Bihar Elections: Arrogance, Ineptness and Over-confidence
PM Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah at a rally in Bihar
Considering the amount of capital invested by the BJP in the recently concluded Bihar Elections, the results of which were announced on 08 November, it has been a monumental disaster, not only for the Party but also for PM Modi personally. While the party depended on the traditional methods of winning- aka caste, creed and religion, the PM lost it all because of his convoluted rhetoric in the large number of rallies he addressed, in which cynicism, bad-mouthing the opposition and boasting prevailed. It reminds me of an earlier election when the BJP had also squandered its achievements under PM Vajpayee by its India Shining campaign and again in 2014 when its smugness gave Delhi on a platter to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
After all the bragging and chest thumping, the BJP and its two leaders, Amit Shah and PM Modi, have returned to their lairs to lick their wounds. It may be recalled that they had done the same after last year’s Delhi Elections. The plan they came out with at that time was persistent hounding of the AAP, which has not only brought no results but has had its repercussions in Bihar too.
The political pundits and analysts would no doubt give you a ball-by-ball account, but mine is only a broad analysis of macro issues from a completely apolitical person, like all my colleagues and comrades in the Indian Military.
The reasons for the debacle stare you in the face, but our linear thinking political leaders continue to be steeped in their past experiences, completely forgetting that the electorate has changed drastically. It no longer gets enthused by rhetoric’s; race, caste and religious considerations; promises of big and small rewards; and even freebies and doles. It now wants development, jobs and actions. This is a phenomenon across the board, but specifically among the younger generation. They are also wary of outsiders as candidates, as it had happened when a rank outsider, Kiran Bedi was sought to be foisted on the Delhi electorate, instead of local leaders of standing.
Our netas need to learn that we now have a discerning, well-informed electorate, who have stopped voting en-mass as they used to do. This implies that the usual paraphernalia of elections like election raths; party-coloured flags, caps and scarves; massive rallies; leaders unknown to the people descending from Delhi, Nagpur and elsewhere; the PM himself making innumerable trips and addressing rallies; and even ancient Bollywood Actors; no longer impress the electorate. Hopefully, our netas and their loyal/sycophant advisers will be more circumspect in future, as many states are lining up for elections in the next two years.
In my view there are four macro-level reasons for the drubbing received by the BJP, despite its overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha. The first is going back on promises made during its election campaign for the Lok Sabha in 2014-15. The second is their foolish plans/actions to force their brand of Hindutva on all in a country known since time immemorial for its inclusiveness and restraint, so well manifested in that phrase Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
The third is ignoring the legitimate requests and legally correct demands/requests of the Indian Armed Forces. This is not confined only to the long-standing demand for OROP, but includes continuing with the policy of steady downgrading of the armed forces, instead of halting it and completely changing the government’s outlook on the warriors who defend the nation and ensure a safe and secure environment for the stability and security of the economic progress of the country. The fourth and last is its inability to convert its ‘talk’ to ‘walk’ in all spheres of governance, particularly in creating jobs for the burgeoning strength of the young generation of the country.
Let me deal with only two of these in detail, as the others are self-explanatory.
The much touted promise of rapid economic growth seems to have given way to actions related to religious and social intolerance issues that are unraveling the secular fabric of the nation. The growing protests against Hindu chauvinism have unfortunately neither been noted by the government nor actions taken to curb them. While this may be the handiwork of only small elements, as claimed, the impression gaining ground is that it is the ruling party that is perpetuating it and that the PM is doing little to stamp it out. One starkly visible result is the election results in Bihar announced on 08 November, where the BJP has been routed, to put it mildly.
The BJP and Modi Bhagats try to rationalize it by saying that he is being unfairly targeted by the left-leaning elite, who feel threatened by his rise. Whatever be the truth, such perceptions do have lasting impressions.
The second issue I want to discuss in some detail is related to the present government reneging on its promises made during the run up to the general elections of 2014. The government has studiously ignored the legitimate and legally correct requests/demands of the armed forces, not only relating to the OROP issue, but also on many other issues like modernization, higher defence reforms, taming the self-serving bureaucracy and not progressing even one defence-related issue that was highlighted repeatedly in its manifesto. One senior central government minister, who lost his election but was nonetheless made a senior minister of the cabinet, has publically stated that all poll promises cannot be met!!
Historically, political leaders and parties who have ignored or side-lined the legitimate aspirations and advice of the armed forces, have invariably suffered. Only a few examples will suffice to prove the point.
In 1948, ignoring the professional advice of the military, the then PM Pt Nehru went to the UN asking for a cease fire in J&K when the army was winning on all fronts and would have thrown out the Pakistani forces from the whole of J&K in just a few months more. Resultantly, we are still entangled in the Kashmir issue, which is becoming intractable all the time. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, not paying heed to towering leaders of the army, like Thimayya and Thorat, resulted in the ignominious defeat of India in the 1962 War. Political leaders like Krishna Menon got the boot, while Pt. Nehru became a broken man and soon passed away.
In 1971, Indira Gandhi accepted the advice of Sam Manekshaw and the Indian Military gave the nation the biggest victory ever.
In 1999, the BJP won the elections on the back of the gallantry and bravery of the officers and men of the armed forces during the Kargil War. Even though the government had restrained the forces from crossing the Line of Control, the troops with their valiant actions brought victory by throwing out all Pakistani troops. It may not be well –known but the elections that followed later that year were won by the BJP only because of the victory by the armed forces at great cost.
The 10 year rule of the Congress Party and its allies that followed was marked by not meeting the aspirations of the armed forces. In addition, the government politicized the appointments of some Army Chiefs and no modernization of the military was carried out. Instead, the government pandered to the greed of the bureaucrats and ignored the legitimate aspirations of the military like OROP, Rank Pay, pension and disability anomalies and forcing them to fight expensive battles in courts. The result was the mother of drubbings when the Congress and its associated parties suffered their worst ever defeat at the elections.
In 2014, it was the military that got carried away by the rhetoric of Narendra Modi and supported him and his party overwhelmingly. It was not just the rhetoric but the military also discerned a capable and energetic leader who would set right the historic decline of the Indian Military at the hands of naive netas and a wily bureaucracy. It is sad that once Modi was safely ensconced as the PM with a massive mandate, he forgot the armed forces. The Delhi elections and now the Bihar ones will hopefully wake him from his somnolent avatar.
PM Modi needs to get back his sagacity, which has been truant for quite some time. He is a shrewd politician and has the intelligence and energy to lead the country provided he dumps some of the useless baggage he has accumulated. His inept colleagues and bureaucratic advisers notwithstanding, I continue to believe that he will be a highly capable leader who will take our country to greater heights, provided he gets rid of the dead wood surrounding him and restores the pride and status of the Indian Military.