By ordering the IAF to lock its laser bombs on the terrorist camp at Balakot Prime Minister Modi may just have also locked it on to the ballot boxes in the coming elections. While the opposition parties are still grappling with their egos and individual ambitions Mr. Modi may have stolen the election from under their noses with his decisive gambit. Of course, the elections are still two months away but its template has now changed.
The BJP had been on a sticky wicket with the primary narratives- employment, farmer distress, Rafale, Citizenship bill. a floundering economy, compromised institutions- appropriated by the opposition. Its one trump card, hyper Nationalism, appeared jaded and even overplayed. Its nervousness was evident in its desperate attempts at forging any possible alliance with any party, even those which had been humiliating and blackmailing it. But Pulwama and Balakot have changed all that. It has resuscitated the nationalistic fervour which is being kept at full pitch by the party’s social media warriors, obsequious TV channels and by the PM himself in his rallies and statements. Mr. Yeddyurappa in Karnataka has even claimed that the air strike has ensured that the party will now get 22 seats in that state. Mr. Modi himself addressed the political rally at Churu with the images of the 40 CRPF casualties forming the backdrop. The coffins for votes strategy has been displayed unapologetically. A dangerous triumphalism appears to have replaced the earlier narrative.This is the emotional bond which all Indian elections need, which Mr. Modi had managed to create in 2014 but which had been missing so far in the current run-up. Expect this to be fully exploited and kept at fever pitch in the coming months, for this is the BJP’s forte. The opposition will find it difficult to counter this new machismo and will have to play along, at the risk of giving all the credit for this action to Mr. Modi. This can only be good news for him. There can, of course, be some blowback in the form of increased terror activities in Kashmir or overt retaliation by Pakistan, but this can only add grist to the BJP mill.
Which makes one wonder: why did Pakistan choose this critical ( from an election point of view) moment to stage the Pulwama attack? Surely its wily ISI could not have been unaware of the fact that it was handing over to Mr. Modi precisely the ” brahmashastra” he desperately needed? Or did it miscalculate badly- expecting the usual tepid, pusillanimous response rather than the ferocious counter that was actually delivered by our Air Force? If so, then it has failed large time, for it has converted what used to be a tactical Indian policy on terrorism into a more robust strategic one which has changed the rules of engagement between the two countries for ever. Somehow, however, I find this difficult to believe: the ISI has been playing this game for too long to have read Mr. Modi’s psyche wrong.
Or is there a second, more diabolic and far-sighted thinking behind the Pakistani “misadventure”? It goes something like this. Pakistan wants Mr. Modi to win the elections! The last thing it wants in Kashmir is peace and a settled and peaceful population there, Kashmiris must always be kept on the boil, alienated and victimised by the Indian state. The BJP government’s muscular, militarised policy which views the valley only through the prism of “law and order”, the wielding of the Damocles sword of Articles 370 and 35A, its over arching communal agenda, ensures this. The polity of the country as a whole has never been as fractured as it is today, with no political consensus on any issue, not even on national security. All this suits Pakistan fine, a hostile Kashmir and a fractured India is just the biryani mix they want, so why would they not wish for Mr. Modi and the BJP to continue? Think about it.
There is only one point on which the Congress and the BJP agree: a pathological hatred for Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. The latter’s discomfiture with Mr. Modi’s pet bugbear is understandable, not so the attitude of the Congress. It has no presence in Delhi, either in Parliament or in the Vidhan Sabha. Why then is it spurning Mr. Kejriwal’s repeated overtures to strike an alliance in Delhi with the AAP to keep the BJP out ? It is learnt that AAP is willing to offer it about 2 of the 7 seats in play, a generous offer by any reckoning. Why then is it determined to commit hara kiri? Rahul Gandhi has shown great flexibility and a shrewd political instinct in the manner in which he has stitched up alliances elsewhere; why have these qualities deserted him in Delhi? He should realise that without a tie-up the Congress will be decimated in the capital by the twin onslaughts of the BJP and AAP; Mrs. Shiela Dixit is a spent force now and at best Marg Darshak Mandal material, Mr. Maken is nowhere to be seen or heard of, Mr. Jolly a political grass-hopper who doesn’t know himself where his next hop will take him. Why gift some possible seats to the BJP when every seat will be worth quite a few electoral bonds in May?
Having said that I have no doubt that Arvind Kejriwal will win the majority of Delhi’s seats. The gin and tonic types at Golf Club and the pampered lot in Lootyen’s Delhi may scoff at him but he has largely delivered on his promises, though he has had to fight every inch of the way with the BJP, the Lieutenant Governor, South Delhi, the Municipal Corporations, a biased media, even the judiciary- without any support from the Congress, it should be noted. He has steadfastly focused on those who most need good governance: the 40% of Delhi which comprise the lower income households, including the 20 lakhs who live in slums and unauthorised colonies. His priories have been health, education, water supply, slum improvement. Delhi’s allocation for health and education is the highest by far among all states in percentage terms : Rs. 7485 crore( 12 % of total budget outlay for 2019-20) and Rs. 15601 crore ( 25%), respectively, and the results are visible. Delhi’s govt. schools now match the private ones in quality and infrastructure, and 8000 new classrooms have been added in four years. The 189 novel Mohalla Clinics have treated 40 lakh patients till December 2018: referred patients now get free treatment and diagnostics in the best private hospitals. Few would remember the 20000 litre/month free life-line water scheme introduced by Kejriwal in 2015; it was much reviled and scoffed at by all “experts” then. Well, guess what?- it has more than proved its worth. Not only has it not resulted in any revenue loss, it has actually led to a huge saving in water consumption: the number of households consuming less than 20000 litres/ month has increased from 5.00 lakhs in 2015 to 13.67 lakhs in 2018. In other words, 8.67 lakh families are consuming less water now than they did three years ago. Mainstreaming of the demand for full statehood for Delhi is a wise move for it will find resonance among the 20 million people who are being deprived of the representative democracy that the rest of India enjoys. And finally, Kejriwal’s “victim” card may just turn out to be the trump card, not the joker that the effete classes consider it to be.
Will Mr. Rahul Gandhi reconsider his party’s position? The time has come for him to decide who is his bigger enemy- Mr. Kejriwal or Mr. Modi? There is no middle ground here.