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'Modi Ki Guarantee' A Liability for BJP Candidates

March 21, 2024 10:09 IST
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Given the 2024 general elections, it is unlikely that the allegations around electoral bonds, raised by the Opposition, will disappear easily or with a shrug of the BJP's shoulders and fabled 56-inch chest, argues Shyam G Menon.

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra Modi in Shivamogga, Karnataka, March 18, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The value of a television remote control is well-known.

It gifts one control over the TV, from a distance.

It was a couple of decades ago that the remote control entered political jargon. Several political parties have been victims of the characterisation.

The most prominent example -- prominent because the engineers of such comparison pulled it off successfully -- was the government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh, wherein, the real decision-making power was often spoken of as wielded by the then Congress president, Sonia Gandhi.

The late Bal Thackeray and the influence and control he maintained on the Shiv Sena government headed by the late Manohar Joshi was another example of remote control frequently cited.

The country's biggest party -- the Bharatiya Janata Party -- has had repeated but shifting trysts with the notion of remote control.

In the early stages when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was widely seen as source of control over the BJP, that was where the remote control was perceived as parked.

As the BJP grew in stature, there were occasions when the relationship was thought to have reversed temporarily.

Then, there has been the ascent of the cult around Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which with the widely propagated platform of 'Modi's guarantee' is perhaps currently, the best entrenched remote control within India's political Right.

As the country drifts closer to general elections and campaigning starts to make its appearance, the posters of BJP candidates in many places are distinct for the inclusion of Modi in the frame.

There is the candidate's face and looming behind him, Modi.

The candidate promises action; Modi's guarantee on show in the backdrop ensures it.

Seemingly reminiscent of the BJP's 'double engine' spin, it is however, a tricky relationship.

In these days of all control vested in the remote control; the device damaged means an entire TV crippled.

Metaphorically, it is like an infection from a distant body part, spreading throughout the body.

And as it spreads, the subject of endorsement in an election campaign poster gets swept along.

What few notice is that it is easier to ring fence and protect the guarantor in the event of contamination in the endorsed subject, than ring fence a candidate from contaminated guarantor in the backdrop.

An infection spreading from the dominant guarantor's side, takes candidate also down.

Back in the days of the Manmohan Singh government, no effort was spared by the BJP to sling mud at Sonia Gandhi and paint her and the Nehru-Gandhi family in bad light.

Years later, we see its result and legacy -- even as Manmohan Singh stays much respected as an individual, the government he headed lost power in the elections that followed.

Courtesy relentless taunting, mocking and hunting by the BJP, the Congress remains a shadow of what it used to be.

The BJP risks a similar scenario as the developments around electoral bonds, continue to unfold.

First the Supreme Court ruled that the electoral bonds-scheme ran afoul of constitutional rules and propriety.

Then, it ordered the State Bank of India to reveal details pertaining to the bonds.

Upon the bank revealing details inadequately, the Court gave it a rap and sought better disclosure.

Finally, the Congress lost no time in trying to figure out links between raids by government agencies on companies and their resorting to buying electoral bonds besides possibilities of quid pro quo connections between the purchase of bonds and awarding of project contracts.

Equally controversial would be the laws and policies made reality (or sought be made reality) with visible haste, little meaningful debate and disregard for the Opposition's view.

There have been changes to the penal code, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the push for One Nation One Election.

The modus operandi seen in these cases and several others where the BJP bulldozed its way through, wouldn't have escaped the electorate's attention.

In a predicament where Modi is BJP and BJP is Modi, one can imagine where any dissatisfaction/disapproval would be heaped and how it would impact in an election poster born from such a heavily centralised set up.

IMAGE: A Modi roadshow in Coimbatore, March 18, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Given the 2024 general elections around the corner, it is unlikely that the allegations around electoral bonds, raised by the Opposition, will disappear easily or with a shrug of the BJP's shoulders and fabled 56-inch chest.

As we sail into elections with party posters featuring BJP candidates and Modi in the backdrop, it is clear where in this arrangement emphasising remote control, lustre may have dimmed.

Ring fencing the candidate in the poster to save him/her from Modi makes no sense.

The infection will seep through. That is the problem when guarantors are titanic in popular imagination.

One large iceberg hitting a weak spot, and down will go a whole ship. Like TV shut down thanks to remote hosting all controls, gone kaput.

It is high time the BJP realised that 'Modi's guarantee' is actually a liability for its candidates.

Even with smart technology for governance and tight monitoring of elected representatives factored in, there is something fragile, suspect about one person standing guarantor for the action plans of so many.

It speaks poorly of the party's candidates, emasculates them to mere robots awaiting instruction and renders them only as worthy as the remote control in the backdrop.

Should the remote control be sullied, its impact on the candidate is a given.

In the BJP's case, such risk is manifold because most of its candidates would be sporting Modi's face and 'Modi's guarantee' in their posters.

Further, the risk for candidates aside, there is something abnormal about a party that voluntarily limits itself to one person's vision and expects a nation of 1.3 billion people to concur that leadership-talent in their midst is so sparse.

An old game that it was adept at playing to destroy others, may now be catching up with the BJP.

Shyam G Menon is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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