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Showing posts with label Gujarat Polls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gujarat Polls. Show all posts

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Gujarat election 2017: BJP rattled, Rahul Gandhi has one-upped Modi in his backyard

A spurious debate about the legitimacy of Rahul Gandhi’s elevation, undoubtedly fuelled by the BJP, did not play too well. The BJP’s star campaigner Narendra Modi sought to amplify it in a campaign speech in Gujarat. He certainly couldn’t have believed his intervention would influence the Congress party’s choice. In any case, it did not set the Sabarmati on fire.

Despite Modi’s futile name-calling, the issue is finally and firmly settled. Gandhi will become president of the Indian National Congress, the 60th person to hold the office.

Not content to have lowered the dignity of his office by giving credence to the legitimacy debate, PM Modi made another attempt to denigrate the election of Gandhi. In a dog whistle address seemingly directed at his Hindutva base, he compared the elevation to the coronation of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, whose very mention is a red flag to the bigots who have and have been championed by Modi.

As such, Modi unwittingly reinforced the Opposition’s charge that during his stint in power, he has never conveyed a sense of unifying India, never once rising above the level of a BJP partisan, a prime minister for BJP supporters.

For some reason, Modi and the BJP find it difficult to accept Gandhi as president of his party. Saffron loyalists may well cast aspersions and kick up a fuss, but it’s a done deal.

Meanwhile, Gandhi has shown his ability to lead the grand old party by running a spirited campaign in Gujarat. He sewed up unconventional alliances with grass-roots activist movements; he delivered powerful speeches criticising the BJP’s “development” story. He may have made a huge impact on the BJP’s fortunes in a state where most believed victory in the Assembly elections would be a cake walk.

His success has the BJP rattled in its fortress where Modi perfected his “Hindu Hriday Samrat” appeal and concocted the story of the “Gujarat model” of development. It was this latter story that seemed to appeal to a broader section of people than the Hindutva manifesto. This presumably enabled the BJP to increase its vote share in 2014 to 31 percent, and by virtue of the first-past-the-post system, emerge with the first-ever absolute majority in Parliament since 1984, when Rajiv Gandhi won 400-plus seats for the Congress.

Rahul Gandhi went hammer-and-tongs after the Gujarat model. He accused Modi of running a “suit-boot sarkar” that only catered to the needs of big business. Coming on the heels of the controversy over Modi’s penchant for luxuries, including prohibitively expensive monogrammed-pinstripe suits, striking watches and designer glasses, the charge had the impact of a right hook.

That’s not all: in an early speech, Rahul minced no words in a full-scope attack on Mr Modi, who spoke before him during the winter session of Parliament in 2015:

“...while I listened to the Prime Minister’s speech I could see how profoundly we differ in our thinking. For Modiji, the people he mentioned (Gandhi, Patel, Ambedkar, Prasad, even Nehru) were intellectual heroes to be worshipped and placed on a pedestal. They had all the answers to India’s problems.

“For me what was heroic about the people he mentioned was their ability to listen to the people of this country. They are my heroes not because they had all the answers but because they had the humility to ask the right questions… to listen to what India was saying. They allowed India to speak.”

During the Gujarat campaign, he picked up on this theme to scoff at Modi’s “Mann ki Baat” radio addresses. He said he wasn’t here to tell people what he thinks but to listen to what they have to say.

In the event, he managed to strike a chord with diverse audiences: youth, women, backward castes, tribals, dalits, students, parents, professionals, traders and merchants. He talked about the need to offer, in addition to private options, government alternatives in healthcare and education. His message clearly resonated with audiences whether delivered in a speech or in townhall-style interactions.

Gandhi hit out at demonetisation as a cunning attempt to help cronies launder black money, calling it a “fair and lovely” scheme. He excoriated the government’s messed up GST scheme, calling it “Gabbar Singh Tax”; he offered examples of misplaced priorities saying the Rs 33,000-crore subsidy for the Tata Nano plant was the amount the UPA government had spent in an entire year of the national employment guarantee scheme that gave hundreds of thousands jobs and changed their lives forever. “How many Nanos have you seen?” he thundered.

Gandhi’s earnest exertions in Gujarat seem to be paying off. A recent survey has the Congress running neck-and-neck with the BJP. This was simply unthinkable a few weeks ago. The Modi-Shah duo was presumed unbeatable in their home state.

