Even bypoll jolt can’t keep Modi down

BY RK MISRA

A wise man gets to benefit more from his  enemies than a fool  from friends. And so with Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister.
On September 16, 2014 all  manner of media craftsmen  went to work dissecting the result of 29 Vidhan Sabha seats spread over five states in India to  surmise that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s magic is on the wane. There are approx. 3826 Vidhan Sabha seats in the country and 29 would constitute a very distant fraction. He is 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. Modi ruled from a pedestal in Gujarat and he is doing so in Delhi as well.
True, the by-election results for nine seats in Gujarat, where the BJP lost three sitting seats, had been  forewarned. Chief minister 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 eight of the 11 and three of the four seats respectively, gives the Samajwadi Party and the Congress a much needed booster shot, but it is unlikely  these results are  giving Modi sleepless nights.
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  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 Chief Minister  embarked on a statewide “Gaurav Yatra’, polarized the electorate but brought the BJP back to power with a blockbluster majority. That was in 2002, and he won 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. Modi who had switched to development mode as the campaigning began, had to cut back to a mix of communal and baser regional chauvinism in the absence of a popular response. Sonia Gandhi’s ’maut ke saudagar’ remark was the chance yorker which Modi  moved onto the front foot 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 closely studies the Modi manoeuvres in the campaigning run up to the 2014 general elections, the BJP’s prime ministerial 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  paid rich dividends, pitchforking Modi to prime- ministership.
The September by-election can at best be described as a laboratory experiment under controlled conditions. While Modi maintained a statesmanly countenance with his highly publicised foreign policy moves designed to earn him brownie points, the ethnic onslaughts (love-jihad etc, etc) scripted by Shah but voiced by the likes of Yogi Adityanath  played out in full. The polarization experiment flopped but the tabulated results are highly useful. Even Amit 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. This hardly matters to a person who has long since developed the art of direct  communication with the masses to teller effect.
The by-election results will come in handy to Modi in tackling hardliners who have been increasingly mounting pressure through RSS and other Sangh Parivar set- ups for taking up a flauntingly high profile saffron agenda. Modi has been indulgent so far  but will use this to put them in their place. As his cabinet ministers know by know, he can be pretty bitingly businesslike when he decides to .And stingingly harsh as well!
In Gujarat, he had to face a near similar situation. A Sangh Parivar set -up which ran it’s office from the MLA’s hostel in Gandhinagar found its belonged hurled on the street when it flexed it’s muscles against Modi. The VHP was put in it’s place in Gujarat and a senior state level office -bearer spent a long time behind bars after he was slapped with a sedition case for criticizing Modi. About 200 roadside ,illegal temples which had sprung up over the years in the state  capital of Gandhinagar were razed in a sustained demolition drive while Modi was abroad by the present chief minister, who was  then holding charge of the Roads and Buildings department with hardly any protests worth it’s while.
Similar fare will follow suit. Modi  has a phased agenda but he believes in being  the boss of all that he surveys. He knows very well that in a diverse country like ours  hard hindutva is good for occasional  shockers but can repel in large doses and it is leading from the front fortified by developmental medicine that will keep him and his government going in the long run. His recent interview praising the muslims of India should be seen in this backdrop.

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