Does Modi’s shifting narratives betray BJP’s nervousness ?

While the issues raised by PM Modi in the recent weeks have not resonated with the voters, his charisma is also not working the way it did in 2019. The INDIA bloc led by Congress, on the other hand, has countered him with a more focussed and sustained approach. A report by Mudit Mathur

The changing narratives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have not served the BJP’s cause after his high-profile take-off of the ambitious campaign. Focusing on his pledge to offer a “Viksit Bharat” (Developed India) he sought to turn a blind eye to the burning public issues that India faces today relating to unbearably high prices of essential commodities, farm stress, and the unprecedented levels of  unemployment. His misdirected campaign has put him on the back foot on many counts giving an edge to his rival Congress-led INDIA bloc. The flickering narratives that Modi has raised in recent weeks have not resonated with the voters and his charisma is also not working the way it did in 2019.

His transitory perplexed narratives not only failed to set the nationwide tempo of BJP but sustained self-inflicted injuries, that failed to lift the mood of the nation like his slogan ‘AchcheDin Aane Wale Hain’ once did even as the INDIA bloc led by Congress countered him with a more focussed and sustained approach. The Congress manifesto talks about the poor and oppressed sections of society with affirmative action, committing welfare socialism to help women, youths, farmers and labourers.

The Congress party raised the issue of black money through the electoral bonds scheme introduced by the Modi government that was struck down by the top court for being unconstitutional.  Unlawful collection of money from hidden conspicuous sources through high-level bureaucratic-political arm-twisting led to the enhanced scope of political corruption in the electoral bond scheme and deeply hurt the level-playing field for elections due to the flow of black money into the political arena. 

Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party supremo and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal  is hitting the streets of Delhi attracting large crowds after the Apex Court granted him interim bail and was released from the Tihar jail. Kejriwal’s release infused fresh life into AAP, whose top leaders were arrested one by one on the allegations of money laundering in liquor policy scam. After spending 50 days in prison, speeches of Kejriwal have created a political storm in the ruling BJP when he told people that Modi wanted to name Amit Shah as the prime minister after he attains the 75-year limit next year. Modi retired all the BJP senior leaders who had crossed 75 years. Modi remained tight-lipped and has not reacted to the barb as yet.

The latest PM’s salvo blaming his closest corporate aide Adanis–Ambanis for sending “tempos filled with black money in bags” to the Congress Party backfired as he has put himself in a dilemma. Targeting Rahul Gandhi, Modi said, “Congress Party’s Shehzada” had spent five years repeating the mantra “Ambani-Adani, Ambani-Adani” but stopped once the election campaign began. Why? He challenged Rahul Gandhi to declare how much money he had got from Messrs Ambani and Adani.

In his instant response, Rahul Gandhi uploaded a video saying that if the Prime Minister knew Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani were sending him bags full of cash, why had he not sent the ED and CBI to investigate? Valid question. Meanwhile, the Congress president put a mocking post on X about friends no longer being friends and how this was a sign of how the times were changing. All such calculations of Modi backfired and pushed him to the backfoot which is being perceived as the biggest success of the Opposition Bloc.

The fact of the matter revealed by the party claimed that Rahul had used Adani’s name 103 times after the campaign began and that proved that the Prime Minister got basic facts wrong. Everyone wonders what made him attack the two men who are supposed to be his closest friends. And what action does he plan to take against them now that he has charged them with sending bags filled with ‘black money’ to the Congress Party’s first family?

Modi’s unthinkable assertions badly exposed his failures and hollowness behind his resolve to bring back black money and the decision of demonetisation that unleashed unaccountable miseries on the common man, farmers, small and medium Industries, and small businesses resulting in huge unemployment and pay cuts. Modi never talks about demonetisation and its fallout. Similar has been his response to the Covid-19 crisis, when he declared an unplanned lockdown putting the common man and labourers walking barefoot from Mumbai their native villages thousands of kilometres away, and lakhs of people died due to a crumbled health system.      

In the first phase, Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his much-publicized vision of 2047 committing a “Viksit Bharat” (Developed India) with his big dream to rule India with a mammoth majority of over 400 seats but soon the dream seemed to have shattered after phase one. Modi adopted hardline communal polarisation soon after the release of the manifesto of the Congress party – not focusing on real issues that the country has been reeling from for the last decade since BJP came to power. He termed the Congress manifesto as an impression of the Muslim League which has been historically blamed for the division of pre-independent India.

Modi did not stop there. He launched a full-scale assault on the Congress at public rallies in Banswara and Jalore in Rajasthan where he said: “Congress is trapped in the clutches of the Leftists and urban naxals. What Congress has said in its manifesto is serious and worrying. They have said that if they form a government, then a survey of property belonging to every person will be done. It will be checked how much gold our sisters own; and how much money the government employees have. They have also said that gold owned by our sisters would be equally distributed. Does the government have the right to take your property?”

Soon, the speeches of Prime Minister Modi intensified around his new narrative losing focus on the “Viksit Bharat” (Developed India). After property, he targeted gold to mangal sutra,StreeDhan to houses. He alleged that “the Congress will seize them and distribute them to Musalmano, infiltrators, and people who have more children.” In another rally, PM Modi jumped to religion-based quotas and inheritance tax.

He even threw up new jargon of ‘inheritance tax on buffaloes’ and said that one would be taken away if a person owned two buffaloes. His utterances were aimed to polarise the electorate and consolidate the Hindu voters by tarring Indian Muslims as black sheep. After looking at the way the four phases of polling have gone, there seems to be no end to his uneasiness. Modi went to Ayodhya to pray once more at the Ram Temple and that seemed to have no resonance with voters.

Amit Shah, a trusted lieutenant of PM Modi, also stepped in to declare in an agitated tone at a public meeting that “Rahul Baba” should know that not even if his Nani came back into this world would she be able to stop the CAA. It appears that he thinks that amendment to the citizenship law is something that voters have any interest in. He also created hype about the Ram temple issue in his rallies but drew a cold response from the masses.

Four phases of polling were held covering 381 Lok Sabha constituencies out of 543 that witnessed not only lower turnout due to apathy of the voters but surprisingly, noticed a lack of enthusiasm among the BJP cadres who used to motivate voters to polling booths. As compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, voter turnout of 69.2 percent and 66.1 percent polling took place this time. In phase 2, it was 66.7 percent as compared to previous figures of 69.4 percent. The third phase too witnessed a marginal downtrend of 65.7 as compared to 66 percent of the last tally. The trend of fourth phase voting was no different either as it was around 67.3 percent as compared to 69.6 percent polling in the last Lok Sabha elections. In scorching summer, people lose interest in inordinately long seven stretches of campaigning running six weeks and everyone starts running out of steam in terms of money and effective campaigning.