“Bhookhe Bhajan Na Hoye Gopala”
The Balakot-fuelled ultra-Nationalist pitch, along with the utopian Hindu Rashtra dream acted as steroids to mask BJP’s lack-lustre performance, and won it a thumping majority. While the BJP Top Brass’s euphoria has waned now, many fawning TV anchors are still experiencing orgasmic raptures as they rave about their dead accurate forecasts of the electorate’s mood. Perhaps, for the next elections, the EC could consider declaring results based on prophecies of oracles from Republic, Times Now, Zee News, Aaj Tak, CNN News 18 and India Today news channels, and save the Nation crores in election expenses.
The mood of the top hierarchy of Modi 2.0 is appropriately more sombre, as it gets down to business. It is aware that this time there may not even be the usual honeymoon period when the people patiently give time to the new regime to settle down. For Modi 1.0 that period ran much longer until the demonetization hara-kiri. People’s expectations now are very high and their patience is running low. GDP growth has slowed down; investments have dried up; Banks’ NPAs have risen to record heights; NBFCs are in crises, and industrial growth is virtually negligible. Adding to the Govt’s worries is the late and likely-to-be deficient monsoon, with 42% of India’s land area already reeling under drought.
The alacrity with which the new Govt released the ACTUAL unemployment figures, which it had been obfuscating all through the pre-election period, clearly shows its great anxiety on this account. It has thus admitted to the true situation, and in the process set the Base level very low, so that even marginal increases in employment generation in future could be touted as great progress. However, it is well aware that this time gimmickry and fudging of economic data and performance figures will not work.
I believe Bhakt Sur Das is credited with the words “Bhookhe Bhajan Na Hoye Gopala”. This should be a clear reminder and a warning to the NDA Govt that no amount of artificially generated Narratives on Nationalism, Hindu Rashtra, real or concocted internal and external security threats, populist schemes and seductive promises will assuage people’s hunger, wants, and expectations. Ram Mandir will not be a substitute for real and substantive progress on all fronts, and a marked amelioration of the peoples lot.
I am inclined to believe the Prime Minister’s exhortation to carry along all communities and sections of society, as a course-correction. Lack of communal and social harmony will be very detrimental for economic recovery and hence the signal to tone down the communal rhetoric, which has already served its electoral purpose. But, has the signal emanated from Nagpur, from where strident voices are already clamouring for early construction of Ram Mandir? Will not the militant Hindutva outfits queer the pitch for the Govt? Even if the PM is earnest, will he be able to take firmer steps against the hotheaded cadres, even at the risk of alienating his base? Doubtful. Once you have mounted the communal tiger, it is difficult to dismount.
As for the Opposition, BJP’s thumping victory ought to be a blessing in disguise. Even if it had somehow formed a Govt, how long would it have lasted after inheriting such enormous economic and social problems? With their disparate agendas, bloated egos, unrealistic ambitions, and in the absence of even a common minimum programme, they would have ended up as the Janata Party, and sent into oblivion. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. It is the NDA Govt, which has to deliver, not only by rectifying the several faux pas of its previous tenure, but also by meeting the heightened expectations of the people. Having been given an overwhelming mandate, it cannot have any excuse for non-delivery. It will have to perform or perish.