By Sushil Kutty
What is happening with the Bharatiya Janata Party Members of Parliament, why are many of them absent from Parliament? None other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi noticed this trend and was compelled to speak about it at a BJP Parliamentary Board meeting. It wasn’t just cursory mention of the “phenomenon”, but—per certain BJP MPs who did not want to be named—there was a note of concern in the Prime Minister’s tone and tenor.
What turned heads and pricked ears was the Prime Minister’s choice of words. Some would even use the cliché “mince words” to the words chosen. Apart from the edge of annoyance to the voice, there was also warning—perhaps, helplessness in the Prime Minister’s lexicon.
The news leaked. And was told and retold.
“He seemed a little upset that he has been raising this issue in the past too,” a news outlet reported, quoting a BJP MP who had not skipped the Winter Session. “The PM said it is not right to repeatedly tell the same thing to you (MPs), like (you are) children.”
As is his wont, Modi spoke in Hindi. “Aap log apne vyavahar mein parivartan laiye, nahin toh parivartan toh ho jaata hai (bring change in your behaviour, otherwise change will happen)… I don’t like to say this over and over again.”
Very soon his words were all over the place. What is riling the Prime Minister, what’s bothering him—insecurity? “Aap log apne vyavahar mein parivartan laiye, nahin toh parivartan toh ho jaata hai (bring change in your behaviour, otherwise change will happen)” sounded more like a threat than advice.
Narendra Modi has been Prime Minister for nearly eight years, and from early on, it was clear that Modi was a hands-on prime minister, something which followed him from Gujarat, where he was hands-on Chief Minister. Nothing moved until his say-so. There were pictures of Modi holding meetings with BJP MPs and the pictures told a story of the “control” Modi wielded over his flock.
In them, Modi was very much “Principal” and the MPs “children.” Asked a question, an MP would “stand up” to answer. Those early days, none of the BJP MPs skipped Parliament or BJP parliamentary board meetings chaired by Modi. Has that stopped now? Is Modi missing them? If the MPs aren’t in New Delhi to attend Parliament, how can they be at Modi’s “control” sessions?
Is Modi losing control over his flock of MPs? Could it be the West Bengal election defeat and the Covid-19 lashings together punched holes in Modi’s ironman armour, is there a ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’? It cannot be that the MPs are laggards and stowaways because they rode to victory riding Modi’s coattails. Most BJP MPs were first-timers with a plethora of the rich, and the rogue among them.
Also, Modi must be a frustrated man. His admission that he “failed to convince” the protesting farmers not only indicted Modi but also the BJP MPs. Each and every MP should have put in his/her bit to “convince the farmers of the goodness in the three farm laws” appears to be Modi’s logic and reasoning.
BJP President JP Nadda has now asked all BJP MPs to “return to their constituencies and talk to their constituents and to their “mandal pramukhs.” Modi was quick to take the cue and say he would do just that once he returns to Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency. After all, Modi is also a Member of Parliament.
That said, has the BJP’s much vaunted election machine lost steam? Modi’s warning to the BJP MPs was also a note of caution to BJP office-bearers including party President JP Nadda and to Home Minister and party strongman Amit Shah. All these people failed—West Bengal was lost; Covid-19 went crazy mad killer and took a massive toll. Now, the farmers are talking as if they had got the nation’s freedom all over again.
Modi did not name any one MP. He spoke to all of them, telling them—like they were “children”—that they should be “punctual” and that they should work for the people’s welfare. He said absentee MPs were becoming the norm. He told the MPs present at the meeting to hold events and talk to the “public” in their constituencies, and to honour the Padma awardees.
Are Modi and the BJP nervous? The farmers’ protests have folded up and on their last legs. But the farmers haven’t yet returned home. Some farmer leaders are talking of “UP Mission” and the rout of Yogi Adityanath. Does Modi’s nervousness have anything to do with the 5-states’ elections? Is Modi taking out impending defeat on his absentee MPs? Maybe the MPs are clairvoyants and defeat-mongers. The Prime Minister does not like it. (IPA Service)