Prime Minister Narendra Modi grows more desperate and aggressive by the day as he feels the perception of power slipping away from his vice-like grip. For Modi, retaining power and continuing to occupy the office of the prime minister has acquired such an obsessive dimension that instead of facing his opponents politically, he has started resorting to coaxing. Latest victim of this manipulation has been the deputy chief minister of Bihar, Tejashvi Yadav.
Tejashvi is being cajoled to distance himself from Nitish Kumar; else he would be arrested and old cases against his father, RJD chief Lalu Yadav, would be reopened. For quite some time, the political grapevine has been agog with wild speculation that Tejashvi would have to go jail in the cash-for-land case. The rumour was basically floated in the political circles by BJP leaders and the pliant section of media in the state.
Nevertheless, realising the amount and nature of damage this strategy was causing to the party and eroding the image of Modi amongst the backward caste voters, Modi and Amit Shah amended it. Instead, they started putting pressure on Tejashvi himself. The duopoly nurses the impression that Lalu out of jail would prove to be a major stumbling force. The two leaders in fact hold Lalu primarily responsible for formation of INDIA. It was he who motivated Nitish and also persuaded leaders of other regional and opposition parties to respond to Nitish’s initiatives.
Modi’s unhealthy obsession over Nitish is so acute that the latter’s ghost continues to haunt him even while busy with electioneering in Rajasthan. He called upon the people of Rajasthan to defeat Congress as it was with Nitish. His hatred for Congress, Nehru and Indira has been an open secret, but now it appears he has also added the name of Nitish Kumar to his list of most-hated politicians.
Lalu and Tejashvi are unfazed with Modi and Amit’s machinations, but Tejashvi is certainly concerned with the health of his father. Tejashvi has a point; they can’t risk Lalu’s life and safety. Lalu has suffered a lot at the hands of the vindictive BJP leadership. He was implicated in the fodder scam at the instigation of the senior BJP leaders of that time, who were angry with him for his stubborn secularism. But Lalu even today is not worried of the BJP machinations and Modi-Shah threat. Instead of joining hands with the BJP to evade his imprisonment, Lalu chose to go to jail, despite his age and health issues. Moreover, Lalu is the bulwark of secularism who is deeply respected by the tallest opposition leaders in the country, such as Rahul Gandhi, MK Stalin, Mamata Banerjee, among others.
Modi’s renewed targeting of Nitish and Tejashvi primarily owes to their carrying out the caste census successfully and raising the percentage of reservation for OBC and EBC. This has acquired a national dynamic. Other than the BJP ruled states, almost all other states have been busy working out the modalities to implement caste census in their respective jurisdiction. With Rahul Gandhi making it a national agenda and succeeding in catching the peoples’ imagination, the political turf for Modi has turned so rough that he is finding it tough to negotiate.
If somehow he succeeds in his mission to force Tejashvi to keep his mouth shut on this issue, in that case, the BJP may hope to get some seats in Bihar and Jharkhand. Political circles also believes that the BJP might salvage some of its ground in UP. The BJP leadership has been realistic in its assessment that notwithstanding unwillingness of Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav to support the caste census, a major section of the poor Yadavs and backward castes support Nitish’s move. As per sources, even a section of the Yadav’s family members nurse the view that it would be a potent instrument for the party to expand and consolidate its position amongst other OBC castes.
With Nitish and Tejashvi holding their fort, Modi and Shah are not left with any other persuasive issue which could attract peoples’ attention. They have been working on their plan to coax Tejashvi simply keeping an eye on the possibility to marginalise Nitish.
In his desperation, Modi is willing to go to any extent to malign Nitish. Significantly, through his actions and speeches, Modi has sent a clear message to the people, especially that Nitish, the leader of the backward caste people, has been his most potent opponent. Else there, was no reason that he should resort to all means to marginalise and show him in poor light. Modi has even been using his lieutenant Amit Shah to denigrate and humiliate Nitish for a while now.
In Rajasthan, while Modi took sole credit for the passage of the women’s reservation bill, he was criticizing Nitish and describing his recent remark in the assembly on women as “ghor apmanjanak” (deeply insulting).Significantly, while the educated women and girls appreciated Nitish’s remark and described it as a part of the sex education, Modi continues to find fault with it. It was the wide support from women of Bihar, that BJP’s women leaders dropped their agitational programme against it. At the rally Modi lamented, “No Congress leader came out to condemn the remarks.”
That Modi has been running short of ideas and issues is also evident from his rhetoric of attacking Congress of being ‘the most corrupt party’. Projecting his own frustrations on Congress has become Modi’s compulsion. His knows it well that the much berated and ridiculed “Pappu” has succeeded in transforming the Congress and the narrative. In 2009, Rahul Gandhi who tried to project himself as a rebel by tearing the UPA’s ordinance to protect the guilty politicians, has after 14 years has been spearheading his reformist mission in a more effective and gutsy manner. His Bharat Jodo Yatra was a strategic move to project his image from being a rebel to a true pioneer of secular, inclusive reform. Modi knows that the Congress of 2023 is not the same Congress of 2009, when the ‘corruption’ allegation was not a spent force, thrown around wantonly and used as a pretext to harass the political opposition.
His accusing the Congress of being obsessed with corruption, appeasement and nepotism and urging the people of Rajasthan to wipe out the ruling party from every corner of the state is the manifestation of this deluded strategy.
During his campaigning, Modi has therefore tried to project a new form of Hindutva, which according to him, is anti-corruption. However, even Modi’s staunchest supporters don’t buy it, since Modi and Amit Shah have welcomed in the most corrupt turncoats from other parties, often replacing the trusted old BJP cadres and leaders. It’s glaringly obvious that the corrupt are controlling the party and dictating the traditional committed cadres.
Modi is still trying to play the polarisation card. At his public rally in Rajasthan, he accused the Congress and its INDIA bloc partners of trying to eradicate “Sanatan dharma”. He also strived to win over female voters by claiming that the Opposition parties have an anti-women mindset. He said: “The Congress and its allies want to destroy Sanatan. You all are well aware of what all they have said against Sanatan and I don’t need to repeat them. Destroying Sanatan means destroying the culture of Rajasthan.” (IPA Service)