“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.”
– Prometheus in the poem “The Masque of Pandora” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“If we win 2019, we are going to be in power for the next 50 years. Nobody can remove us,” president Amit Shah said at the party’s national executive on September 9, 2018.
Shah’s arrogant, hubris laden speech seemed to voice the reality of the undeclared emergency India is facing. Does India want to replace democracy with a Modi monarchy? While Shah has never even bothered to pay lip service to democratic ideals, the pretence of voters being supreme and politicians being elected to serve the people was rudely shoved aside as the BJP president bared his naked ambition.
Listening to the speeches of the two men who matter most in the BJP at this juncture felt as though one had walked through the looking glass in Alice in Wonderland.
The reality of record fuel prices, the historic downfall of the rupee (which touched a low of Rs 72.23), a burgeoning agrarian crisis (highlighted by the RSS’s own Bharatiya Kisan Sangh), the ultimate let down of Modi’s promises of job creation (one crore jobs a year), the Modi made disaster of demonetisation which virtually tanked the economy, the messiest Goods and Services Tax rollout possible, foreign relations with even Nepal in tatters, the targeting of entire universities and the branding of Jawaharlal Nehru University students and activists and others as “anti-nationals” and “urban Naxals”, the lack of any convincing answers on the controversial Rafale deal in which a billionaire seems to have gotten a sweetheart deal, the assisted decamping of Rs 13,000 crore bank looters Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, the earlier escapes of defaulter Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi, the unprecedented press conference held by four Supreme Court judges to warn that “democracy was in danger” – none of this was addressed by Modi and Shah in their speeches.
The illiterate quoting of Joseph Schumpeter must have made the political economist turn over in his grave as the BJP blithely described the disaster that was demonetisation as “creative destruction”. The Austrian Schumpeter was referring to the creative churn in the capitalist system that ensures an economy stays dynamic, not a dodgy policy which wreaked havoc.
Modi seems to be prime minister in some alternative universe where he has brought in his mythical “achhe din” and much ballyhooed “good governance”.
Incidentally, after getting elected on both promises, these are now banned words in the BJP.
With less than year to go before the elections, Modi has jettisoned the “achhe din” slogan which brought him to power and ordered a new one instead: “Ajay Bharat, Atal BJP”.
Puzzled? So were most senior BJP leaders, including Modi’s cabinet colleagues, who were not consulted about the new slogan that was unveiled. The slogan itself is meaningless, like many of the acronyms Modi is so fond of. It conflates India with the BJP. This again displays huge arrogance.
A senior BJP leader who was aghast at the speeches by the duo and the new slogan, said, “Are voters fools that they forget that for the past 4 years Modi and Shah ignored Atalji. The greatest tribute to him would have been to liberalise the economy, something which he started with divestment. Instead, Modi is just co-opting him in a slogan while following the worst statist policies. As for Shah, even Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi at the height of the Emergency did not insult the voters by saying they will give us a blank cheque for the next 50 years.”
Shah, who has successfully bulldozed the BJP into giving him yet another term as president without elections, probably feels he can press-gang the Indian voter.
Setting up his polarising and divisive agenda, Shah owned up to the arrests of the activists in the Bhima Koregoan case with pride. Shah also sent a message that he would politicise the contentious National Register of Citizens in Assam. The rebuke from Mohan Bhagwat for Shah’s war cry “Congress mukt Bharat” has clearly had no effect as he was revelling in his trademark belligerence.
Interestingly, at the last BJP national executive held in January in New Delhi, the political resolution of the party applauded Modi’s “surgical strikes” against Pakistan and praised Modi’s handling of the Doklam stand-off with China.
This time around, both topics weren’t addressed, and we still don’t know the outcome of Doklam despite the BJP’s chest thumping. What we do know is that India’s relationship with Bhutan is in tatters as it directly reaches out to establish a relationship with China. Despite a record of over 50 international visits costing well over a thousand crores, Modi has been unable to salvage any of India’s foreign relationships. China has run rings around us.
As we enter the caretaker stage of the the current government, the Shah-Modi duo have put India on notice. The Supreme Court’s judges were prescient in warning that democracy is in danger.