How many more self-goals must BJP score for Modi to step in?
When it comes to self-goals, the ruling party can claim world championship. Not in a long time have Indians seen the BJP and its various affiliates shoot themselves in the foot the way they have with that masked rampage in the JNU campus the other day. Such senseless conduct, televised live multiple times for the edification of the ruling party’s growing number of enemies, only helped to fuel further the vicious anti-BJP narrative. It was sheer arrogance for the masked men to have believed that they could get away unscathed—and yet exact revenge against the perpetual lessees of the vast JNU real estate who had roughed them up only a few hours earlier.
While the Left students have all through enjoyed a monopoly on the use of violence against anyone labelled a class enemy, the ABVP boys carried the additional burden on their young heads to be always mindful of how their behaviour might reflect on the ruling party. The history of Left violence in university campuses, especially in states where the Communists wielded influence, denies them any moral authority to protest for once being at the receiving end of an act of reprisal that evening.
For the long harassed right-wing students, a minuscule number, really, who finally seem to have had enough of the strong-arm tactics of the JNUSU’s elected authoritarians arranged to teach them a lesson. Preventing students from enrolling for the new semester, beating up women guards, smashing the computers, internet servers, etc, was supposed to be normal student behaviour. But when victims of their bullying responded in kind all hell broke loose. It is a typical case of heads we win, tails you lose as far as the BJP’s critics were concerned.
Clearly, the ABVP does not enjoy the same freedom as, say, the Left or Congress-affiliated unions. The Opposition brouhaha, abetted of course by the usual secular-liberal pretenders in the elite media, is hugely disproportionate to the folly of a handful of young boys. Suppressing dissent on the JNU campus through majoritarian violence, apparently, but they must wail endlessly about the ABVP’s “brutal” assault.
As it is, in the wake of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the ruling party was already on the back foot. Whatever the merits or demerits of the new citizenship law, the battle for public perception was lost by the ruling dispensation. Failure to educate people before bringing the Bill in Parliament allowed the Opposition to ascribe the worst of motives to the government. Linking CAA to the National Population Register (NPR) and thereon to disenfranchisement of Muslims and even ejection from the country was sheer evil, but nonetheless it succeeded in giving the already angry mullahs and maulvis the opportunity they were eagerly waiting for to create mayhem.
Amit Shah was a victim of his own image. As a doer, he ramrodded the CAB in Parliament before realising the wide window for mischief it would open for the Congress. With rare alacrity, the party went back reclaiming its Muslim vote-bank, flogging the CAA scarecrow. With a number of state governments under its belt, the Gandhis had shed the despondency and diffidence brought on by the 2019 pummelling. Funds and rent-a-crowd rallies were no longer a problem. Post-CAA, Gandhis assume they may be back in contention to wrest power from Modi long before 2024. The chosen route for realising that objective was maximum disruption. Teaming up with the Shiv Sena should have warned the BJP that the Family would stop at nothing to remove “usurper Modi” from what it believes is its own hereditary gaddi.
On the other hand, the Modi-Shah duo may be delusional to believe they have finally vanquished the Gandhis. This is hubris. Nobody can, and should, take power for granted. Popular mood is fickle, one wrong move and it can turn yesterday’s winners into tomorrow’s losers. Once you start taking people for granted, you begin to arrange your own political funeral. Someone in the ruling dispensation should pause to ponder why and how within less than six months of the spectacular win in the Lok Sabha poll the BJP popularity has plummeted so sharply.
After the setback in Maharashtra and the defeat in Jharkhand, the ruling party may be staring at a loss in Delhi, that too to a street-smart Chief Minister whose only strength is that he manipulates, lies and misleads the people 24×7, regardless of actual achievements, if any, in the last five years. Inability to nurture a credible face in the Delhi BJP for fronting the party’s campaign does not redound to the credit of the Modi-Shah team. Shedding an ingrained sense of arrogance and making a conscious effort to take everyone in the party and the NDA along could be the first step in course correction.
Nobody in his right mind doubts the Prime Minister’s passion to set things right, but he needs to emerge from his self-created cocoon to reach out to the people, including those in the Opposition, to lessen the heartburn and antipathy mushrooming all around him thanks to his stand-offish manner. A sense of participation in the decision-making process needs must be cultivated to avoid injecting further poison in the polity. Meanwhile, a word in rebuke of the idiots who went mask-faced to teach the violent leftists in JNU a lesson in their own language will be immensely prime ministerial.