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Short of dependable leaders, in second year, Modi’s sheen is "coming off" faster than his NDA predecessor

By RK Misra*
Nothing grows under a banyan tree. Again, dazzling light, shattering sound and pummeling propaganda may induce, even overawe, but rarely inspires. Whether It is Indira Gandhi or Narendra Modi, two diverse ends of the Indian political spectrum, neither nurture leaders. They only have sub-ordinates and followers. The Congress is already facing the repercussions, the BJP will do so over time.
Highly individualistic leadership with an over-centralised administration has its own pitfalls. When the going is good it is very good, but when it is bad it is worse. There is much in common between the two, except that the instinct to command and control is more heightened in Modi.
If Indira had to battle hard to neutralize the powerful ’syndicate’ within the Congress comprising Morarji Desai. Sanjiva Reddy, S Nijalingappa, SK Patil and Atulya Ghosh, Modi found it comparatively easier to create his ‘margadarshak mandal’ (advisory council) comprising LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha, on taking charge as Prime Minister in Delhi. 
But then assuming total control is only one half of the journey, the real battle begins only thereafter. And no one knows it better than the present Prime Minister, Narendra Modi now a victim of his own success.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first Prime Minister of the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) , was a liberal at heart but still managed to keep the hardliners snapping at the feet of his government, at bay. Nevertheless it sapped enough governance energy and image credo to see the glaze of ‘India shining’ wear of and the Congress back in the saddle at the helm of a UPA government in 2004.
Two UPA innings later, like a knight in shining armour, armed with a sweeping mandate, Modi breezed in, riding astride a crest of expectations. Inching towards his second year in power, the sheen seems to be coming off faster than his NDA predecessor.
Vajpayee was a democrat, so the 2004 debacle was the defeat of team NDA. Modi has no such pretensions. Hence, every NDA or BJP setback goes to debit his account. Delhi and Bihar elections have been a major drain, made more so by the vicious manner of campaigning by a Prime Minister. Social media, Modi’s home turf, says it all . The uncrowned ruler in the run up to the 2014 general elections, he is the butt of ridicule and jokes on it now. Why?
The Lok Sabha tally of 282 seats was gifted to a voluble leader who had built up the image of a development messiah capable of crushing the caste, region, religion fault-lines to deliver a future built across divides embracing the most modern and the best of the scientific, social, cultural as well as technological panorama. Instead, the sheen is wearing thin. Politics now is abusing the Congress opposition (sixty years country has gone to seed).

Hindu majoritarianism

Religion now is Hindu majoritarianism, the rest be cleaved (lynching in Dadri, murder in Dharwad). Protest is anti-national and criticism equated with criminality (Patel-Jat, agitation, Jawaharlal Nehru University protest). And the man at the helm now maintains a deafening silence.
Modi promised to make a difference. Nothing has changed in these two years or so. Corruption is the same, prices rule higher, the blame game is a continuation of the old order. Destabilising the government in Arunachal Pradesh through use of a pliant Governor who cites cow slaughter as a reason knowing fully well that ‘mithun’ sacrifice is part of the religious practice of the area and so it goes on.
Elections are round the corner in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala this year. Among those lined up for next year include Uttar Pradesh .The only faint glimmer of hope for the BJP is Assam but the way the party leadership is playing it’s cards, its hopes seem to be receding by the day.
As in Assam for now, so in Uttar Pradesh for next year, the polarization game has already begun. Suddenly the air is full of talks about rebuilding the ‘Ram temple’ and a host of such issues that work towards religious cleaving of communities .The recently concluded by-election in Muzzafarnagar was a trial run of sorts, replication will follow.
The BJP hopes big on UP but knows that it is Mayawati’s BSP which is the frontrunner. Jammu and Kashmir which it had stitched together to form a PDP headed government is also coming apart at the seams after the death of Mufti Mohammed Sayed with chessboard moves the order of the day. Modi’s obduracy may well prove a stumbling block for his party’s first shot at power in the region.
An uneasy calm rules but the BJP pot simmers within. Modi is short of trusted hands. For the moment he has managed to fend off demands for a change of Amit Shah and managed to get him back as party president. This now ensures that Modi is in total control. He is the government and he is the party. But therein lies a tale.
It is in this backdrop that various chessboard moves between the RSS and the BJP need to be seen. Those who have seen Modi’s functioning in Gujarat know that he believes in total control over the entire governance apparatus whether it be the party or the government. Such was the case in Gujarat, so is it in Delhi now. 

Gujarat experience

In his initial terms in Gujarat he hardly appointed anyone from the party to state boards and corporations, running them mostly through bureaucrats. Whatever the level of opposition that Amit Shah will be re-elected party chief was never in doubt.
Other names were being bandied about only to make him concede ground elsewhere. The RSS is very keen that Sanjay Joshi’s services be utilized by the party. Modi has been deadly opposed to it. He nurses old grudges. Joshi has a string of victories in the states he has handled for the BJP.
Shah- with a history of understanding what Modi wants without his even saying it – is very intrinsic to Modi’s planning in a crucial election year-West Bengal ,Tamil Nadu, Assam and Kerala – after two reverses in a row – in Delhi and Bihar.
Modi, short of dependable leaders with sworn allegiance and equal understanding of his boss, has only one Shah. And though it may not be his immediate priority, his own citadel, Gujarat is on it’s way to becoming his Achilles heel.
The appointment of a president for the Gujarat unit of the party was caught in an intractable squabble between chief minister Anandiben Patel and national party president Shah. Both are close lieutenants of Modi but bitter rivals of each other. As long as Modi ruled Gujarat the position was no more than that of a glorified errands boy but after he left for Delhi, it has suddenly acquired importance.
The fact is that key decisions pertaining to Gujarat are still taken by the prime minister and the selection of Vijay Rupani for the post signifies that Shah has had his way.
The internal dissensions apart, the BJP government is facing serious problems in Gujarat. The patidars who have for long constituted the backbone of the BJP vote bank are up in arms. It has already eroded the rural vote bank of the party providing a decisive edge to the Congress which now controls 21 of the 31 district panchayats and 124 of the total 230 tehsil panchayats.
The BJP infighting and the patidar stir has virtually revived the Congress. The BJP government is virtually under siege and the broad contours of an anti-BJP front are emerging in the state which goes to polls in 2017. Any adverse fallout here will severely impact Modi’s shot at a repeat term to rule India in 2019.
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*Senior Gandhinagar-based journalist. Blog: http://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.in/

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