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BJP attacking Opposition won't help Narendra Modi in 2019, narrative around PM's return to power needed

Giriraj Singh and Sambit Patra are not helping the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi build the right narrative for 2019 by making acidic remarks about the desperate Opposition unity moves and comparing rival leaders to Hafiz Saeed and Osama bin Laden. In fact, it could even be counterproductive.

Singh and Patra may defend their statements and argue that their actions need to be seen in perspective and proper context but they have been in politics for a long time and they need to realise that it is the simple, paraphrased one-liner which frames the public debate.

Sambit Patra addressing the media. Twitter/@BJP4India

Sambit Patra addressing the media. Twitter/@BJP4India

Singh, Patra and their BJP colleagues have used these one-liners on their rivals to great effect and thus those on the other side of the fence will lose no time in returning the favour.

First, let's see what Singh and Patra said in their tweets:

Patra's tweet, posted a day earlier, was even more direct. Patra compared the Opposition's plan of a grand alliance against Modi to Hafiz Saeed. Patra attached a video of Saeed making vitriolic statements against Modi and inciting his followers to violence.

Patra later clarified his remarks on Twitter, but remained defiant:

It’s a fact that Modi is perceived to be a strong leader and a polarising figure. He has been in power at the Centre for past four years but his status on both these counts remains same. He is still India's most popular leader and it is only natural that when faced with an existential crisis, all anti-Modi and anti-BJP parties and social groups are coming together.

Pakistan and terror outfits emanating from Pakistani soil are surely not comfortable with a stable and strong government in India. But the question is whether the two need to be clubbed together and, if so, will it serve any purpose in making people rally behind Modi and the BJP in upcoming Assembly elections in four states and the 2019 general election?

Narendra Modi delivered the keynote address at the Shagri-La Dialogue in Singapore. AP

Narendra Modi delivered the keynote address at the Shagri-La Dialogue in Singapore. AP

It should be noted that BJP president Amit Shah’s statement in the run-up to Bihar election—if BJP loses, then celebrations would erupt in Pakistan—was not endorsed by the voters. The people are closely watching the Opposition's move to unite: Unlikely allies and bitter enemies coming together in sheer desperation because they feel threatened about their existence in the face of the might of the Modi-Shah combine.

The united Opposition defeated BJP in three successive bypolls in Uttar Pradesh: Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana. But the BJP can console itself with the fact that despite four parties coming together (with other groups in tow), the victory margin in Kairana for the Opposition candidate was not as large as they would have liked.

Creating a scare about unlikely allies: Weak, small and driven by a singular anti-Modi agenda without offering the people any positives can only be part of BJP’s narrative. People overwhelmingly voted for Modi in 2014 because of the hope he generated and the dreams he could potentially realise. He was expected to take people out of the despair that prevailed during the UPA-II.

Modi still dominates popularity ratings because he is seen to be sincere in pursuing a development agenda.

His public rallies are a clever mix of talking tall on development and rhetoric against the Opposition, particularly Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

The BJP’s challenge for 2019 lies in unveiling a theme that helps build a national narrative around the importance of Modi's return to power: An idea which would emotively bind people the way it did in 2014, seeing a messiah in Modi. Their success on that count would mean that a good number of voters would be guided by connect and chemistry of Modi and not by the caste arithmetic of the united Opposition. Thus, the focus should be on Modi and the hopes he can raise rather than the fear of terror masterminds that some BJP leaders are trying to shine a light on.

For a combined Opposition, the best case scenario is for them to make the 2019 election an aggregate of state elections and not a national election that focusses on one leader and a particular style of government. The BJP would want exactly the opposite.

Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was right when, in a response to a question in Panaji, he said the next election would be fought on “development, development and development”. Naqvi knows very well that elections would not be fought only on development agenda and that in the end, emotive issues would win out. However, he didn’t give his party’s political rivals a chance to make noise.

Updated Date: Jun 04, 2018 22:26 PM

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