Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had it great until now. Despite having the dubious distinction of leading Gujarat as its chief minister during modern India’s worst riot – the 2002 carnage – he spearheaded the BJP to four consecutive victories in the state. Not to mention his victorious march to 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, in Delhi after the 2014 elections and the BJP’s amazing rally to lap up 21 states under his leadership.
He demonetised 86 per cent of the Indian currency and brought in a draconian tax regime in the name of GST. It introduced five different slabs of taxation that change by the region, and was responsible for shaving off 2 per cent of the country’s GDP.
Yet, people were convinced that Modi had introduced the ‘One Nation One Tax’ policy and hailed him as a game-changer. Indeed Modi seemed invincible and was set to further rise up the hillock.
But, not so anymore!
Now, there exist two distinct possibilities ahead of the next general elections – one, Modi faces a united opposition consisting of the resurgent Congress and most of the regional parties and, two, that he rides a wave of popular sentiment that bills him as the solitary honest man. At this point, though, the first possibility seems stronger and I have 5 reasons to believe so.
Now, let me again get back to the point where I contend that the Modi-Amit Shah-led BJP is on the decline right now.
Disillusionment and resultant desertion by allies
The BJP’s oldest ally, Shiv Sena, recently announced that it will go alone in the next general elections. Their current alliance with BJP is primarily dictated by power compulsions. But with the Maharashtra Assembly polls likely during the general elections, due to the uncertainty of the alliance, the BJP is set to lose an ally.
The first person to endorse Modi as the PM candidate, outside the BJP, was TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu. His recent decision to walk out of the NDA and move a no-confidence motion against the government should not be seen in isolation.
Consolidation of regional rivals
The coming together of unlikely allies in Parliament on the issue of special status to Andhra Pradesh is symbolic of what might happen when the general elections are held. If the Congress, TDP and YSR Congress can come together; so can other regional forces.
The bigger story, though, is the coming-together of Dalit-friendly BSP led by Mayawati and the Muslim-OBC-friendly SP led by Akhilesh Yadav. The SP recently clinched the Gorakhpur and Phulpur constituencies with tacit support from the BSP. This turns the tables in UP, where BJP won 72 of 80 seats in the last general elections.
Rise of the state-first sentiment
There is a definite focus on the ‘state-first’ slogan in addition to a consolidation of the federal forces. The Karnataka Congress is going further and showing a Karnataka-first approach which BJP can’t counter at this point in time. Ironically, the idea of pitting regional forces against the BJP’s brand of politics is being tested first, ironically, by another national party. In Karnataka, the Congress has given up all pretensions of being a pan-India party. Its CM Siddaramaiah has donned the garb of a politician dedicated to the interest of his state, creating its own flag and arguing for Lingayatism as a separate religion.
Joblessness and agrarian distress
Assuming office with the promise of creating two crore new jobs a year – which ended in the creation of a paltry 20 lakh jobs – Modi’s development plank stands exposed. IT, realty and retail sectors are actually reducing their workforces.
The recent farmers’ protests across various states including the Kisan Long March have brought agrarian distress to the forefront. The government has failed to give minimum support prices, implement Forest Rights Act for tribal cultivators without land rights, and waive off farm loans.
Social disharmony and Minority-Dalit-Tribal bonhomie
Winning the mandate on a development plank and squandering it with trivial issues such as ‘Love Jihad’, cow vigilantism, ‘Ghar Wapasi’, Padmavati and the likes; the Modi government has worsened the social harmony index.
Alongside, attacks on Dalits in various states have led to increasing Dalit disenchantment with the current dispensation despite the tokenism in appointing a Sanghi Dalit as India’s President. With the rise of Dalit icons such as Jignesh Mevani, Prakash Ambedkar and others, the minority-Dalit bonhomie is evident. It will get a further fillip with Mayawati, Akhilesh and RJD’s Lalu Prasad coming under the same umbrella. The farmer discontent across many states is also bringing a large section of the tribal population closer to this axis.