Even if you are a fully paid-up bhakt, with a blind love for the BJP and a visceral hatred for the Congress, it should be blazingly obvious in the privacy of your mind that the Narendra Modi story has not gone as per script in the last 40 months.
Indeed, the “Gujarat Model” has swerved and veered off so completely from the promised path to redemption, aka #AccheDin, that the claim of a #NewIndia by 2022 sounds like a pathetic joke being played on unwashed millions signing up for Reliance Jio.
There is also no question that the last 40 days of the last 40 months have been possibly the worst 40 days in Narendra Modi’s “first term” as prime minister. And we aren’t just talking of riots, railway accidents, or hospital deaths.
# August 9: A resounding rebuff from the Election Commission during Ahmed Patel‘s re-election to the Rajya Sabha.
# August 24: An unambiguous 9-0 unanimous signal from the Supreme Court: privacy is a fundamental right of every Indian citizen.
# August 26: A stinging certificate of failure from the Reserve Bank of India on the November 8 demonetisation.
# August 26: Timely reminder from Punjab & Haryana high court that “PM is of India, not of BJP” after handling of riots post Baba Ram Rahim conviction.
# August 28: An embarrassing withdrawal from Doklam after the two-month-long standoff with China.
# August 30: RBI announcing that GDP growth rate has slipped to its lowest in three years, plunging to 5.7 per cent.
# September 5-12: A thorough repudiation of the politics of hatred and intolerance by citizens following the killing of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh.
# September 11: UN high commissioner for human rights expresses “dismay over increasing intolerance towards religious and broader minorities”.
# September 13: BJP-backed students’ union ABVP handed a crushing defeat in the Delhi University Students Union elections.
On top of these pointers, and notwithstanding all the outward bravado, some worrying signals have emerged from inside the sangh parivar.
# August 30: Anna Hazare, the RSS’s secret signal man, threatens to restart his stir for a Lokpal in Delhi after 39 months of non-action.
# September 10: BJP president Amit Shah exhorts the youth not to “blindly believe anti-BJP propaganda being circulated on Facebook and WhatsApp.”
# September 13: The RSS has “alerted the Modi government to signs of a shift in the public mood over the Modi government’s performance”.
And finally, as if all this wasn’t enough, a man written off as a failure delivered a speech with grace and gravitas—prompting the BJP to field 17 spokespersons, 11 Union ministers and 7 ministers of state to respond.
The short point is: Narendra Modi, 66 going on 67, looks scarily vulnerable. And the BJP looks rattled. A second-term or a third-term doesn’t look as certain as it did.
Fundamental questions which should have been asked of his claims and powers long before his election in 2014 are now being asked of his political, economic and strategic acumen—not to mention the means and methods to achieve them.
The natural-born leader that India voted for….
OK, the natural-born leader that 31 per cent of Indians voted for….
OK, the natural-born leader that 31 per cent of Indians who went out to vote in May 2014 voted for, looks all too human.
The question is not if he could fail to make a come back for a second term in 2019. The question is, if he loses, does he have the humility in him to see himself as an Opposition leader. And what kind of Opposition leader will he be?
It’s not a trivia question, it’s a counterfactual question.
Photograph: courtesy Financial Express