In politics, sometimes normalcy looks abnormal. That the Bharatiya Janata Party should be with its back to the wall in the Delhi battle is abnormal for those who have not yet recovered from the awesomeness of Narendra Modi’s victory in May 2014.
That was a tsunami. Tsunamis subside. Modi has risen phenomenally, riding that and another wave. A third is due, maybe after the Delhi elections.
The first wave he crested when he became chief minister of Gujarat without ever having contested an election. This was 26 days after the two planes brought down the twin towers in New York on Sep 11, 2001 – 9/11, in brief.
The US air strikes against Afghanistan began on Oct 7, exactly the day Modi became chief minister. Of course there is no connection between the two. And yet, there is. The saturation TV coverage pummelling Muslim societies created for the BJP a favourable atmosphere. The BJP hoped to win the crucial election to the Uttar Pradesh assembly due in February 2002. Rajnath Singh was the chief minister in Lucknow. To his and his party’s dismay, BJP lost the election which had been fought on a hard platform, Ram Mandir included.
The ‘kar sewaks’ assembled at Ayodhya for victory and Ram Mandir celebrations were stunned by the election reversal announced on Feb 24/25, 2002. Imagine the black mood in which the kar sewaks boarded Sabarmati Express which reached Godhra on the morning of Feb 27. Gujarat BJP was waking upto two defeats in bye elections. Modi won Rajkot narrowly. Then the Godhra train carnage took place and the Gujarat pogrom.
The lesson from the electorate’s rejection of the hardline in UP should have been a sober and softer line in the future. But, no, the 96-year-old head of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Keshvaram Kashiram Shastri thought otherwise. The global war on terror was a boon. In an atmosphere so conducive for Hindu consolidation a harder, not softer, line was required.
I met Jayanti Ravi, collector of Godhra when Gujarat was still smouldering. The investigations, she said bitterly, had instantly been handed over to Vijay Vipul, DIG anti-terror squad. Terror was the flavor of the season. So, terror it was for Godhra and Gujarat too.
Then Modi rode the second crest with even greater aplomb. This one was to deliver unto him the prime ministership of India.
A timid Manmohan Singh carrying on his forehead labels of scams he may not have committed, made for a soft target.
Worse was the Nehru-Gandhi family. Yes he will; no he won’t, but he might – this exasperating indecision of Rahul Gandhi made for a silly side show in the middle of what should have been a do or die campaign. He made a fool of himself with FICCI, CII, in the Arnab Goswami interview, the high point of his life being a night of great simplicity he spent with David Miliband in a Dalit hut.
The mother would disappear to far off hospitals and reappear without the nation being any the wiser as to what the ailment was and whether a transition was round the corner.
Election after election was being lost but the mother and son duet would neither disappear nor connect. A private social group remained more important than the more public, but supine political group. It was appalling for the country’s oldest party to be neither in nor out of reckoning. Meanwhile corruption charges, beginning with Bofors, would just not go away.
It was this universal anger with Congress leadership that Modi’s campaign managers brilliantly harvested. Add to this the greatest media campaign ever mounted.
The helpful Sonia-Rahul negative image is, alas for Modi, now out of the way. A Muzaffarnagar-like polarization cannot be repeated in quick succession. This is too gentle a country. Even Kali and Durga have their seasons.
The open season given to Yogi Adityanath, Sakshi Maharaj and a Sadhvi adept at abusive diction will never be tolerated by the world’s oldest civilization.
The writing has been clear on the wall since the bye-elections in UP. A reversal in Delhi will not be such a bad thing for the BJP. It will enable the party to off load those interests who by their vulgarity neutralize gains like the Obama visit and who have all too frequently made the BJP look embarrassingly inelegant.
(30.1.2015 – A senior commentator on diplomatic and political affairs, Saeed Naqvi can be reached on [email protected] The views expressed are personal.)