How do we describe the story of Narendra Modi’s one year in office as the Prime Minister seeking to address the aspirations of 1.22 billion people? Should we analyse the contributions of the former Gujarat chief minister in improving the lives of millions of Indians or should we try to describe how India will look like when the NDA completes its term of five years? Also, what are the chances of Modi still continuing as the unchallenged leader?
While we may not dwell on the successes or failures of Modi’s rule, one thing is certain: Modi has successfully changed the dynamics of politics that was in play over the past six decades or so. Modi cannot be expected to return to Gujarat now, to indulge in state politics. He has successfully shed his 2002 image. Although he was an RSS pracharak in the past, he would not want to return to the Sangh’s organisational fold.
There was no opposition in Gujarat during the Modi Raj. While the Bharatiya Janata Party was the ruling party in the state, one cannot recall who the state president of the party was during Modi’s regime in Gandhinagar. Pravin Togadia’s VHP was almost non-existent or invisible during Modi’s chief ministership. Modi decided how the Sangh would function in Gujarat. Had Modi decided not to try his luck in Delhi, he would have continued for as long as Jyoti Basu’s unchallenged rule in West Bengal. But neither Modi was Basu nor the BJP CPM.
Narendrabhai is now repeating his Gujarat experiment and experience in a ‘Modified’ and customised manner which could well suit both the health and fears of Delhi. Modi knows well how the nation’s capital behaved when Emergency was imposed in June 1975 by Indira Gandhi. He had also seen how people started crawling when they were asked to merely bend. Mrs Gandhi was both the prime minister and the ‘Congress party’. There was no space for any kind of dissent in the party. She was a firm believer in the country needing a strong Centre. As a result, the Congress did not have any strong chief ministers in the states. Mrs Gandhi had every other advantage except one that Narendra Modi has. While Mrs Gandhi may have been leading a weak party, she was faced with a determined Opposition which ultimately ensured her ouster from power in 1977.
Modi has potential to establish himself as another Mrs Gandhi, Mrs Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir of Israel, but for that the country will have to wait till the Bihar elections are over. This election will decide whether Nitish Kumar can prove to be another Arvind Kejriwal or if Patliputra will give way to Modi to fulfil his global ambitions. The revolt of Jitanram Manjhi against Nitish was not engineered in Patna and must have been part of a grand Amit Shah strategy. If Manjhi succeeds in dividing the vote bank of Nitish and Lalu, nothing will stop Modi from taking over an important state.
Uttar Pradesh would then pose no problems for Modi. Polarisation of voters is already deep rooted in the state. Therefore, there is no reason for Modi to get perturbed by what Arun Shourie or Deepak Parekh may have publicly pronounced about his government’s performance.
In fact, Modi may still be judging the mood of the country, his own party, the Sangh, opposition parties, captains of industry and world leaders in general and our neighbours in particular, before he actually starts working on his hitherto undisclosed agenda. On would not be surprised if Modi is doing his own assessment of his government’s performance, caring two hoots for people like Rahul Gandhi. The Congress vice-president gave zero out of ten to the prime minister as far as farmers and labourers were concerned and ten out of ten to the government for dolling out benefits to corporates. Contrary to what Rahul Gandhi has alleged, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh only said that impatience had begun to show among businessmen as nothing had changed in the first nine months of the Modi government.
How does one know whether a government is performing or not. When asked, a senior person close to the ruling party shared his personal thoughts thus: Modiji wants to do hundreds of things but an atmosphere has been created, deliberately or otherwise, of caution, apprehension and fear, among ministers and bureaucrats in Delhi. There are ministers who were in the race for prime ministership with Modi. While some states are being ruled by the BJP, there are others that are being ruled by parties opposed to the BJP in general and Modi in particular. There are some BJP chief ministers who were being publicly equated with Modi in terms of competence and projected for the top post. All these factors are not being taken into account while assessing the performance of Modi.
Judging Modi’s performance on the strength of figures would be misleading. The loyalists would generate reams of paper to list out achievements. The detractors, on the other hand, will also play their part as stakes are high for both sides. But one thing is certain, whether one likes it or not, Modi is going to stay. The question is whether he is going to change himself and accommodate others. The result of the Delhi assembly elections had answered this question partly. Bihar will provide the full answer. Modi’s actual performance will start from the day Bihar results will be out. Let us wait and watch.