Why Modi’s strategy of blaming Congress for all ills may backfire on BJP in Gujarat polls
Gandhinagar, Oct 17: We all know Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a great spin doctor when it comes to changing narrative regarding even the most controversial subjects like demonetisation, which he well demonstrated during the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections earlier this year as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won handsomely in spite of just a few months after note ban was announced in November last year that left the entire country longing for cash flow.
While the opposition parties thought that wiping out 86 per cent of country's cash would prove costly for the saffron party as small-time traders, farmers and daily wage earners suffered the most due to note ban, Modi told weary crowd (poor in rural areas) during election rallies that demonetisation was actually an attack on the rich and corrupt of the country.
His comments not only elicited thunderous applause from the audience but it got converted into votes for the BJP to help the party come to power in UP, considered the most important electoral battleground in the country.
Seven months after the Assembly election results of five states--UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur--were declared where Modi wave (except for Punjab) once again created its magic for the BJP, things are not looking so rosy for the saffron party as the country will shortly see Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh on November 9 and Gujarat in December (the Election Commission is yet to declare dates for the Gujarat polls).
Call it the latest slowdown experienced by the country's economy due to the twin blows of the demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), steep hike in fuel prices, recent resurgence of otherwise pale Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi or a recent report in the news website The Wire, that a company run by BJP president Amit Shah's son Jay Shah saw massive increase in revenues after the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014--the saffron party and its tallest leader, Modi, are definitely looking nervous.
Perhaps that is why Modi during his speech at a rally in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, on Monday, instead of hailing the GST, decided to subtly admit its failure by blaming all parties, including the Congress (the PM's favourite punching bag on all occasions, especially the mother-son duo of party president Sonia Gandhi and VP Rahul) for its introduction without due planning.
Modi, switching over from Hindi to Gujarati in his home turf, said that the decision to implement the reform (the GST) was not his alone, but of nearly 30 parties, especially the Congress, that were consulted and involved with the new tax regime.
The PM understands well that the small-time traders and those involved in textile business (considered to be the core vote bank of the BJP) are mighty miffed with the introduction of the GST and the demonetisation, about which they protested too. So, he thought the GST fiasco needs to be discussed, but he smartly stayed away from taking the blame for it.
Moreover, as recent as October 7, the BJP brought in a few GST-related relaxations aiming to woo back the urban voters of Gujarat.
On Monday, Modi seemed to be visibly rattled by Rahul's recent successful rallies in Gujarat and thus decided to hit out at the "dynasty" by calling the Congress "anti-development".
Even die-hard Modi supporters failed to understand why the PM decided to call the Congress "anti-Gujarati". The PM alleged that the Congress harboured "dwesh" (malice) towards Gujarat and Gujaratis as Rahul and his party colleagues often criticise Modi and the BJP.
"Gujarat aur Gujaratiyon ke prati unka dwesh hai.... Aap Congress ko kabhi maaf nahi karna (They have malice towards Gujarat and Gujaratis.... Never pardon the Congress)," Modi said.
Did Modi want to tell the public of Gujarat that if anyone who criticises him or the BJP is an anti-Gujarati? What about those within Gujarat like the Patils taking part in anti-BJP rallies or Dalits speaking out against Modi or traders rebelling against the demonetisation and the GST?
Are they all anti-Gujarati, in spite of being from Gujarat? Like the "anti-national" sentiment whipped up by the BJP and right-wing groups since Modi became the PM of India in 2014, probably Modi is also trying to build the narrative of anti-Gujarati in his home state, the election of which his party has to win at any cost.
The party's grand plan to win 150 seats in the 182-seat Gujarat Assembly looks rather unrealistic weighing all the current scenarios. Moreover, the PM, the man behind all election victories of the BJP since 2014, has to come up with something really smart to woo the voters of Gujarat, which by now, like a lot in the country, are tired by the same old attack of the saffron party against the Congress for all the ills of the country.
As predicted by his critics, PM Modi did not dole out any sops on Monday for voters, but Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani announced zero percent interest loans for farmers.
Sops or no sops, the Gujarat Assembly polls are all about the pride of the BJP and its main leader, Modi. The BJP has to win elections empathetically in its citadel, Gujarat, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
So, what new the PM can bring to the table ahead of the Gujarat polls to win back the trust of every Gujarati would be something interesting for the entire nation to witness.