Last month, it was the Seventieth Anniversary. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Master of the Red Fort. Amit Shah declared his target of 150 more seats, and good luck seemed to be in his bag. Now, with the mayhem in Haryana, third train derailment within 10 days, more children dying in Gorakhpur and the deluge in Mumbai, they may well think that while a week is a long time in politics, the 21 months to the general election is a very short time.
The Dera Sacha Sauda is a bigger problem for the BJP than it would be for other parties. Opposition parties may have taken Baba Ram Rahim’s blessings but can turn secular when they smell trouble. ‘Godmen’ are a BJP speciality. They are popular with BJP voters and their cadre. BJP legislators (apart from the ones who are ‘god-persons’ themselves) love to rush to them for blessings and take selfies. The ethos of ‘godmen’ is one with that of the BJP. The Prime Minister needs to tackle this problem urgently.
These ‘godmen’ are not just holy. They are big business. They receive millions in donations; no doubt, free of tax. Were they Christian missionaries, they would have to register, be subject to audit and FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) rules. But who would bell the cat if the cat can hand you a vote bank? They think they are above the law, and so do their followers.
Hence the deaths and destruction following the rape conviction of the Baba. The chickens have come home to roost. It is obvious that the Haryana government abdicated and instructed the Army and police to go soft on August 25. This was very much like Kalyan Singh and Babri Masjid 25 years ago. Then, Narasimha Rao sat passive. The Congress paid the price.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is protected by the RSS. Modi could not sack Khattar. The blame will not attach to Khattar. In India today, all blame falls on Modi. He may want his ‘sankalp’ but his party wants to flaunt power. The grass-roots don’t care about sabka saath. They want to harass Muslims on one pretext or another. Or to show their devotion to guilty ‘godmen’ and go on a rampage. It is their government. What can police do?
You never know when a sparrow will become a sparrowhawk. A third railway accident looks bad for minister Suresh Prabhu, who has tried his best to change the Railways, which has been neglected for the last 50 years. A tragedy like Gorakhpur will not be easily forgotten. It is another story of 50 years of neglect. But Modi will get the blame, as the Yogi (CM Adityanath) continues to care more about Vande Mataram for madrasas than dying babies. People will take note. Mumbai is run by the Shiv Sena, an NDA partner, but Maharashtra by the BJP. The Sena’s neglect will hurt the BJP.
Modi will have to crack the whip. Elections will be won on sabka vikas. Growth will have to be faster than the latest estimate of GDP growth of 5.7 per cent. How are jobs to be created if the economy is faltering? How long before the GST beds down? When are farmers’ incomes going to rise? Modi needs to reassure voters.
Elections are hard to win but easy to lose. Beware the Electorate. It can surprise anyone.