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There's Nothing 'Inevitable' About Narendra Modi's Return in 2024

The Lok Sabha elections this year are about sab ka INDIA versus Narendra Modi’s coalition of vested interests and bigotry.
Narendra Modi. Photo: X/@narendramodi

Apart from whatever cheer and comfort the ubiquitous Gautam Adani may find in it, the bottom-line of the Supreme Court verdict in the SEBI-Hindenburg matter is a very consequential endorsement of the shadowy nexus of political and economic power that the Modi regime has institutionalised in these past 10 years.

Perhaps it is just as well that the apex court ruling has come just three months away from the next Lok Sabha elections because the democratic and progressive forces surely have no choice but to realise the critical necessity of rolling back all the collusions and corruption that have come to characterise Narendra Modi’s Naya Bharat.

That it is going to be an uphill battle is no rocket science but the Sebi-Adani-Hindenburg verdict has lent a moral urgency to the task. After this judgment the democratic forces can no longer hope to look to the higher judiciary for any kind of solace in the matter of electoral bonds or EVMs. There will be no level playing field in the 2024 contest.

Undoubtedly the strategic and overarching objective of the 2024 battle is a comprehensive defeat for Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party; but to achieve that goal it would be necessary to understand – and deal with – the nature of Modi’s staying power. It is easy for Modi’s political rivals to underestimate the elements of his acceptability; the Congress leadership, particularly the Gandhi family, has been spectacularly dismissive of his seemingly unfading appeal.

It needs to be recognised that Prime Minister Modi answers, for now, the basic urge for a stable political and governmental arrangement. He also has come to satisfy most citizens’ native desire to feel they live in a strong and safe India. It is possible to quibble with the Modi regime’s tall claims in matters of defence and internal security – most Indians are aware of uncertainties and hostilities that define the external landscape – and those who feel the imperative to replace Modi would have to tweak their appeal and argument to address these two fundamental concerns of stability and safety.

That means, to begin with, the INDIA alliance partners must necessarily demonstrate a capacity and willingness to act collectively and coherently as they gird up for the battle. Egos and ambitions, of course, cannot be wished away but cannot be coddled at the cost of the grand objective – a comprehensive defeat for Modi’s BJP.

The primary responsibility in this endeavour rests with the Congress party. Its leadership must understand and accept that Rahul Gandhi will not be acceptable as a prime ministerial face; nor will country want to countenance a Manmohan Singh type of arrangement where the Gandhis would continue to call the shots. 

Also read: Here’s What the Congress Must Do Now to Quickly Reset the 2024 Chessboard

An equal onus is on the non-Congress partners in the INDIA alliance. The alliance leaders need to help the Congress deal with the Rahul Gandhi conundrum. The Gandhis’ primacy in the Congress is not open to any challenge in the short time before the election. Therefore, the unstated tactical requirement will be to ensure that Modi does not have the Gandhis as the punching bag.

In other words, it has to be ensured that the Gandhis and their mixed baggage do not distract from the INDIA alliance’s principal charge against the BJP: that 10 years of the Modi regime have produced an unequal, unfair, unsafe, unfree and un-harmonious social order. Modi would once again want to make the election about the Gandhis, whereas the INDIA alliance partners have no option but to make it about Modi’s far-from-shining record. 

So far, Modi has been allowed a free pass. If things have gone wrong, if the promises have not been kept, if the criminals and crooks have not been brought to heel, if the Chinese have encroached in territories previously under our control, if black money has made a triumphant return, if terrorists continue to target army officers in Kashmir, and if Manipur continues to simmer with tension and conflict – it is someone else’ fault.

Even after 10 years, the prime minister and his apologists continue to harp on Jawaharlal Nehru’s “blunders.”  This bluff needs to be called.      

To be sure, the INDIA alliance leaders have the rhetorical skills, the idiom, the local flavour, acumen, street-smartness and a political grammar of their own, and are therefore well-equipped to nail the Modi’s exaggerated claims. The mythology of “vikas” or development has to be de-mystified in village by village, qasba by qasba. 

The INDIA alliance leaders will need to devise a narrative that taps the vast masses’ grievances and disappointments; only then  can  Modi’s trump card – Hindutva/Ayodhya temple – be neutralised. A national election is the only time when everyone gets a chance to articulate their promise of firm and fair governance. The INDIA alliance has to spell out its ideas of “no appeasement” – neither of the Hindus nor of the Muslims. Indeed, the trick is to make the Hindus feel that being fair towards the Muslims does not mean being unfair towards the majority community. The crux is to make the Hindus snap out of the stupor that nine decade’s of fear-mongering from Nagpur has produced.

There is nothing inevitable about a third term for Modi. He is neither invincible nor unstoppable. He has never won a majority of votes, and, it is the “present and clear” duty of the INDIA alliance to gather together the non-Modi majority.

That is not an insurmountable task. What it needs is for the country to be assured that a collective coalition arrangement can be effectively purposeful, competent as well as compassionate in producing stability, security and firm and fair governance. The country needs to be given a clear-cut choice between Modi’s coalition of vested interests and bigotry and an India that belongs to all and whose society is not perpetually at war against enemies within and out.  

Harish Khare is a former editor-in-chief of The Tribune



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