lost 8 of the 11 and 3 of the 4 seats respectively, gives the Samajwadi and the Congress a much-needed booster shot, but are these results giving Modi sleepless nights? No. Gujarat is known as the laboratory where calibrated Hindutva experiments had been going on for long. These were crude in content. Modi refined it into a fine art over time but only for sparse use like the long range Bofors guns which boom to soften targets before the infantry attacks.

The 2002 communal riots that followed the Godhra train carnage where 59 passengers were burnt to death is a case in point. BJP had lost ground rapidly in the aftermath of the 2001 earthquake when Modi walked in to play his one day match, as he termed it. Post the riots, the CM embarked on a statewide ‘gaurav yatra’, polarised the electorate but brought the BJP back to power with a blockbluster majority in 2002, winning fame as the ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’. He affected a gradual switch to development mode but his dictatorial style of functioning also had him grappling with an internal rebellion as the 2007 polls neared and the dissidents smelt blood.

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Modi who had switched to development mode as campaigning had to cut back to a mix of communal and baser regional chauvinism in the absence of popular response. Sonia Gandhi’s ‘maut ke saudagar’ remark was the Yorker, which Modi moved onto the frontfoot and lifted over the fence to pocket the polls.

Thereafter it was time to eye the national pie and it was back to the drawing board for fine-tuning the developmental agenda. If one finely studies the Modi manoeuvres in the campaign run up to the 2014 general elections, the BJP’s PM candidate espoused a developmental agenda occasionally venturing into Hindutva territory but returning back soonest to strike a secular note.

In contrast, Man Friday Amit Shah overseeing Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 general elections played the old ‘polarising’ game, additionally cleaning out Mayawati’s Dalit vote vault to strike it rich. The strategy has paid rich dividends, pitching Modi to prime ministership.

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The September by-election can at best be described as a laboratory experiment under controlled conditions. While Modi maintained a statesmanlike countenance with his highly publicised foreign policy moves designed to earn him brownie points, the ethnic onslaughts (love-jihad etc.) scripted by Shah, but voiced by the likes of Yogi Adityanath played out in full.

The polarisation experiment flopped, but the tabulated results are highly useful. Even Shah caught up in the heady adulation will be in a more receptive frame of mind. That’s vintage Modi! Contrary to what analysts are predicting, Modi is a net gainer of the by-election results with no loss except of media steam.

R K MISRA

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Published on: Monday, September 22, 2014, 12:29 AM IST
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