Now the game’s been thrown wide open and the Congress is in with a better-than-even chance in next week’s election. Almost as if in recognition of the effort, the Congress party nominated him president.

(This article appeared in Dailyo.in, December 7, 2017)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Saffron Sleaze by the Sabarmati

Talk about up the creek without a paddle. The BJP is in a blue funk in Gujarat. It has come unhinged by the successful Congress campaign that has sealed a de facto alliance with the Patidars, the Dalits, OBCs, the working class, and farmers. Then there is the corruption factor involving Jay Shah, son of Amit Shah, and also Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, who has been fined by the Securities and Exchange Board of India for manipulative (fraudulent and unfair) trading on the stock market.

Like the “vikas” it touts, the entire saffron gang seems to have gone crazy. The Congress has disparaged the “Gujarat model” as one built on wacky priorities. To understand just how puerile this “vikas” is, you need to visit the soul-less Sabarmati riverfront: miles of sterile walkways and patches of lawns on concrete blocks stacked on its banks while the river bed copes with stagnant water channelled from the Narmada Dam.

The BJP seems totally flummoxed as its mother lode slips from its grasp. What to do, what to do, what, what…as Manna Dey sang for Mehmood in the rip-off song “Aao twist kare” from the B-grade film, Bhoot Bangla. But at least Mehmood did the twist with some amount of grace.

By contrast, the saffron party is all jerks and twitches as it seeks a response to the maelstrom of bad news. Sources say it turned to the huge dirty tricks machine Amit Shah built during his stint as home minister. This is the notorious network he used to stalk a young female architect for his “saheb.” It is reflective of the sleazy reputation that has haunted Shah and even put him in jail for his involvement in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter.

Result: a “sex CD” that purportedly features Patidar leader Hardik Patel in a hotel room with a woman.

What the BJP geniuses utterly failed to comprehend is that Patel is single and young, and in his own words, not impotent. He can have sex with whomever he likes; there’s no law against it. It is not an issue at all. Nevertheless, an incensed Patel has gone to town, denying it is him on the disk and taking the fight to the BJP camp, saying things were happening just as he had predicted.

To add to the BJP’s woes, another video went viral; in it, the man who leaked the “sex CD” is shown in the company of BJP Gujarat general secretary, Mansukh Mandaviya, who is a minister in the Modi government. The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that the BJP is behind the sleaze.

Clearly, the hullabaloo is much ado about nothing. Patel’s personal life is his own business. The circulation of the “sex CD” is a violation of his privacy. He would be well within his rights to sue the man who leaked the CD for defamation; then in public meetings going forward, he would be fully justified to link him loudly to Mandaviya, the BJP minister.

This sorry episode is evidence the BJP leadership, in Gujarat as well as at the center, lacks maturity when it comes to dealing with adversity. Faced with a possible setback, the amateurish bunch that runs the party seems to have lost mental balance.

It is a measure of the party’s intellectual bankruptcy that when the second video was circulated, the implicated minister made a disingenuous attempt to distance the party, saying it is “unfair” to drag the BJP into the controversy. But of course nobody believes this.

In fact, Rahul Gandhi, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani have all backed Patel and charged the BJP with “playing dirty politics.” So the essential objective of the “sex CD” has not been achieved: the four leaders have remained united, more determined than ever to uproot the BJP in its bastion.

Gandhi took the battle straight to the saffron crew, saying it was trying to suppress the voice of the Patidars while Dalit leader Mevani said sex is a fundamental right. Meanwhile, OBC leader Thakore asserted that the fake CD would not save the BJP in Gujarat.

This show of solidarity by its four adversaries has made the BJP look foolish and inept, completely incapable of handling its own affairs, leave alone affairs of state. In its effort to discredit Patel, it has egg on its face.

Game, set and match to the vigorous foursome.

Post Script 1: Not content at being shown up to be infantile, the Gujarat BJP seems to have purveyed another video showing Patel “drinking” with friends including a woman. In it, Patel is depicted with a shaven head. The idea behind that is incredibly stupid; the producer sought to defame Patel in the dry state and also to answer his charge that the first “sex CD” was a fake because at the time it was made, he had shaved his head to protest a Modi visit to Gujarat.

Post Script 2: In the ultimate denouement of its clumsy crisis management, the BJP has appealed an Election Commission decision to disallow the use of character called Pappu in a campaign commercial. Hoping to gain some public sympathy, the party mindlessly leaked the story to a television channel so it featured on a prime time debate. Oops!