There is something scarily meticulous about Narendra Modi’s election campaign. He has never lost an election, and while there is always a first time for everything, the planning that goes behind his strategies are worth noting. The prime minister posted a blog Wednesday on his app, hitting out at Congress’ disrespect for institutions and reminded the readers of its checkered past undermining India’s public institutions and disrespecting the core values of the Constitution of India.
Before we come to the contents of the blog that has expectedly ruffled Congress' feathers, the pertinent question is why the blog? Why now? Whom is it addressed to? And what purpose may it serve?
Modi is a 24x7 politician. He is an activist prime minister, motivated by reasons that are not easily apparent. Congress has erred in thinking that corruption charges could stick to him. It clearly hasn’t. Modi’s plan for India is grand and he wants to convey an impression to the electorate that the foundation stones for India’s quantum leap have been laid in his first term, so he must be allowed a second stint to finish the unfinished business and make India a major force in the comity of nations.
While that’s the grand plan, an election must be won and in a diverse and vast democracy such as India, there is no surety that the wave of 2014 would be repeated five years later. Modi was then a challenger. It was easier for him to sell dreams. Now he is an incumbent and is subjected to the laws of anti-incumbency. An account must be given whether he has been able to fulfil his promises. If the gap between promises and achievements is large enough, his re-election chances may fall within that abyss.
Modi’s campaign strategy, at one level, hinges on making the people aware of the work that has been done. In his speeches and rallies, we find frequent mention of Centre's schemes that have gained success such as Swachh Bharat, electricity in villages, cooking gas for poor households, neem-coated urea for farmers, financial inclusion through Jan Dhan accounts and linking them with Aadhaar and mobile phone numbers for easy and direct transfer of benefits to the poor to reduce spillage and corruption, major tax reforms such as GST, reforms such as Insolvency and Bankruptcy code that addresses banks’ NPA problems, and so on.
At another level, the prime minister has moved to assuage the sentiment of farmers who have been dealt a double whammy due to low inflation that meant a dip in food prices, reducing farmers’ incomes and forcing them to take more debts whereas improvement in irrigation facilities have led to a bumper crop that has to be dumped on the streets. Modi has clearly failed to tackle the crises plaguing agriculture sector in India. As an article on International Food Policy Research Institute's website says, to tackle the problems of high price volatility, climate risks, and indebtedness that affects Indian farmers, the Centre needs to increase incomes, generate more employment opportunities, reduce risks in agriculture and develop agri-infrastructure.
Modi did so by extending welfare benefits and announcing a new scheme, offering an annual payment of Rs 6,000 directly in the bank accounts of 100 million small and marginal farmers to provide some sort of income support. The budget also proved to be another tool for Modi where he addressed or sought to address the trading community and the middle class — both important constituencies for the Modi government that were feeling a little left out.
Having covered his base — or that’s what he may have calculated — Modi has now moved to address one more constituency through his blog that may have a limited electoral impact but wields a lot of influence in deciding the narratives before elections.
The blog is written in English, posted in his app. These conditions make it apparent that it is targeted towards a select, vocal, elite audience that takes part in social media and TV debates and has a firm grip over mediums of mass communication. The prime minister is aware that a significant section of this class is millennials or first-time voters who may not know about Congress’ past and its role in the darkest era of Indian democracy.
He went into some detail to clarify that Congress’ stance has always been antithetical to democracy — be it the imposition of Emergency or lack of internal democracy in its functioning. Since there is a lot of noise about freedom of expression being curtailed under the Modi government, the prime minister reminded the readers that the first amendment to the Constitution carried out by the Jawaharlal Nehru government was to curb free speech.
He then segued it with a recent incident in Congress-ruled Karnataka where “just a few days ago, the nation watched with horror when a few youngsters were arrested for expressing their true feelings at a programme in Karnataka, where the Congress is sharing power".
Modi’s biggest point was, however, the “contempt for the courts” that Congress has historically displayed starting from former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s attempts to undermine the independence of the judiciary by handpicking a pliant Chief Justice of India over his other respected colleagues.
“Congress’ contempt for the courts is anyway legendary. It was Mrs Indira Gandhi who called for a 'committed judiciary', which seeks to make the courts more loyal to a family than to the Constitution… This pursuit of a 'committed judiciary' made Congress overlook several respected Judges while appointing the Chief Justice of India. Congress’ modus operandi is simple- reject, discredit and threaten. If a judicial verdict goes against them, they reject it, then they discredit the judge and thereafter, talk about bringing impeachment motions against the judge,” he writes.
Modi also touches upon the disrespect shown towards the armed forces and government institutions such as the Parliament when in 2013 Rahul Gandhi had torn apart an ordinance in a news conference.
These incidents are well-known but the penning of the blog shows that Modi wants to push back against the recurrent Congress narrative that institutions and democracy are under threat from the Modi government. Congress should worry because challenging its clout in its very last bastion means that Modi is feeling secure about the other constituencies.
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Updated Date: Mar 20, 2019 19:13:39 IST