Drawing room hopping in the capital, restricted as much by corona as by a singular absence of information on which lively political gup-shup can be sustained, came alive last week with Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik’s public assault on the Prime Minister. Narendra Modi was “ghamandi” (arrogant), he said. This was not all. He quoted Amit Shah saying unflattering things about the Prime Minister’s mental balance. Malik has not yet been removed as Governor of Meghalaya. He clashed with Narendra Modi on the issue of farmers. Is that the reason why he is not being “touched” on the eve of state elections next month, particularly in UP.

Drawing room chatterati are perking up. On political issues they are breaking out of the whispering mode; they are giving voice to speculations, even of infirm veracity. “Inside” sources are cited by the more unreliable. But when more than, say, four persons, unconnected with one another, begin to tot out the same figures, it is discreet to take note – 150 to 155 for the BJP in UP. The more adventurous speculators are bringing the figure down to 125. Why would the BJP ever accept this outcome in exchange for the 312 seats which it has at present in a House of 403?

Remember always Modi’s genius, his ability to transform a negative into a positive for himself. Look at the whodunit of his cavalcade stranded on a Punjab overbridge for 20 minutes. Had he travelled to his destination, he may have faced an almost absent audience. That is why he changed the route and ran into a traffic jam. This is the opposition narrative. His version is that he was deliberately exposed to danger. Temples have been mobilized for special prayers for the Prime Minister.

There is every likelihood of the Omicron virus peaking in February. Surely this will call for a strict adherence to Covid norms. Look how the virus galloped in Goa after the New Year eve jamboree. Can political rallies be permitted in these circumstances?

Priyanka Gandhi has already jumped the gun – no rallies for two weeks. Is there a suggestion that elections can be postponed by making Omicron the excuse because the field reports are negative for the ruling party? Should this happen, would not the thousands of crores spent on advertising one infrastructure project after another go down the sump?

This invites the riposte: once the public has been made aware of the good works the government has done – in this case Yogi Adityanath – electoral advantage can be extracted within a reasonable period. This line of thinking ignores a fundamental reality: public memory is very short, shorter still in the time of google. This advertising blitz must be encashed immediately because otherwise there is nothing as dead as yesterday’s newspaper and nothing less persuasive than stale ads.

Ground reality is that the wind is not blowing in the BJP’s favour. The surge for Akhilesh Yadav is in reality a surge against the BJP. “Hubbe Ali kum; bughz e Muaviya zyada'' which means “not for love of Ali but for hatred of Muaviya, Ali’s implacable enemy.” For a precise application of this aphorism the BJP will have to be broken up into its constituent parts. The surge in UP is against the Yogi. Modi is losing points largely by association with Yogi Adityanath.

The extent to which the BJP High Command has a say in UP, Yogi will be the fall guy either way. Victory in UP will be because of Modi’s tireless campaigning. Defeat will be placed at the Yogi’s door.

In other words, this could well be Yogi’s last term in Lucknow – so goes the drift of drawing room punditry. Those who claim to possess inside information talk of a tussle between the Yogi and High Command. Yogi is demanding 120 seats for his Hindu Yuva Vahini. He imagines this would give him leverage to dig his heels in should there be a move to replace him even in the event of a BJP victory.

Modi’s eyes are primarily set on the 2024 General Elections. Towards that goal UP is an irreplaceable staging post. Win or lose in UP, can the BJP ever go into a national election without hardening the Hindutva already in play.

The hard Hindutva, relentless minority bashing, scared voters into believing they were on God’s side because it flowed straight into the global torrents of Islamophobia during the post 9/11 war on terror. A miraculous coincidence has gone totally unnoticed by the global media. Modi was sent to Ahmedabad to replace Keshubhai Patel. He took charge on October 7 as Chief Minister. October 7 turned out to be the date of choice for the Pentagon to launch the war on terror, with Afghanistan as the target.

TV sets world over were saturated with fireworks in Afghanistan. Geraldo Rivera of Fox News was brandishing a gun on camera. “I shall shoot Osama if I see him.” Hysterical Islamophobia was enveloping the world. It was in that mood of global bigotry that Modi’s Hindutva was given shape. Hindutva had tailwinds of global Islamophobia behind it.

Circumstances today are exactly the opposite of what they were when Modi embarked on blood curdling Hindutva. Not only is there no Rivera flourishing a gun in front of the camera to finish Osama bin Laden and his cohorts, the Mujahideen have since mutated into Taliban.

Today the Taliban are the rulers in Kabul. Sooner or later a photograph will appear of Modi and a Taliban, even a Pakistan leader in some international conference on Afghanistan. Global and regional development are not conducive to a hard line. Hindutva by itself is politically useless.

You don’t win elections on beef and love Jihad. Communalism has to be tied to nationalism to yield political results. In other words Balakot and Kashmir are required to stir up the cauldron. That string to Modi’s bow may loosen further as 2024 approaches.