Tukoji R Pandit
Of late, there is a stepped up shrill cries of desperation emanating from the BJP. There is a competition in painting opponents in dark colours, questioning their patriotism, hurling cheap jibes. Whatever anyone speaks against the ruling party charges of ‘traitor’ follow thick and fast and everything said in criticism is denounced in strong and sometimes questionable language which is actually praised in the ruling party circles!
The old ‘Italian’ bogey appears to be again at the centre of campaign against the Congress which, for reasons unclear and unknown, the BJP considers is its only threat when some regional parties are quite capable of upsetting the BJP applecart. It is quite possible that the repeated ‘Italian’ taunt has lost its sting when the number of people taking a hard look at the performance of the BJP is increasing.
The ‘Modi magic’ may still be the most potent card of the BJP but even the most hardened Modi ‘Bhakts’ will admit that the spell of that ‘magic’ does appear to be waning, considering poll losses across the country, whatever the nature of elections. It is true that Narendra Modi did not tour the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituency in Punjab even though he likes to visit every corner of the country (and the globe). But he has started the convention of the prime minister visiting states to campaign for the party in assembly polls. The overwhelming defeat of the BJP candidate in Gurdaspur by a record margin has to be seen as a blow to the BJP, never mind its allegation that the Congress won by using unfair means and the use of state power. These are routine charges that are rarely, if ever, backed by solid proof.
The BJP is not widening its support base by letting its leaders continuously talk lowly and irresponsibly on matters that include religion, culture and people’s personal choices. A national level leader of the ruling party has threatened to gouge the eyes of CPM opponents in Kerala who have been accused of ‘murdering’ RSS workers. Violence of any sort cannot be supported anywhere but the BJP is not going to win hearts and minds in Kerala by accusing the Marxists of ‘murder’ as though the RSS workers are apostles of non-violence.
The BJP national president, Amit Shah, the second most powerful man in India, had to beat a hasty retreat from his Kerala tour because of poor response to his yatra and rallies. He discovered to his discomfort that playing the communal card to divide the Keralites is not a winning formula.
But despite all the power that he reportedly commands, Amit Shah appeared desperate to defend his son when a news story spoke about the sky-rocketing of the fortunes of his son’s business in Gujarat. It happened within a span of one year that followed the installation of the Modi government at the centre while Gujarat remained in the hands of the BJP. Shah dismissed all allegations against his son without actually being able to answer some pointed issues raised in the story. Ministers were asked to defend the son and a senior government pleader is to defend the BJP leader’s son in the court.
Amit Shah’s son has since moved the court with a defamation suit against the author of the news story and the editor of the website that published the story. So the issue has moved to judicial domain. If Shah is so sure of the innocence of his son he could have saved further criticism by letting the matter be decided in a court of law rather than respond with a prompt defamation notice and commandeering the government machinery in his defence.
If the BJP can take a pause to articulate more plausible response when forced to reply to criticism it can save itself some blushes and charges of not speaking the truth. The controversy over the current state of economy is a case in point.
In its anxiety to hit back instantly, the moment anyone talks about slowdown of the economy, the BJP stalwarts are out with guns stating that nothing is wrong with it and quote statistics, which make no sense to the ordinary man, in whose defence the whole debate is taking place. Their rebuttal does not become convincing because some minister has spoken in defence of the official refrain that ‘India is the world’s fastest growing economy’, either before an Indian or an American audience.
Ground realities do not match the rebuttal that comes from the mouth of BJP leaders so incessantly and fast—in desperation.