In the aftermath of the 2014 general election debacle, I asked a senior Congressman how his party would now battle the Narendra Modi juggernaut. “Not to worry, we have time on our side,” he claimed rather confidently. The message was that with Rahul Gandhi still in his early forties, five years out of power wasn’t an issue. Now, almost three years later, the 2017 electoral verdict in Uttar Pradesh and beyond has only confirmed that time is rapidly running out for the Congress and the Opposition.
In the final leg of the 2014 general elections, Narendra Modi dramatically announced in a rally, “Yeh dil maange more”. It was a quintessential Modi soundbite: the BJP’s internal polls had captured a surge but the party leadership of Modi and his lieutenant, Amit Shah, were determined to push beyond “mission 272” towards a triple hundred. The rest, as they say, is history.
To understand vox populi on the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, India Today's Rajdeep Sardesai takes you through the 'Land of Awadh'.
We meet voters to understand will the alliance between Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Congress replicate the success of 2012? Or will Narendra Modi and the BJP will be able to build up on the momentum of the spectactular 2014 Lok Sabha elections? Or will Mayawati remain as the x-factor?
The complicated and controversial notion of a Muslim vote bank stretches back to the first general elections in 1952. The post-Partition face of the Indian Muslims, Maulana Azad, was keen to contest an election from a constituency with a sizeable Hindu population to prove his ‘secular’ credentials when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru insisted he contest from Muslim-majority Rampur district instead. Nehru didn’t want to take a risk with the electoral fortunes of one of his key lieutenants.
The BJP and the Shiv Sena were once seen as ‘natural allies’ but life for the original saffron alliance is not quite the same in the age of Narendra Modi. Last week, when the picture of Modi replacing Mahatma Gandhi on the khadi and village industries commission calendar stirred a controversy, it was a Shiv Sena-backed union that first raised the red flag. A Shiv Sena MP went on TV to describe it as a ”sin” to replace the Mahatma with the prime minister.
We live, to put it mildly, in “interesting times”. This is an age where TV family serials have given way to political soap operas: Are Akhilesh and Mulayam at war or peace? Or is there a chacha still in-between father and son? We have a prime minister who refuses to take a break even on New Year’s Eve and an Opposition leader who determinedly takes one every year. In 2016, the rupee was demonetised; in 2017, will it be the turn of our politics to shrink into a one man, one party show?
Last month in an interview I asked Congress president Sonia Gandhi if she would concede that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a similar personality to Indira Gandhi, tough and authoritarian. “No, no, absolutely not,” she responded emphatically. A month later, I am tempted to pose the question again. More specifically, would it be right to suggest that the politics behind Modi’s demonetisation programme is similar to Indira Gandhi’s 1969 bank nationalisation drive?
For those still surprised by prime minister Narendra Modi’s audacious demonetisation gamble, the past maybe a useful guide. In 2007, just ahead of the Gujarat assembly elections, Mr Modi kickstarted power reforms in the state as chief minister, including a hike in rates and police action against farmers involved in power theft. When an angry RSS-backed farmers delegation met the chief minister, Mr Modi’s response was reportedly defiant: “I will step down as chief minister but not back down.