Whether it is the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor or otherwise, there can be no denying the continuing popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A recent opinion poll conducted by a news magazine duly confirmed this. If the polls were to be held now, the NDA would end up with an eye-popping 360 Lok Sabha seats.

If nothing else, the opinion poll should have a sobering effect on the likes of Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee, who seek to compensate for their lack of wider, national support with the sheer shrillness of a highly abusive invective against the Prime Minister. Others dreaming of replacing Modi barely count. For instance, the always-frothing-at-the-mouth Arvind Kejirwal, has already been exposed for running a corrupt Delhi government. Kejriwal’s own close kin have been caught with their hands in the public till.

The TINA factor working to the advantage of Modi easily summons the memory of the time not long ago when it had worked in favour of Indira Gandhi. Despite the talent-rich Opposition, with tall leaders like A.B. Vajpayee, Charan Singh, Chandra Shekhar, George Fernandes, et al, for nearly two decades the charismatic connect of Indira Gandhi with the poor masses remained unbroken. Even when the Opposition formed an all-embracing alliance, roping in the Communists as well, it faced defeat, as in the 1971 poll. Barring the short interregnum of the post-Emergency backlash, Indira Gandhi’s emotional ties with the under-privileged sections yielded rich electoral dividends. Even though she failed to make a difference to the lives of countless poor and presided over a corrupt government, she continued to enjoy a measure of popularity, cleverly assisted by her PR machine, which transferred blame for the wrongs to her nameless minions.

However, Modi represents a vast improvement over Indira Gandhi in several ways. For one, he has run an ethically clean government, with not a smudge of taint on any of his ministers—something which endears him immensely to the masses. Besides, in view of the changed political scenario, and a much bigger, post-liberalisation economy, he has sought to impart professionalism to the running of the government. The endeavour to make various ministries and departments result-oriented with strict performance parameters is a far cry from the amateur manner in which the previous administrations had managed things.

Politically too, Modi has been equally pugnacious, if not more, in blunting any challenge to his authority. Despite the Opposition attempt to gang up, as witnessed in the last washed-out session of Parliament, Modi has shown no sign of relenting. Not unlike the time when Indira Gandhi was riding high, Modi’s appeal remains undiminished despite his nudging close to three years in power. It is remarkable that the haphazardly executed demonetisation has not resulted in any noticeable loss of popularity.

On the contrary, as the opinion poll reveals, a large majority of the people endorsed notebandi as something necessary to flush out black money. In particular, the poor and the usually articulate salaried classes endorse demonetisation as yet another strong step against illicit money. In other words, the loud wailing of Rahul Gandhi and Kejriwal against notebandi has few takers.

Which, inevitably, brings us to the most likely outcome in the latest Assembly polls. According to usually reliable reports, it seems BJP is doing fine in UP, the most crucial state among the five going to the polls. It is set to either win a simple majority on its own or emerge as the largest party in a hung House, only a handful of seats shy of the half-way mark. The second slot is for Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadis, with the Congress gaining a few seats from the alliance, possibly netting 15-20 seats as against the earlier projected nine. Mayawati’s BSP is trailing badly in double figures only.

In Punjab, the BJP has yielded ground to the Congress, though the Akalis, its alliance partner, might yet hold on to their traditional strongholds. Goa, by all accounts, is set to stay with the BJP, despite the loud cacophony of the AAP. The refusal of the BJP government to give in to the demand of a section of the RSS to abandon English as a medium of school instruction, leading to a split in the local RSS leadership, has only firmed up the faith of the substantial Catholic vote to root for the BJP. Manohar Parrikar continues to be the favoured choice for chief ministership despite his move to the Centre as Defence Minister.

In short, the Modi BJP has vastly expanded its voter-base to include the numerically large under-privileged sections. The Gandhis have ceded control on the constituency, which had once identified itself with Indira Gandhi. The fact that Rahul Gandhi has gone with cap in hand to Akhilesh Yadav for a face-saver alliance is further confirmation of the vastly diminished appeal of the once First Family of politics.

AAP too flush with black money

The latest report of the Association for Democratic Rights, an NGO, on funding of political parties has demolished the myth that Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party only accepts clean money. If the old and established parties like the BJP, Congress, the CPI(M), etc., accepted a substantial part of the donations from unknown sources, AAP was not far behind. It took as much as 62.82% of its Rs 110.06 crore hoard from unnamed sources. So much then for its much tom-tommed claim to be the only party with clean hands. It is not.

Indeed, the fact that in a short span of four years it could collect over Rs. 110 crore underlines how the control of the Delhi government has helped to fill its coffers. Unfortunately, ill-informed television anchors allow AAP spokespersons to go unchallenged when they falsely claim that each and every paise collected by AAP is from known sources, complete with names and PAN numbers of each donor. If so, how does the party explain the finding of the ADR, a respected NGO without any partisan agenda?

Without indulging in I-told-you-so vindication, it must be emphasised that the AAP crowd needs to be taken with more than a pinch of salt for they are in a hurry to make it big in every which way.


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