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Central Vista: Why is Modi in such a hurry?

By AMULYA GANGULI
May 14, 2021 09:07 IST
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'A setback in UP will be nothing short of a political disaster on the eve of the 2024 general election.'
'Will it mean that Modi will be able to stay in his new house only for a year after it becomes ready?' asks Amulya Ganguli.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
 

It is understandable why the ruling party at the Centre is in such a tearing hurry to complete the remodelling of the so-called central vista of the Lutyens zone in the heart of New Delhi to bring it line with its concept of a 'new" India.

To recapitulate, the BJP's version of the brave new world which it wants to usher in will mark the end of 1,200 years of slavery under the Muslim and British and the inauguration of an Indic civilisation based on Hindu culture which was suppressed for 70 years after 1947 when the Congress and other non-BJP parties were in power.

It is to achieve this historic milestone envisaged by the BJP that a new parliament is being built along with the houses for the prime minister and the vice-president which will be connected to parliament by an underground tunnel.

Lest the work on these august projects be hampered by COVID-19, the building of these grand edifices has been classified as 'essential/.

Why essential?

As at the time of the peremptory deletion of Article 370 of the Constitution which conferred special rights on Kashmiris, has it again become necessary for the BJP to send the message that an elemental new force is in the land which brooks no delay in its march towards chosen destinations?

Or is the rather unusual categorization of the ambitious construction projects a nervous response to the belief that time is running out for the denizens of the corridors of power and, therefore, procrastination is impermissible?

For, much has happened between the unhurried times when the major structural changes to transform the central vista were envisaged and the present desperate period.

The BJP may ignore Rahul Gandhi's accusation about the projects being a 'criminal' waste of money at the time of a national medical emergency. But the party cannot afford to be dismissive of a British newspaper's description of Narendra Damodardas Modi as 'narcissistic' or the medical journal, The Lancet's reference to a 'botched vaccination campaign' and the Indian Medical Association's charge against the government of hiding data on deaths.

If reports that the BJP and its mentor, the RSS, have begun to worry about the dire medical situation are true, then the government's eagerness to complete the central vista projects as soon as possible makes sense in the context of a possible electoral setback for the BJP.

In such an eventuality, it may well be too late to build a house for Modi so that he can move in from his present residential quarters at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg.

IMAGE: A 3D model of the new parliament building. Photograph: Kind courtesy Narendra Modi/Creative Commons

As it is, the BJP lost three state elections before the second wave of COVID-19 had unleashed its fury.

Then, as the death toll climbed, the panchayat polls in up underlined a worrying trend for the BJP in its supposed bastion under a hardline Hindutva chief minister.

Since there will be an assembly election in up next year, the BJP has to demonstrate that it is handling the pandemic well enough instead of burying its head in the sand like as ostrich, as the Delhi high court has observed about the government's inaction on the supply of oxygen to the needy.

In view of such official indecisiveness, it is the judiciary which has apparently taken over the administration by setting up task forces to ensure the proper distribution of oxygen and ordering a decongestion of the jails lest they become hotbeds of the virus.

It goes without saying that the image of the government and of the prime minister has taken a beating because of the almost daily criticism by the judiciary.

In such a situation, thr BJP can accept defeat in the Punjab polls next year where it has been out of power for the last five years.

But UP is another matter.

A setback there on the lines of what the panchayat results have indicated will be nothing short of a political disaster on the eve of the 2024 general election.

Will it mean that Modi will be able to stay in his new house only for a year after it becomes ready for occupation by the end of next year?

For the BJP as a political party, electoral reverses are par for the course.

But, not for the RSS with its grandiose vision of converting secular India into a theocratic Hindu rashtra.

Yet, a new building for parliamentarians and new houses for the PM and the vice-president will seem like a mockery if the electoral cycle emphasizes the transience of power in a democracy.

Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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