Tag Archives | BJP

The least bad option for J & K’s political future

In the current state of suspense, the least bad option out of a political stalemate is for PDP to join with Congress with outside support from National Conference

Dark clouds are looming on the horizon of political landscape in J & K. After the death of Mr. Mufti Mohammed Sayeed last month, there has been a stalemate between his daughter and political heir apparent of his People’s Democratic Party(PDP), Ms. Mehbooba Mufti and the coalition partner BJP. The BJP-PDP combine came together after the elections in December 2014 based on Mufti’s understanding that the ‘agenda of alliance’ will eschew controversial issues.  Little did PDP realise that the alliance would reach a breaking point within a year. It is no secret that PDP has steadily lost the goodwill in the valley. If Mufti was the glue that held the alliance together, the same cannot be said of Mehbooba.

In all fairness, laying the entire blame on Mehbooba also would not be correct. She does not enjoy the same level of confidence with the population as her father. The local BJP leadership also has played an active role in vitiating the atmosphere. Beef politics, flying of Indian national flag alongside the J & K flag, and the entry of RSS into the valley have all the indications of fringe elements moving into mainstream. The centre, on its part, has done precious little to assuage the apprehensions of the people. Sensing that the situation would come to a boil if not addressed immediately, Governor NN Vohra gave an ultimatum to both the BJP and PDP on February 1.

By all indications, the PDP-BJP alliance is dead. Even if amends were to be made, it would at best remain patchy with both sides resorting to brinksmanship time and again. The current composition of the 87 member assembly is—PDP-28, BJP-25, JKNC-15, INC-12, Independents-4, CPI(M)-1, People’s Democratic Front-1. The combinations that are available will be as follows.

Option 1- BJP-PDP come to a rapprochement and move ahead. Unlikely.

Option 2- The BJP withdraws support. Tries to form government with JKNC by convincing Omar Abdullah, the independents, and the PDF to reach the halfway mark of 44. Impossible. Omar has gone on record to say that the BJP is not the same when it was under Vajpayee. Despite their earlier partnership in NDA I, their present differences are irreconcilable.

Option 3- BJP withdraws support. Congress joins PDP. JKNC provides outside support to Mehbooba. Tough to work out but certainly worth a try in the absence of any better option. As the two have been together in a coalition government from 2002-8 when the Congress ditched PDP to align with NC, differences can be ironed out.  It will be worth recalling that Congress was the first to offer support to PDP after the elections in 2014. This would also present the Congress to claim some political space. Omar will need convincing for outside support.

Option 4- BJP withdraws support. PDP fails to convince any other party for outside support. Governor’s rule is imposed.  Worst that can happen. Elections can be held only after a certain period in which the valley will be thrown into complete turmoil.

Of all the options, option 3, though an out-of-the-box arrangement, seems the least bad option. The people of J & K deserve a stable government. Mehbooba owes it to them.

 

Guru Aiyar is a research scholar with Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar

Featured Image: Sonamarg, Kashmir by Partha Sahana, licensed from creativecommons.org

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Has Modi lost the Narrative Dominance?

Modi’s PR machinery, which achieved such narrative dominance during the elections, has failed to take a hold of public discourse in the recent past.

It’s barely 18 months ago when there was jubilation from all corners when Mr. Modi took the office of Prime Minister of India. In the analytical circles, it was largely commented that the Modi narrative of development won the election much before the results came out in May 2014. Modi campaigned by building on the narrative of development, higher economic growth, rising incomes of the Indian population, etc. He promised better roads and bridges, better educational facilities, healthcare and overall, a better standard of living. He was especially successful in reaching out to the middle class. He tapped into their aspiration and made them believe that he would deliver in realising those aspirations. He also succeeded in getting the support and backing of the business community by his emphasis on governance over government. He made assurances of easier procedures to do business, cutting red-tapism, and improving the investor confidence in the India story. Given all of this and the exhaustive election campaign trail, the result of the elections was decided a long time before the actual votes were cast.

There were other narratives too. Competing, but not compelling – ‘The ‘Harbinger of Death’ and the communal agent. Godhra was thrown about without any hesitation. There were other stories existing as well. A dictator and an autocrat in the making, who would centralise all power. However, these narratives failed to gain traction despite a protracted effort by the opposition and Modi won the election with a comfortable margin. Modi’s PR machine, spin doctors and campaign managers were simply better.

This post is not to deal with whether the promises made by Mr. Modi were kept up; rather, it is to explore how he lost the narrative dominance in India. The issues that have been discussed in the media recently have nothing to do with what Mr.Modi achieved or failed to achieve. There have been a few achievements surely, but that has not gained the kind of national attention that his promises gained. The opposition has been extremely successful in taking charge of the national discourse and has diverted it from economic issues to more political ones. Dadri got more attention that the rural electrification program; ‘intolerance’ over the fact that 2015 saw the largest FDI inflows into India (double than that in 2014), Rohit’s death over Startup India. This is not to say that any of these issues are not important, but it is a cause of wonder as to how the BJP’s PR machine has entirely broken down and allowed their achievements to be sidelined while simultaneously giving way for constant criticism. The very same BJP’s campaign managers who successfully deflected attention away from these very issues and fears of communalism into the development story are failing miserable these days. Where are the spin doctors now?

Modi’s silence has not helped either. An extremely vocal person against his critiques during the election trail, he now barely responds to criticism. When the entire nation is worried, justified or not, over intolerance or minority persecution in the country, it is the duty of the Prime Minister to speak up and placate the citizens. Silence from him is handing over the narrative dominance to the opposition.

There’s also an appreciable lack of ‘chest-beating’ from the BJP about their achievements. People are not barged with full page ads, social media campaigns, etc about their achievements so far. There are a few ‘bhakts’ who religiously try to highlight the economic achievements, but these are not taken seriously as the label itself is designed to remove credibility.

Whether the BJP has actually achieved all that they wanted to or not is an entirely different matter. Achievement, usually, in Indian politics has nothing to do with publicity. And what the Modi government desperately lacks is clear messaging, a publicity strategy, and a hold on public narrative. They have allowed themselves to be sucked into issues from which they would rather stay far away.

Anupam Manur is a Policy Analyst at the Takshashila Institution and tweets @anupammanur

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