Five Takeaways as Modi-Rahul Face Off at 2019 Polls’ ‘Interval’
Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
Video Producer: Anubhav Mishra
Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya
We have now hit the “interval” (like in Bollywood films!) in the 12-week-long electoral theatre of 2019. So, it’s time to exchange gossip, hedge bets, and take stock of “the trends so far.” Here, then, are my five takeaways at half- time.
PM Modi – Strong, Muscular, Hindutva Icon & Anti-Intellectual
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has transformed from the vikas purush (development man) of 2014 to the strongman of 2019. His campaign pitch is all about bashing Pakistan and exterminating terrorists.
On the other hand, he has created a deeper, more fanatical engagement with bhakts (religious/political fans), increasing the decibel level but not adding much to the vote share.
Once you do all the additions and subtractions, I reckon his vote share could stay the same, or perhaps increase by a couple of percentage points, to about 33 percent, in these polls.
Rahul Gandhi Has Come of Political Age
Once seen as diffident and aloof, Rahul Gandhi is now relishing the thrust and parry of realpolitik. He is the stark opposite of Modi, a leader who seems to respect diversity, even dissent.
But he still appears a bit reticent about dealing with potential allies and peers from other parties. I reckon he needs to work on those “back channel skills” that are critical in politics, that allow you to build a pick-up-the-phone-and-talk chemistry with frenemies. He clearly comes into his own during informal interactions in English – witness his charming exchange with women students at Stella Maris College in Chennai.
BJP Wrapped Around a Cult Personality
Once upon a time, the BJP used to be a party driven by a broad-based/collective leadership and wedded to RSS’s ideology. Today, it’s astonishingly Modi-centric, dominated totally by his personality cult.
Nobody dares to challenge Modi, even indirectly. Not one murmur was heard when the founders of the party – from LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi to Sumitra Mahajan – were visibly snubbed. The party has also lost its sense of Vajpayee-esque humour. But these days, under Modi, the BJP is always angry, morose, mocking, smirking.
The party’s anti-dote to that is a deeper regress into inflammatory Hindutva, exemplified so sharply by the nomination of Pragya Thakur in Bhopal and an unrestrained diatribe from Adityanath.
Congress to Reclaim the 25/25/100 Political Watermark
With a smart pullback in half a dozen states and several bye-elections, the party has shown its will to fight. It’s also winning back its core support base of secular Hindus and disenfranchised minorities, including Dalits.
While this “political minima” will ensure its survival, it may not catapult it to Raisina Hill in these elections. Nonetheless, the Congress will have the momentum to take a shot at power in 2024, almost equal to the 200+ mandate it won in 2009.
Regional parties are giving stiff resistance to Modi in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Odisha. They are set to win large majorities here. So, how could it all end?
Well, as we stand at half-time, the Congress has a clear edge in attracting post-poll regional allies, provided the Congress itself is in the hunt with about 135-150 seats. But if the BJP goes above 180, it shall find a magical “recalibration” of several regional parties’ hostility towards itself.
Khair, picture abhi toh kaafi baaki hai, merey dost (quite a bit of the film is yet to be screened, my friend) – so, stay glued!