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'Modi has gone back to the template of caste'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
Last updated on: September 22, 2021 08:38 IST
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'Modi is now the biggest messiah of OBCs and Dalits as V P Singh once was.'

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party national President Jagat Prakash Nadda, fifth from right, along with Union ministers from the Other Backward Classes category at a felicitation ceremony in New Delhi. Photograph: ANI Photo

"There was a time after 2014 where Modi chose chief ministers in states like Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana from non-dominant communities. Now in Gujarat he has gone back to the same dominant (Patel) community by getting their chief minister," Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, journalist and author of The RSS: Icons of the Indian Right and Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com in part two of a multi-part interview.

 

Earlier too, Mr Modi's popularity had dropped but he bounced back. Do you think he is at the lowest point in terms of popularity as PM?

I am not saying he will not bounce back.

It is part of an elaborate manoeuvre that he is doing to be able to bounce back.

First his popularity dipped in 2016 and he bounced back with the surgical strike and then demonetisation.

In 2017, he introduced GST very hastily and that caused tremendous problems to his popularity.

He was barely able to save the Gujarat government in the 2017 elections.

The BJP's figure dipped below 100 and they won by a very narrow margin.

In 2018, they lost the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

In 2019, when the year started, he was on the backfoot as Rahul Gandhi announced the NYAY (Nyuntam Aay Yojana) scheme if the Congress came to power.

Modi replicated Rahul Gandhi's scheme exactly the same way by launching PM-Kisan in the interim Budget of 2019.

After that came the Pulwama terror attack to be followed by retaliation as the Balakot attack (on terrorist hideouts).

All this contributed to the Modi revival.

Modi did not win 2019 because of Balakot, but also because of, what he calls, non-discriminatory social welfare programmes.

He has been saying that we do not check religious identity in welfare programmes before distributing benefits to people.

The idea (now) is to rebuild Modi's image and repackage him by the 2024 general elections by changing the CMs of states.

Even in the central ministry it is not only who he has dropped as ministers, but also who he has inducted into the ministry.

Modi has gone to the template of caste.

He is going back and working with the dominant community in specific states.

There was a time after 2014 where Modi chose chief ministers in states like Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana from non-dominant communities.

Now in Gujarat he has gone back to the same dominant (Patel) community by getting their chief minister.

He has gone to the same process of getting the Modi magic back.

What about the OBC (Other Backward Classes) vote which Mr Modi is trying to woo?

Modi has come back to it.

When Modi got elected in 2014 it was said that he has made caste irrelevant in Indian politics.

Now he has gone back to the same template.

During the last ministerial reshuffle in July 2021, it was publicised by the BJP that there were 27 OBC ministers and 12 Dalit ministers.

As someone who was part of the BJP told me, Modi has done OBC-isation of the BJP.

Modi is now the biggest messiah of OBCs and Dalits as V P Singh once was.

This is the second phase of Mandalisation of Indian politics.

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
 
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