Political analyst and commentator Suhas Palshikar, in an interview with The Wire, has said that three recent events have made Prime Minister Narendra Modi seem “weak” and “vulnerable”.
Palshikar was referring to the prime minister’s and the BJP’s failure “to roundly respond to the tenacity and outcome of the (Bharat Jodo) Yatra”, the blocking of the BBC documentary and the income tax raids on BBC offices, and what he called the “eloquent silence” from Modi and the government over the Hindenburg report. Speaking specifically about the third, Palshikar said by refusing to allow the matter to be discussed in Parliament and “hiding behind the presiding officers…the prime minister has for the first time…(been) seen as vulnerable”.
Palshikar, who is the chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics and co-director of Lokniti’s Programme for Comparative Democracy, said “the longer the government and Mr Modi keep quiet about the Hindenburg report the greater will be the damage”.
He identified two reasons why a sizeable section of support for the Modi government is now entertaining or could soon entertain doubts about the government and the prime minister. First, he said: “As the ruling party keeps repeating dreams of a golden age or Amrit Kaal…the lived experience of many…contradicts the dreams of Amrit Kaal.” He added, “This contradiction (will) dawn on many…just as the next election approaches.”
A second reason why Modi’s supporters could entertain doubts is to do with the economy. “If the economy fails to pick up and if there are signs of a climb down in the market…(many) will…stop singing paeans to the ruling party and it’s ever-wise leadership.” Palshikar said this could particularly affect Modi’s middle-class support base, who he described as “very fickle”.
Asked if the cracks in what he calls “the hegemonic empire Modi and the BJP have built” can be repaired or whether they will get steadily worse, Palshikar said that depends on two factors. First, the manner of the BJP and Modi’s response. He said they are certainly capable of responding effectively although as yet, in terms of the Yatra, the BBC and Hindenburg, the response has been “weak, apprehensive and tentative” and has revealed the prime minister’s “vulnerability”. The second factor that will affect whether the cracks are repaired or widen is whether Modi can create “an alternative narrative” or whether the opposition can force its own narrative to take prominence.