Ranjona Banerji: Pradhan Sevak running for cover?
Maybe they will still win the 2019 elections, but the cloak of fear and respect that protected Modi and his section of the BJP is in tatters
What does it say about our Pradhan Sevak when days after the Budget led to chaos on Dalal Street, he was releasing a book he had, apparently, written, called Exam Warriors, which provides students with advice on how to deal with exam stress? Pic/PTI
Who would have thought in May 2014 that a government run by a prime minister with a self-proclaimed 56-inch chest, who said he was the "Pradhan Sevak" or the prime server of the people of India, would be looking a little lost, even running for cover in February 2018? Many people in India assume that the Bharatiya Janata Party under Narendra Modi will win the next general election with ease.
Maybe they still will win. No bets on that. But the enormous cloak of fear and respect that had protected Modi and his section of the BJP is now in tatters. And with the defensive shield down, missiles and arrows are making their mark. And what seems to bother Modi's fans the most are not the facts that give the lie to government claims, but jokes. Why else did several news channels scream to Modi's defence when his characteristically meaningless new acronym of Tomato Onion Potato was turned on its head to Potato Onion Tomato on Twitter? What does it say about our Pradhan Sevak when days after the Union Budget led to chaos on Dalal Street, he was releasing a book he had apparently written, called Exam Warriors, which offers students advice on how to deal with exam stress? Not only that, the book was released by two Union ministers, making any sane person wonder just what sort of escape mechanism was at work here.
The stock market is not the only problem. The economy has been in very bad shape since November 8, 2016, when the "disruption" (according to the government's own Economic Survey) that was demonetisation was announced by the Sevak. The lack of vision in the budget, the last full budget before the next general election has left many, including well-wishers, horrified. Only those who have wilfully blinded themselves to any wrongdoing by their 56-inch-chested idol still feel that the new National Healthcare scheme is of any use.
Indeed, there is widespread confusion over where the money is going to come from, how the scheme will work, why money cannot be spent on improving healthcare infrastructure and practices, who the scheme will benefit, how the scheme is different from other such schemes already in existence. Farmers are not happy with the so-called Minimum Support Price benefits they have been given. And those who chose to save their money in mutual funds are gobsmacked with the reintroduction of the long-term capital gains tax.
The day of the Budget, the Congress won two Lok Sabha and one Assembly bypolls in Rajasthan, defeating the BJP by large margins. In Bengal, the Trinamool Congress won one Lok Sabha and one Assembly bypoll. The BJP decided to create a "victory" out of the fact that it came a distant second, in spite of an over 4 lakh loss margin in one of the seats. Straw meet the BJP. As a result, there is now open anger within the BJP and NDA. Of all the BJP's allies, the Shiv Sena has been most vocal in its criticism of so-called governance provided by the BJP at the Centre and in Maharashtra. It has gone as far as to say it will not ally with the BJP in the next elections. For the first time, other allies of the NDA have started speaking out. The Telugu Desam Party is not happy with what has not been given to Andhra Pradesh in the Budget and is contemplating the alliance. The Akali Dal is tired of being routinely ignored by the BJP and has said that there is no way the BJP is coming back with a large majority in the next elections. Nitish Kumar, who broke an alliance to return to the NDA, has put forward his opposition to the Prime Sevak's scheme for simultaneous general and Assembly elections.
Is there any point mentioning the social divisiveness which has come to the fore, fomented by the BJP and its affiliates in the Sangh Parivar? The incidents have been non-stop for the past four years with Kasganj being a new blot, and, ironically, on Republic Day itself. What a sad commentary on the state of India. Meanwhile, street-side pakoda-sellers are being presented by Prime Sevak as evidence of his employment initiatives, as he makes up India's population figures and makes it clear he has no clue how many villages India has.
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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