Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have consolidated his position as the undisputed leader of the country in the troubled times we all live in, but it seems that certain elements within the Sangh Parivar in particular and the NDA in general may want to see him in a weakened state. It is evident to all that Modi does not face any challenge from any of the major rival political parties, and the Congress, including its present leadership, continues to be a major contributory factor to his popularity.
However, important functionaries of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have shown no reluctance in embarrassing him. The Sangeet Soms, Mahesh Sharmas, Sakshi Maharajs and others must show restraint in articulating their views, which contribute to social tensions in the highly surcharged atmosphere in the wake of communally sensitive incidents. Even newspapers must be more responsible in communicating the views of various leaders accurately. Supporters of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who was quoted in a prominent daily as warning Muslims to give up beef if they wish to stay in this country, have claimed that the newspaper did not correctly report their leader’s remarks. Khattar too has said that he was misunderstood.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is being too soft in his dealings with the BJP ally, Shiv Sena, which recently shamed the nation by blackening the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, who was at one time closely aligned with former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and thereafter with BJP patriarch Lal Krishna Advani. The photographs of Kulkarni with paint smeared on his face and clothes sitting next to former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri at a press conference before the latter’s book launch in Mumbai were flashed throughout the world. A defiant Shiv Sena, which had earlier prevented a music concert by noted Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali to pay tribute to Indian ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh, has now threatened to disrupt Ghulam Ali’s performance in New Delhi on 8 November, which happens to be the date of the announcement of Bihar polls as also Advani’s birthday. Of course, Delhi is not Mumbai and the Shiv Sainiks would not have their way in case the concert is held.
The reason why Fadnavis is being criticised is that he has not taken firm steps to rein in the Shiv Sainiks who are trying to indulge in political acrobatics to make themselves relevant after coming second to the BJP in the Maharashtra polls last year. A large number civil society members expect that the Maharashtra Chief Minister should not only register cases against the Shiv Sainiks, who have tried to disrupt public order, but also take cognisance of the fact that they enjoy tacit support of their leadership, thereby necessitating legal action even against top Shiv Sena leaders. It is indeed a difficult call, but if Fadnavis was to do this, he would redeem himself in the eyes of the people of this country and blunt the criticism being levelled throughout the world against Modi and his government at the Centre of encouraging lumpen and anti social elements.
It is, in fact, the duty of Modi’s supporters to ensure that his image does not get sullied and those in his government and the party who are hell bent upon damaging him deliberately or inadvertently should be checked before they inflict further harm. It is no secret that many in the BJP are envious of the Prime Minister’s emergence on the top and harbour ill feelings towards him. This is where the danger lies and the sooner it is understood by those in power the better it would be for the effectiveness of this government.
Modi baiters are hoping that if the BJP loses Bihar elections, they can bring out their knives and twist them in the bodies of the Prime Minister’s trusted lieutenants like Amit Shah. However, early trends do indicate that the saffron brigade is on course to record a decisive win, notwithstanding the opinions of some TV channels. These TV channels do not realise that in Bihar, the print media has a larger reach since there is no power in most parts of the state and hence people do not get to watch television and the opinion of its anchors and others.
Modi has endeared himself to a large number of people in this country by hosting the family members of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at his residence and assuring them that he would personally ensure that documents relating to the iconic freedom fighter’s disappearance were brought into public domain. It is also being seen as a master political stroke from the point of view of the BJP whose functionaries had virtually no role in the Independence movement and had to resort to anti Nehruism to make themselves relevant. Now they can use the Netaji papers to put down the Congress and its leaders.
Modi has the potential of continuing as the country’s numero uno, leader but he must understand that some of his fellow travellers and not the opposition are making things difficult for him. He must thus exercise his authority over his own party. Between us.