By Dr. Gyan Pathak
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been shifting the goalposts before, during, and after elections. He has been aggressively inventing, creating and using his narratives to his own political benefit while keeping Hindutva as a constant factor to benefit from the entire RSS family’s activities in the country. His strategy has been overwhelmingly successful until we found it failed, in Karnataka Vidhan Sabha election, the result of which showed his narratives lost their shine, majority of people rejected them as unreliable, while the pitfalls of the constant Hindutva factor widened to allow BJP fall into losing their political dominance in the state to the Congress which is forming the government.
A catharsis has gripped PM Modi and the entire RSS family, and they are trying their best to overcome the grief they met in Karnataka, the worst of its kind, are in the process of finding relief from the shock of humiliating defeat served the very political party they have been dreaming to obliterate from the political arena of the country. “Congress Mukt Bharat” was their dream and the slogan. Moreover, the mortifying defeat they suffered was brought to them by a leader whom they called ‘Pappu’ an epithet for a foolish child in comparison to their ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ an epithet for the king of Hindu heart.
The king lost despite of his constant Hindu narrative for over two decades, especially after the 2002 post-Godhra Gujarat riots when he was in the helm of affairs as Chief Minister of the state. Majority of Hindus perceived him as the real benefactor of the Hindu community, an image meticulously made for him by the RSS family on the basis of the fear psychosis generated by them among Hindus telling them that they are really in danger on account of Muslims. The strategy worked in 2014 general election. Majority of Hindus found Narendra Modi as best bet against the decade old Congress rule, which was under attack for corruption, Muslim appeasement, dynastic control of Gandhis, and arrogance of some of the Congress politicians, and unemployment, and weak economic growth.
Modi and RSS family built a narrative for a corruption free India and bringing stolen money of Indians stashed abroad and putting Rs15 lakh in everyone’s bank account, which would later find to be merely a political jumla (slogan). Thereafter, a narrative was built around black money within the country, and in November 2016, demonetization of Rs500 and Rs1000 notes were announced. The narrative of unearthing black money was found to be untrue, since almost all old notes were exchanged by new ones, even large number of fake notes were also exchanged from banks. Black money was in fact indirectly legitimized, and we are yet to know to whose benefit.
The narrative of corruption free India also failed since country soon found itself into a worst banking crisis in three decades which was led chiefly by bank frauds and write-offs of very big loan amounts to big corporates. Then a narrative on GST was created in the name of one nation one tax, which was launched without preparation in July 2017, and which along with demonetization, caused unprecedented damage to the economy of India, and the growth declined to mere 4.2 per cent of GDP, as against growth rate of 10.5 per cent in 2013-14, just before Modi took over as Prime Minister in 2014.
Not only narrative of development failed, but the narrative built during his election campaigns promising “work with dignity for all hands” (two crore jobs per year) lost its meaning due to rise in unemployment rate to 6.1 per cent in 2017-18, which was 45 years high.
As for arrogance of some of the Congress ministers, PM Modi’s arrogance and exaggerated self-importance surpassed all. In the backdrop of all round failure of his narratives, he had already started spinning other narratives on threat from Pakistan and Muslim terrorism. Ram Mandir issue was still live. People are hypnotized by repeatedly promising them moons and stars – such as doubling farmers income by 2022, work for all, etc. PM Modi had actually promised 40 things to achieve by 2022. People knew that the promises and the narratives are failing, but then they believed that PM Modi would find something before the election of 2019 to polarize Hindu votes in his favour. He actually found it in the form of Pulwama terror attack on a Military convoy that left at least 40solders dead. On the wing of strategic strike and jingoism against Pakistan, PM Modi was able to win 2019 general election despite his failures of his other narratives. It was Hindutva, that worked again. The then Governor of the State Satya Pal Malik has now said that the Centre was responsible for Pulwama attack in several ways, including the wrong decision to move such a large Military convoy through road.
However, the Karnataka election results have shown that the Hindutva narrative did not work for the majority. PM Modi had even praised “The Kerala Story” and “Kashmir Files” and said that the films showed the reality of Muslim terrorism and their jihad of all sorts. Even his Chanakya politicians and the Union Home Minister Amit Shah tried to generate fear psychosis among Hindus by telling them that if Congress win, the state would see communal riots. PM Modi even brought Lord Hanuman in election campaigns and raised religious slogan “Bajrang Bali ki jai” for political end. Despite all these, the Hindu narrative failed.
The question PM Modi, his Chanakya, and the RSS-BJP family are facing – does it show that Hindutva narrative has lost it power over Hindu voters? Could the pitfalls of this communal narrative bring humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha poll 2024 too? Since Hindutva is a constant narrative in the RSS scheme of things, it would remain so in future elections, but with considerably declined effectiveness, as the Karnataka election results indicate. They therefore are is search of the ways and means of spicing it up with other things – such as construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya before 2014 Lok Sabha election, Kashi Vishvanath Gyanvapi Mosque issue that is brewing, and the Common Civil Code as the several BJP leaders and Chief Ministers are assuring to bring if they come to power.
PM Modi has already shifted the goalpost, as far as fairness of elections is concerned, through electoral bonds scheme. BJP has been the greatest beneficiary of these scheme and has considerably strengthened its money power. There is no level playing field as far as money is concerned. Then there are other strategies to block opposition’s money during the election through raids by central agencies. It is hoped that Supreme Court of India would come out with proper decision in the matters – both on electoral bond, and on creating an atmosphere of terror through misuse of ED, CBI, NIA, and the Department of Income Tax. Political parties in opposition have already alleged PM Modi of using Governors and all central agencies against them and their governments in states.
As for the narrative of development and making India the superpower of the world by 2047 also does not seem working, the Karnataka result shows. PM has changed this narrative from earlier $5 trillion economy by 2025, to $10 trillion by 2030 to Super power in the Amrit Kaal. The development narrative was rejected by Karnataka people because they found that the PM Modi was working for Gujaratis (Adani, Ambani etc) and Gujarati Companies such as Amul Cooperative at the cost of others interest such as milk producers and Nandini in Karnataka. PM Modi’s impartiality has been deciphered by the voters who rejected BJP and thrown it out of power from the state.
PM Modi has just recently changed the latest narrative of Amrit Kaal, for which BJP has brought its first Union Budget on February 1, 2023. People have lost illusions about his narratives, since the budgets has utterly ignored the common people’s interest, especially of the working class. Economy is decelerating with high inflation rate causing cost-of-living crisis. Unemployment is historically high at 8.14 per cent. Seeing the disenchantment of the people, Modi has started changing the narrative of Amrit Kaal, which he now says would be Kartavya Kaal for the people of the country.
PM Modi has said that the purpose of Amrit Kaal is to better the lives of citizens, lessen the developmental divide between villages and cities, and reduce government influence in public life, which Karnataka results showed that people did not believed it and voted against BJP rule in the state.
The last, but not the least is, PM Modi’s failures in social engineering. Scheduled tribes have deserted the party in large numbers while its influence in Scheduled Caste voters has also considerably declined, though less than the STs. As for OBCs are concerned, a substantial desertion from BJP is seen. The state was being communalized through various stratagem including hijab row and love jihad allegations but did not work in its favour.
All these have compelled PM Modi and RSS-BJP family to rethink on its narrative as well as its strategy as soon as possible so that those can be tested in the upcoming Vidhan Sabha election of five states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram – before Lok Sabha election is announced in March 2024. (IPA Service)