urtains are virtually down on the Modi phase – the five-year term starting from mid-2014. Overall, it is a pity that Prime Minister Modi and the BJP should now be relying largely on one fig leaf – a new element at that — to win the April-May parliamentary elections. The reference is to the Indian Air Force action in Balakot; something that’s not entirely denied by Pakistan, but very little of the actuals is known nor is there any tangible result achieved for the country against its so called fight against terrorism.
The February 26 offensive at night reportedly raised the popularity of the Prime Minister – from below 50 per cent to 52 per cent. The gains, however, could be wiped out once the campaign machinery starts rolling. Against a PM Modi, there are scores of political heavy weights and regional leaders who will be engaged in a fight-to-the-finish. Their campaigns would be shriller than that of the PM and the rest of the ruling party leaders put together. At end of the campaign, the public mood is bound to reshape into a more realistic form, in which the negatives of this government’s performance could far outweigh the positives. In other words, the hunger in the stomach may burn brighter than a make believe love for the nation concept.
Balakot cannot be sustained for long for the reason that almost everything that the government side stated remains hazy due to lack of hard evidence. Pakistan, on its part, is denying India shot down an F16. This could be its way of escaping questioning from the US. Pakistan also insists the Indian bombing hit only some pine trees. Pakistan, though, has gained by its insistence on peace at the peak of the show down where as India has got itself painted as the aggressor this time. It has to be seen how Pakistan’s Imran Khan uses the international goodwill and how India’s Modi uses his goodwill at home.
National-level surveys are affirming what’s already known – massive joblessness that is hurting the young and the not-so-young across the nation. When people are made to tighten their belt, governments pay a price on the electoral front. The large army of youths could turn the tide against Modi and his party. The issue of farm distress leading up to farmer suicides also remains alive despite the pension scheme that the government has come up with just before this poll. If the attempt is to buy their votes with show of a 2000-rupee note, this might as well not work. Their distress is at a much deeper level.
If the BJP is set to face odds on many counts, the Opposition is not in the best form either. It seems having entered into a state of paralysis after the Balakot air strikes – as if the bombs fell in their forecourt. But, politicians have a way to overcome temporary setbacks and re-craft their strategies and recharge their batteries. The Mamata-inspired Opposition unity has not shaped in a meaningful way so far, but the promise of regional leaders is that they would fight state by state based on their available energies and group together after the results are out. The post-poll arithmetic is what will decide who will run the next government. The game of numbers will start then and there, and then it will be seen on whom, like the West Bengal CM, parties of different hues put their faith in. By giving out an impression that she’s fighting the polls this time to get into the PM chair, Mamata Banerjee hopes to get the entire state firmly behind her – meaning as high as 42 seats in her kitty. TMC, thus, has the potential to emerge as the single largest non-BJP, non-Congress political establishment. The BJP will find it more difficult to counter her this time.
In Uttar Pradesh, where the SP-BSP combine seems formidable at this point of time, the scenario could be different after the results are out. Both Mayawati and Mulayam Singh are likely to break ranks and might not support each other. One survives at the cost of the other. Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh will this time have to fight every inch to retain power in the state. Sharad Pawar is not in the fray. MK Stalin is shy of the PM chair. This goes to show, prima facie, that the principal fight for the PM gaddi this time could be between PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee. Rest can all be assumptions and presumptions.