Moneybags, vested interests, fixers desperate to see the end of Modi raj.

 

How the political mood changes from one byelection to the next. After its stunning success in Tripura, the BJP was riding high and, predictably, the Opposition was down in the dumps. Within days, the unlikely SP-BSP tango—as they say, mazboori ka naam…er well, leave it—in Phulpur and Gorakhpur put the spring in the feet of the anti-Modi forces. Now, they strut the political stage as if 2019 is as good as won. The Congress, which faced humiliating rejection in UP and Bihar, revels in BJP’s loss, unmindful of its own sorry plight. But, then, Rahul Gandhi’s irrational belligerence needs no particular reason.

However, saner elements concede that it is too early to predict the 2019 outcome. Regardless of all this talk of a third or a federal front, Modi continues to be by far the most popular leader to retain power for yet another five-year term. Indeed, the real problem is not that the Opposition is gung-ho, as if it has already won the next election. No, the problem is that a section of the ruling party itself behaves as if all is lost and that defeat in 2019 is inevitable.

A majority of the BJP pessimists are those who feel neglected by the Modi government, nursing a grievance for being denied a share in power. The Prime Minister’s working style is such that many of his ministerial colleagues are unable to enforce their writ in their own departments. That senior party leaders feel themselves to be redundant is, therefore, no surprise.

Yet, everyone in the ruling party pins his hopes on Modi winning them a second successive term. The Opposition has neither a national leader to match Modi’s charisma, energy and political skills, nor does it have an alternative programme to bind it together. All that it offers is an ear-piercing cacophony, holding Modi responsible for all the ills under the sun. If the barbarians of the Islamic State kill luckless Indians in Mosul, Iraq, Modi must be blamed for the human tragedy. Such negativism cannot make the Opposition relevant.

Admittedly, Modi too will face anti-incumbency in 2019. He will drop a number of seats in North and West, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. At the most, these losses can reduce the BJP tally by, say, 50-60 seats. This will still make the BJP by far the largest party in the next Lok Sabha. As for the Congress, it can go from the present 44 to about 75-80, and yet matching the BJP’s 200-plus tally while searching for potential allies will be well-nigh impossible, especially if Rahul is the parliamentary leader. He is fully engaged in aping the BJP, virtually stealing the saffron party’s identity in his quest for relevance.

Whether you like it or not, Modi does not have to fear his political opponents, now or in the next election. However, he is to guard against the immense capacity for mischief of the moneybags who, with an exception or two, are now fully arrayed against him. The enemies he has created in his bid to cleanse the system, to enforce accountability, to force big borrowers to pay up or else, to eliminate the theft of welfare subsidies, from cheap rations to educational scholarships, from subsidised cooking gas and kerosene to fake rosters under the MGNREGA, have created him a zillion of enemies who will do their worst to bring back the ancient regime which had most shamelessly patronised them.

The economy is still paying the price for the broad daylight raid on the banks under the UPA. To put it simply, the moneybags, the vested interests, the wheeler-dealers et al are hell-bent on ensuring that Modi does not return in 2019. They will spend a small percentage of the loot from the public exchequer to finance the anti-Modi forces. Ironically, that may well turn out to be Modi’s trump card—a virtual replay, as it were, of the Garibi Hatao election of 1971. The voter is no fool. He knows who is on his side.

A CHAMELEON CALLED SIDHU
Checking abuse of social media is proving to be difficult, though advanced societies now propose regulatory measures to control the menace. Yet, it is undeniable that it is also a useful tool for education and awareness. To come to the point, we don’t think we would have learnt in such fine detail about the hoax that is Navjot Singh Sidhu had there been no social media. Following his headline-grabbing performance at the recent Congress plenary, where you saw the likes of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh happily lapping up his trademark bombast, one of the most popular videos is simply called: Girgit. After watching it, you may sympathise with a chameleon which too must have a conscience, but not this ha-ha-ho-ho Sidhu.

Juxtaposing his fulsome panegyrics for Modi in front of a huge audience in 2013 with his thundering “oration”, that is, if it is the right word for the crude theatricals, in 2018, the video brings out the sheer cravenness of the self-styled political traveller-cum-comedian. But even a B-grade Bollywood jokester would take care not to repeat his lines from one bad film to another. Sidhu not only mouths the very-same sentences uttered in praise of Modi, merely substituting his name with that of Manmohan Singh or Sonia Gandhi, he recites the same shairs (couplets) as well, leaving no one in doubt about his fakery.

The video is a must-watch for anyone keen to learn how a seemingly educated Sidhu, a minister in the Punjab government to boot, ingratiates himself with his new party bosses. Aya Rams, Gaya Rams of yore, trust us, conducted themselves with more dignity than this loud-mouthed gagster-politician.

ON AN APOLOGY SPREE
Arvind Kejriwal has taken to eating crow—in Hindi that translates into, as the AAP leader Kumar Vishwas said, thook key chaatna—every other day. After offering an abject apology to the Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia, BJP leader Nitin Gadkari and Kapil Sibal’s lawyer son, Amit, the next in line before whom he is set to go on all fours is the BJP leader Arun Jaitley. In fact, if anyone has pursued the defamation case, both civil and criminal, most seriously, it is Jaitley. And so far Kejriwal and the co-accused have furnished not an iota of evidence to support their wild charges.

Now, after Kejriwal turned turtle and went on an apologising spree, Jaitley is being advised by a lot of his friends not to accept the maafinaama until the AAP autocrat at least pays the non-refundable court fee of Rupees 20 lakh deposited by him, though he might condone other costs. Jaitley’s friends fear that being an extraordinarily generous man, he might forgo the money, but he is being told that he must extract it from Kejriwal, especially when his party’s war-chest has now swelled to well over a hundred crores. If Jaitley so desires, he can donate the same to an orphanage or another charity of his liking, but not let the AAP chief loose cannon go scot free.

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