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Shooting down allies: Is Narendra Modi's strategy working?

Tuesday, 18 March 2014 - 12:19pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna Shadow Editorial Board

Narendra Modi has been deprecating leaders in every state he's campaigned in — is this political tactic successful?
  • Narendra Modi

The 2014 Lok Sabha Elections has been one of the most-hyped events in Indian history. Speculations about the candidates, alliances, rivalries and possible coalitions have been rife for the past year or so. However, more than anything, the most interesting aspect of the elections will be if the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, will form a government at the Centre.

The current scenario of Indian politics and Modi’s campaign techniques make the above statement highly improbable.

In a country where regional political parties, their alliances and coalition governments play a massive role in the selection of the Prime Minister and the amount of power he has; Modi is burying himself by degrading political parties in every state that he campaigns in.

His judgments regarding the Indian National Congress are understandable, and to a certain point, predictable. He routinely insults the Gandhi family — labeling Rahul Gandhi ‘shehzaada’; and maligning the Manmohan Singh government. In a bid to win votes in Assam, he criticized the Congress-lead government there, saying Assam had rivers such as the Brahmaputra and yet people in Guwahati have no water to drink.

His statements backfired in a major way when they offended another regional party of Assam, the All India United Democratic Front, into possibly joining the Third Front.

In the same way, instead of trying to woo leaders such as Nitish Kumar, whose party, Janta Dal United, broke away from the NDA alliance, to come back into the fold; Modi insists on criticizing every aspect of their government, and extolling himself as a superior leader. He even alleged that Bihar had become a safe haven for terrorists because Kumar wanted to win over the Muslim vote bank.

Modi did not stop there. At his first rally in West Bengal, he affronted the Communist Party of India (Marxist), from having, “sucked out the blood from Bengal and destroyed its reputation”, during its regime. He even referred Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress government; saying that they had promised change and not delivered on the same; but did not criticize them out right.

The parties in the South are no different. Although Modi has not openly affronted the AIDMK leader Jayalalitha; in fact he is keen of having her an an ally, she is said to have prime ministerial aspirations, and is hence favoring the Third Front. On the other hand, DMK leaders such as Karunanidhi have been sending out mixed signals; ruling out an alliance with BJP in December, and then praising Modi’s hard work and campaigning.

The story with the Biju Janata Dal and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is pretty much the same. At a rally in Odisha in February, Modi criticized Patnaik by declaring that he had made the state poorer by allowing mafias to loot the mineral-rich Odisha, and that the sole purpose of the BJD was to support the Congress.

However, the largest opposition to Modi right now are the major parties from Uttar Pradesh; the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati-lead Bahujan Samaj Party. Modi has been having regular, public altercations with Mulayam Singh Yadav of the SP, regarding development, riots and secularism.

He also accused the SP and BSP of misleading the people under the pretense of secularism to hide their failures. In response to his attacks, Mayawati ruled out an alliance and declared that Muslims would never forgive Modi even if his party apologized a thousand times, referring to Modi's alleged role in the 2002 Godhra riots.

Uttar Pradesh sends the largest number of representatives to the Lok Sabha; a total of 80 MPs. This makes it an extremely important state, and offending the two most popular parties there is an extremely unwise move. Gaining the SP or the BSP as allies would have only benefited Modi. 

And lastly, the Aam Aadmi Party. As seen in the Delhi elections, the AAP was forced to form a government with the Congress; even after winning their votes by criticizing the party. But the recent tirade with AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal being detained in Gujarat, and his constant challenging of Modi; the prospects for a future coalition are bleak.

In the past, post the Delhi elections, Modi had also called Kejriwal and the AAP, the ‘Congress’ Protector’, and added that the AAP did not have the experience or the vision to run the country.

Unfortunately, in addition to purposely insulting the above leaders and parties; Modi has also unwittingly snubbed some of his allies and members of his party. L.K. Advani was noticeably upset over Modi becoming the Prime Ministerial candidate, and due to the subsequent isolation of current Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj; Modi’s popularity within the party has declined.

Within the NDA, he snubbed Shiv Sena head honcho Uddhav Thackeray and another political ally, the Republican Party of India, by not inviting them to his ‘garajana’ in Mumbai in December.

To form a government, the Bharatiya Janata Party requires a total of 272 seats or more; a victory which is doubtful at the moment. Forming a government at the centre that is not a coalition is not only a challenging idea to achieve; the government formed will also have a huge opposition against it in the Lok Sabha.

Quite simply, Modi needs to change his campaign strategy and accumulate more allies with this one month. Yet knowing the unscrupulous negotiating that goes on behind the scenes in Indian politics; Modi might just find himself a few desperate allies post the elections from the very parties he slighted.

Stranger things have happened.


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