PM Modi will not walk quietly into the sunset
Things haven't been going according to plan for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He's under pressure and it wasn't supposed to be like this.
He wasn't supposed to be going into the 2019 general election on the back of his BJP's direct defeats to Congress in three Hindi Belt states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
To make matters worse, survey after survey keeps showing that the NDA led by him will find it difficult to conjure up a majority by itself. Caused especially by a united opposition (another unexpected development) in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh (80 Lok Sabha seats).
Despite all this, anyone thinking the writing is on the wall for Modi is gravely mistaken.
Especially since he's still considered the most popular leader in the country by far and the fact that he has never lost an election. He entered the Gujarat state assembly as Chief Minister and left it only to enter Parliament as prime minister.
The signs of political shrewdness that ensured such standing can be seen in his government's latest step of passing the constitution amendment bill guaranteeing 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections in the General category. It was taken up and cleared in just a couple of days and blindsided all his opponents. The timing (second last day of winter session of Parliament) and nature of the move left the opposition in a bind, as opposing it could have been politically detrimental.
Plus this uncanny knack of pulling out surprises, as also shown by his steps like 'Demonetisation' or 'surgical strikes,' makes it easy to believe that he still has a few more up his sleeves.
And it feels the reservation bill was just the first one this election season. Most are already thinking that the government will break the convention of presenting an interim budget just before an election and instead announce sops like farm loan waiver, middle-class tax benefits etc., to get Modi popular support come voting time.
In addition, moves on the issues of the Ram Temple are expected to make sure the unprecedented consolidation of the Hindu vote that Modi achieved five years ago stays intact. Something of utmost importance for him to win enough seats to guarantee a comeback.
The 10 per cent reservation along with the Ram Temple issue can also go a long way to take on the SP-BSP alliance in UP, one of his biggest headaches given its potential to cause considerable loss (50+ seats) to him as surveys have predicted. Also, they have the ability to crush Congress president Rahul Gandhi's 'Soft-Hindutva' approach before it can cause the ruling party any more damage.
So with the opposition already haven shown most of its cards, it's Modi's turn now. With the model code of conduct expected to come into effect in March with the release of the election schedule, he'll have a month to play his hand. Whatever happens from now till then, one thing is certain, Modi will not walk quietly into the sunset.