Half Full or Half Empty?

The NewsX-Sunday Guardian Roundtable this weekend saw a very interesting discussion on the way India votes. The BJP has not been sweeping Assembly polls since 2018, but the key question is, will it win 2024? M.K. Venu, founding editor of thewire.in made an interesting point when he pointed out that earlier voters gave BJP benefit of doubt and saw the glass as half-full. But he felt that now they are seeing it as half empty. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of a book on Narendra Modi recalled that “Modi had once said he never saw glass as half empty, but half full of water and air.” Psephologist Yashwant Deshmukh pointed out the PM can even sell a glass that is totally full of air (as he did with demonetisation?). According to Deshmukh regardless of the decisions, good or bad, the PM still retains his credibility, for the public at large still feels that the PM’s neeyat achhi hai (he means well). Suhel Seth, commentator and marketing maven, had the final word when he said that while the Congress is somnambulant, what the BJP has done is to make everything into a national cause. So if you are not with them, you are anti-national. With the all important Uttar Pradesh elections coming up, this thought is going to dominate the rhetoric of the next few days—a strong dose of Hinduism packed in nationalistic colours, with each party trying to compete on this same platform.

Hinduism vs Hindutva

Is the Congress on a backfoot after Salman Khurshid’s book comparing Hindutva with jihadist Islamist groups like the ISIS? Although G23 leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was initially fielded to water down a fellow Muslim Congressman’s comments differentiating between Hindutva as a political ideology and Hinduism as a composite culture, but he did add that “comparing Hindutva with ISIS is factually wrong and an exaggeration”. Later Rahul Gandhi too reiterated that there was a difference between Hindutva and Hindu religion. But it is interesting to note that the groundwork was first done by Azad, who is currently in the dockfor heading the rebel G23 group along with Kapil Sibal. However, with UP elections around the corner, the Congress will have to do some deft handling of its stand on Hindutva and Hinduism as that will certainly be a key issue in the coming polls. Will Azad be fielded in the Hindi heartland?

The Magician’s Trick

Ashok Gehlot was in the national capital recently when he met with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, K.C. Venugopal and Ajay Maken. We are told that the much-awaited expansion of the Rajasthan cabinet was on the cards. But will he accommodate Team Sachin? For both the Pilot and the Gehlot camps are trying to take credit for the recent bypolls win in the state. According to sources, Pilot, who has been in touch with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, recently has been assured that the next elections will be fought under his leadership and hence his people will be accommodated. But then, let’s not forget that Gehlot is both an astute politician and a magician. He can make events happen—and also make them disappear for the said cabinet reshuffle has been on the cards for over a year now, and so far it has been a nonevent.

The Credit Game

Recently, Navjot Singh Sidhu was (yet again) in the news as he tried to take the credit for the re-opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor post Covid. This was a move initiated by the Central government, but it’s poll time and the credit was up for grabs. However, it would be interesting to recall what the current Punjab Chief Minister had said at the time of the corridor’s original opening ceremony, when Sidhu rushed off to the Pakistani side for the opening ceremony, while both the Prime Minister and then Choef Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh attended it from the Indian side. At the time, Channi had attacked Sidhu, making a caustic comment that both Sidhu and the Pakistani PM Imran Khan were using this event to revive their flagging careers. Hence,some political jostling between the two (Channi and Sidhu) has always been on the cards even prior to Channi’s recent upgrade.