To assume that because of the love and admiration for ‘Modi’ Indians will accept the ineffectiveness of some BJP leaders at the state-level, then the BJP is reading Indians wrong.
I am a huge admirer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I have been an admirer of his style of governance since the time he was Chief Minister of Gujarat because he has a vision, he is planned and most importantly he is determined, dedicated and devoted to the nation.
I was most disappointed by the performance of the BJP in Karnataka because with Narendra Modi leading the charge it reflects on him even though the fault lines lie squarely with the ineffectiveness and callousness of the local leaders in the state.
While I was disappointed by the gains made by Congress over BJP and JDS in Karnataka, I was not surprised by the results. I expected it because most of the BJP local leaders were cut off from the reality of the situation at the base level and did not read the groundswell building against the party over the last twelve months.
People do not care about corruption in the high echelons of power because it does not directly impact their day-to-day lives, but when corruption becomes a pain to them, then it becomes a bane to the government in power.
We can deliberate on corruption by the political parties or their leaders and of course, political history will show us that Congress has been one of the most corrupt parties, but BJP in Karnataka too is not bathed in milk. There were reports of rampant misuse of power to facilitate corruption.
People electing Congress to power in Karnataka must know that it does not mean that corruption will end. For all you know, corruption will touch new highs.
Narendra Modi is leading a war against corruption and has been diligently raising his voice over corruption. But to some, it appears to be mere rhetoric because he is failing to address the concerns of corruption in BJP-led governments. He failed to deal with it in Karnataka. This eventually became a prime talking point for the opposition in Karnataka and led to BJP losing its foothold in one of the most prominent states in South India.
BJP did not lose its vote share. It gained marginally. This was possible only because of the spirited campaign by Narendra Modi and some committed local leaders in the state. The votes expected to go to JD(S) went to Congress. The people of Karnataka did not want to have a hung Assembly. They decided to give a mandate to one political party. In fact, the minorities consolidated against the BJP viciously. They strategically and without a whisper mobilised a groundswell against the BJP.
In fact, Jesuits from the Catholic community played a decisive role in working against the BJP as admitted by Fr Cedric Prakash in a letter that has gone viral. He expressed: “On ‘Voting Day’, the Jesuit houses in Bangalore played hosts to several Jesuits from all over the State who had come in to exercise their franchise in the city. The Provincial of the Karnataka Jesuits had motivated all his men to cast their vote, whatever the distance or inconvenience. They were also asked to encourage others to do so. Their efforts began some months ago; they did so unitedly as a province, through their communities and institutions, individually and collectively, in the urban and rural areas and among all sections of society and also with the Archdiocese of Bangalore.”
Even the Muslim community worked towards a plan. The Karnataka Waqf Board chairman, Shafi Sadi put forth the demand to Congress that the community had stood behind the party. Interestingly, “Before the elections, we had demanded 30 seats for Muslims but we only got 15, out of which 9 candidates have won. In 72 constituencies, Congress won only because of Muslims. We have stood with the party,” Sadi expressed to the media.
The minorities opted for Congress and not BJP. Narendra Modi’s campaigning helped BJP marginally increase its vote share but it was not sufficient to win a majority and certainly did not cut any ice with the Muslim or Christian minorities in the state.
I am reminded of a discussion I had with a senior leader of the BJP in charge of the preparations for the Lok Sabha in my state, Goa. I genuinely enquired about the face that needs to be promoted locally for the Lok Sabha 2024. He retorted rather ignorantly, saying, “The candidate will be decided at the right time. In the end, it is the face of ‘Modi’ that will encourage people from South Goa to vote.” I smiled because I realised sometimes it is important to keep quiet and let people make their mistakes and come down to reality on their own.
There is no doubt that Narendra Modi is a good leader. More importantly, he is the leader India needs at this point in time. But to assume that because of the love and admiration for “Modi” the people of India will accept the ineffectiveness of other BJP leaders at the state-level, then I am afraid the BJP is reading Indians wrong. And they did read the people of Karnataka wrong. Only the loyal BJP voters supported the BJP, therefore it only marginally improved its vote share but still lost the election.
People love Narendra Modi. They do not want to know if some politicians from the opposition abused Modi 91 times. They want to see a strong Modi standing even after being abused 91 times and fighting for them, talking about them, and relieving them of the strains of their lives. That is what attracted people to Narendra Modi in the first place. Modi is a hero for the people. They see him as a strong hero that braves all the hardships silently. He gained the love of the people because he was targeted and wronged by the aristocratic politicians of Lutyens Delhi and because he promised a corruption-free India.
Unfortunately, the people of Karnataka largely felt victimized by corruption and the minorities gave into the communal overtures of their community against Modi and BJP. Even the traditional vote-bank bastion of the BJP, the Lingayat community, did not find confidence in the BJP and preferred the Congress.
The problem I see is that Modi is tirelessly working for the people and party but there are some within the BJP taking advantage of the name of “Modi”. Some BJP leaders are ineffective and mediocre in their performance as representatives of the people and some are blatantly corrupt. This is going to damage the “Brand Modi”.
India needs Modi. And for Indians today, actions speak louder than words.
The minority consolidation will happen in 2024 even if BJP does a minority outreach but the Hindu consolidation under BJP will not happen. However, if “Modi” takes certain corrective actions against corruption within the BJP itself, along with strong outreaches across all religious and caste communities, then there could be a shift. BJP with Narendra Modi must reach 42% to 45% from its 37.36% in 2019, for which it needs to go beyond polarization. It must unite over the idea of an emerging India beyond religious and caste lines.
In my personal opinion, India needs another term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I am not a sycophant, I am a friend of Modi, and as a friend, it is my duty to speak the truth fearlessly. Therefore, I personally believe that Narendra Modi should not let “Brand Modi” diluted by the political ineffectiveness of a few in the BJP.
Savio Rodrigues is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief, GoaChronicle and BJP leader, Goa.