May 23, 2019

What keeps an Indian liberal awake at Night?

The biggest, nay the only, thing that keeps the Indian ‘liberals’ awake at night is the complete lack of political opposition to the juggernaut that is Narendra Modi. Not only does it lack leaders to spearhead a campaign against Narendra Modi, they do not even seem to have issues to highlight. Deft handling of both, governance and politics, by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah has all but annihilated NDA’s political opposition.

Think about it this way. Narendra Modi became the NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate in September 2013 or thereabouts. But he had first come into the nation’s gaze due to the attention showered upon him by the mainstream media during the post Godhra incidents. This was in 2002. Even Modi’s harshest critics will agree that, at the very least, here is a man of extraordinary political acumen and intelligence. His ability to sway a crowd, whether in India or abroad, of masses or classes, in person or over a social media platform, is unparalleled in recent history.

It took someone of this stature and intelligence over a decade to become a serious contender for the Prime Ministerial office. Now look at the opposition’s ranks today and try to identify who they have today that is of the stature of Narendra Modi in 2002. The Bookkeeper sees absolutely no one. As such, I am unsure if UPA has a PM candidate for 2024 even, much less 2019! One of the key reasons for this vacuum one surmises  is that UPA was hamstrung by having to project only one family as the panacea for all the ills of the country. They spent time, inventing, reinventing and re-reinventing ad nauseam a candidate who is quite frankly unelectable to the august office to which he aspires. No one else was developed or identified as a ‘plan B’.

But elections will be held and candidates will need to be put up. The question then is how the UPA will strategize in this situation. For this, The Bookkeeper makes one assumption about the UPA’s stand on 2019. The Bookkeeper believes that UPA has accepted that it is going to lose. Now they need to work around it.

The Bookkeeper does not think that Rahul Gandhi will offer himself up as the general of a losing army. This would completely take him out of any post poll power equations. The myth of Priyanka Gandhi has also been busted in the minds of many. These are no longer the times when mere resemblance to a past PM will carry anyone through to the PM’s office. As such The Bookkeeper has ruled the siblings out.

Readers can themselves figure out why old stalwarts like Sharad Pawar, Mulayam Singh, Laloo Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, Kharge, Kejriwal etc are also not in contention of the post of PM. The Bookkeeper will then not belabor himself.

The two pieces on the political chess board that mildly interest The Bookkeeper are Captain Amarinder Singh and Nitish Kumar. Nitish Kumar has had a blow hot – blow cold situation with the NDA and Laloo for the past few months. The Bookkeeper believes that politically, the correct move for Nitish would be to consolidate his position in Bihar and replace Laloo. Going head to head with Narendra Modi is not his priority. He may be seeing himself as more of backroom boy who will step in after the polls perhaps. But he is in no hurry whatsoever. He has time to wait, and wait he will. Thus The Bookkeeper believes that Nitish will not accept to become UPA’s PM candidate for 2019.

Captain Amarinder Singh is someone The Bookkeeper has come to respect among the current crop of his alternatives in Congress. As one of the few people in Congress who can win polls, I am sure he has immense clout within the Party. This makes him a serious contender to become UPA’s PM candidate. His biggest strength is his demand from both sides of the aisle which gives him strong bargaining power. Captain saab has not a lot to lose. If UPA loses badly, his position in Punjab will not be impacted. In his position, I would have been happy to become the Leader of Opposition as well and raise my national stature. In fact, The Bookkeeper would prefer having someone like him as LOP rather than the current crop. If Captain takes over the reins in 2019, it will thus to expand his hold in Congress, rather than Congress’ hold in India.

But I’m afraid, he too will be disappointed.

Assuming that the Opposition has given up on 2019, I believe they will use the opportunity to create a fertile ground for 2024. Lacking issues and personalities, the thrust of the Party will be to create narratives that can help launch a personality in time for 2024.

What are the conditions that the narrative must satisfy for it to be chosen by liberals to vanguard their revival? First of all, it should have global appeal. It is easier for donation dollars to flow in that way. The second thing, it has to be a massively emotive issue. The sort of you cannot argue against even logically without looking like some sort of a bigot. They will smother you with political correctness. Thirdly, the issue must be one where the new ‘leader’ of the opposition must squarely fit into.

There are three main issues that The Bookeeper identifies:

1) Caste divide

2) Language divide

3) Women’s rights

The Bookkeeper believes that the liberal establishment will proceed on all three paths above at the same time and then based on whichever gains traction, decide their candidate.

Narendra Modi has effectively cut off the “caste divide” angle by making Shri Kovind as the Presidential candidate (deservedly so). An astute choice of a Vice Presidential candidate has ensured that there is not North-South divide either.

The ‘Language divide’ can also be tackled through negotiations. Honestly, apart from a couple of states it really isn’t a big issue for anyone else. There will be sporadic shop-board blackenings, a few book burnings etc., but apart from these, the BookKeeper doesn’t see this becoming the next vote bank.

While both above are viable narratives for the Left, the Bookkeeper believes that the third one, Women’s Rights, will be the sharpest arrow in the Left’s quiver. Expect a massive increase in news coverage of crimes (real and made up) against women. There will be sustained efforts to show that women are unsafe in India. In fact some basic spade work has already started months back. Why, even Indian’s refer to Delhi as the rape capital of the world. There will be a massive push, burkha marches, slut walks, etc for women’s rights in India as 2019 polls approach. Demand for more and more laws will be made, marriage as an institution will be severely targeted. In fact it would be the ideal platform for the Left if they can pitch a disgruntled Woman leader against Narendra Modi, who has a fairly ‘macho’ image.

Development will no longer be an issue. It will be a ‘men vs. women’ mandate in 2019 and afterwards. The Left has no choice but to do this. It is up to the Indian electorate to be vigilant and observe the strategy pursued by the Left. Within the BJP, it would be incumbent upon the powerful lady leaders and supporters to thwart any attempts at creating this parallel narrative by the Left. This is a narrative that simply cannot be countered by Men.

The base case for this massive churn remains it happening in 2024. But it is tough to predict how a headless chicken driven to desperation will behave.

Picture Credit: Twitter, Editing by Rishabh’s Lens

Published with Permission from @BhagwaanUvacha


About The Bookkeeper 14 Articles
An intrepid accountant, investment analyst, ex fund manager, jyotish student, traveler and observer. Zinda hoon zindagi ka talabgar nahin hoon, Bazaar se guzra hoon, khareedar nahi hoon.