IS MODI A POLITICIAN, PATRIOT OR PRAGMATIST ? : CAN HE WIN INDIAN VOTERS IN APRIL 2019 ?

Bhagyashree Pande

Come March 2019 PM Modi will have to get into hectic canvassing asking the electorate to vote for him the second time in office. What is PM Modi going to convince the nation with ? War with Pakistan ! Can that be a fillip to his strongman muscular image ?  He till yesterday spent 4.5 years talking about Ram Mandir, Cow as national symbol , various schemes for women girl child , middle class etc. Any questions or doubters were dubbed anti nationals and inimical to the success of this nation quite a few youth and dalits and backwards were dubbed Urban Naxals the indirect message to minorities was of fear so as to make them fall in line. Fear over food, how religions are to be practiced by majority and minorities, compulsory reciting of National songs and yoga were the order of the day not to forget the failed attempt to get black money through demonitisation that only gave pain and no gain. Today after carrying out the diktats on Bharat, Hindustan and India PM Modi has to ask for a referendum from the same people to give him a chance in 2019. But today there is a new dimension added by the BJP to its poll narrative that of beating hollow the enemy called Pakistan. But what is the real view of 1.35 bn Indians with regards to BJP and Pakistan?

PM Modi , BJP and the RSS have always held a belief  in muscular strength of India. This unleashing of strength till yesterday was in rurban India over cow, beef, religious practices, today the ambit has widened to the ever prodding nuisance neighbour. In a run up to the election preparations television, newspapers and social media are awash with only one narrative India’s strength over Pakistan. The anchors as also those who come for special comments only talk of India’s strength . In short the party and RSS want to pump up Adrenalin of Indians with a battle cry. Now there will be India which believes in war but there is also an India that believes warring with Pakistan is like beating a big boy who has gone astray. Thus, India is divided between Peaceniks and War Mongers. PM Modi will appeal to the first category who may even vote for him but its the later that will be dismissive of this move.

For War Mongers the solution to the Pakistan problem is definately war they will even cherish the thoughts of disintegration of the country. Most of these war drum beaters will not want to distinguish between jihadis and Pakistanis. This distinction is now clubbed and there is only one single minded focus kill the enemy. But then the question to be asked is what is the strength of Pakistan vs that of India. They are employing the unemployed uneducated poverty stricken youth in jihadi activity. By killing them what are they losing ? But we are using our Army to kill them. When our Jawan or an Army personnel dies its a lot of investment in that person that has gone. Compare this with death of 44 Indian soldiers vs their one suicide bomber who was also an Indian. The only expense they made was in brainwashing him and in RDX. Look at our investment in 44 soldiers and all those who died before this. It is far greater training, equipment, besides loss of personnel which in contingencies like war or strikes are not easily replaceable. Same is the case with losing a relatively senior Air Force pilot yesterday. The worst is he has been captured alive and is a mine of information for the enemy. He knows all the planning on the front the technicalities etc. Hence we remain vulnerable over what he reveals our Air Force has to keep guessing. In short Pakistan’s Madarassas is a low cost  exercise that too in far flung remote areas of disputed land whereas ours is professional high capital exercise.

Now the Peaceniks will ask PM Modi the vital questions as to what plans he has for resolving the Pakistan issue. Besides questions abound on farmers plight, solving the unemployment problem, better quality of life from healthcare to education. By beating Pakistan many will be forced to think that the quality of their lives will deteriorate further because resources of the country will go to war thereby shifting the focus from development . The harsh reality is that quality of life for most Indians at the bottom of the pyramid has not improved no matter how much claim of doles and welfares PM Modi makes in his speeches. Blaming the opposition can always not be the answer to the unsolved problems, hard questions are asked by the citizens of the party that is ruling. In BJP’s case the overpromised development as compared to deliverance will be back on voters mind.

In days to come PM Modi will travel through the length and breadth of the country to canvass for votes.  It needs to seen that those who live near the border in Jammu, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan , Delhi, how they take to war. Then there are those states the personnel of which will be deployed on the front besides the above Himachal and Uttarkhand where BJP rules in the states. If matters escalate and losses are on Indian side will the villages in these states (and others in India) have a very pro war sentiment ? Then there are states like UP, Bihar ,MP, parts of Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha that have problems of cow menace, gau rakshak, the quota politics, atrocities under SC- ST Act and now the latest Supreme Court eviction order of tribals from forest land . Bihar, West Bengal, parts of UP and North East are more worried about whether they will continue to be the citizens of this country if Modi led BJP comes to power in 2019. North East of India is already burning because of citizenship issue and we should be concerned about it because the area is of interest to another of our powerful neighbour. Interiors of Maharashtra, Andhra and Telangana are already drought affected and summer is approaching. South of India has a problem of its own education and quality of life has greater emphasis. Industralisation, providing employment as also enhancing the quality of life is the mainstay as can be seen in the success mantra of regional political parties. Has PM Modi any answers for these states besides appreciating the contribution of the sons for their motherland.

Another important constituency is the youth of today and many first time voters will they be enthused with war ? Most youth today are getting an Adrenalin rush in trade war, technology war etc. Some may even argue to neutralise Pakistan with trade or have solution using Artificial Intelligence tools and technologies. The actual war may not enthuse many and may seem misplaced and very old world too.

This is for the first time that BJP is putting to test war hysteria to seek ballot. Congress under Nehru won 1952, 1957 and 1962 elections on non military issues , Indira Gandhi won the elections in March1971  but the war took place only in Nov- Dec 1971 . The test of her ‘ Durga Avatar’ was held before the war. Kargil war which was fought in summer of 1999 never gave Vajpayee govt political dividends in Sept 1999 elections. It got only 182 seats. In coming one month run upto the elections Modi – Shah duo have to answer the needs of the nation besides the task of giving a fitting reply to the neighbour. In a bid to achieve power again Modi has opened a new flank and he wants to test the people of this nation to either strengthen or weaken him. War unites is an old saying but in this day and age will it unite India for Modi led BJP after a brush with his divisive politics for last 4.5 years remains to be seen.

**Bhagyashree Pande is Sr Journalist & political commentator lives in Mumbai

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