Does it behove a Prime Minister to stoop to the level of a street speaker and call his rival names? Certainly not. But Narendra Modi is a class apart from the prime ministers the country has had so far. He loves to not only stoop to the level of a street-speaker but also twists facts to suit his political ends. He virtually called P Chidambaram “shameless’’ while addressing a public meeting in Bengaluru.
Modi was responding to Chidambaram’s answer to a media query wherein he had said that not all those raising azadi slogan in Kashmir wanted freedom but lot of them wanted “autonomy” for Kashmir. “Those in power until yesterday suddenly have taken a U turn and are shamelessly raising their voice for autonomy for Kashmir Kashmir,” Modi charged Chidambaram without naming him. The senior Congress leader responded via a tweet: “The PM is imagining a ghost and attacking it”.
Of course, Modi was imagining a ghost as Chidambaram nowhere advocated autonomy for Kashmir. But it was not sheer imagination. Instead, it was a cold and calculated lie with a political intent to paint himself a super Hindu nationalist and his rival Congress as another Muslim sympathiser. But why should the Prime Minister lie?
Modi is desperate. The Assembly elections of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, scheduled for December this year, are his main worries. Gujarat is not just his home state but also his political base. He built his national status marketing the Gujarat model of development on one hand and the image of a no-nonsense Hindu leader with no tolerance for minorities on the other.
Modi’s problem is that the balloon of his economic model has burst following demonetisation and the much-talked about GST reform. India’s economy has been shocked and pulverised by Modi. GDP growth has come down to 5.7 per cent. Jobs have vanished, leaving the youth restless. Many sectors of trade and industry have shut shop reeling under the demonetisation impact. Farming sector is ill too. Investments are dwindling. It is a sad economic story by all standards.
With the economy in shambles, Modi can no longer sell his “development model”. Smart cities, bullet trains, crores of jobs per annum, pots of investment in markets are empty rhetoric that no longer matches peoples’ experiences of the last three years of Modi raj. So how does he win elections? The only course left for Modi now is to polarise voters along Hindu-Muslim lines and garner votes.
Modi is a master polariser. Hum paanch, tumharey pachees, Aagar qabrastan key zameen to shahmshan key liye bhi zameen mileygee - all such one liners have been Modi’s election winning phrases. And, Modi is in great trouble in Gujarat this time around. The Assembly election is no longer a cake walk for him.
The electoral battle is turning tough on his home turf. Patidar Patels are up in arms against the BJP. OBC leader Alpesh Kumar has already joined the Congress. Dalit icon Jignesh Mewani too is swearing by the Congress. Rahul Gandhi’s rallies are attracting huge crowds.
These are, indeed, disturbing signs for Modi. He needs to pull all stops to win Gujarat. So he has to go back to the old polarising formula: I am the super Hindu while Congress only speaks for Muslims.
Can the communal card without any promise of development deliver? The verdicts of Gujarat and Himachal will answer that. But Modi is showing all signs of desperation. He is read to stoop to any level to remain in power. You may hear many more ‘gems’ from his mouth till the Assembly elections in December.