Home News Narendra Modi hits rock bottom after blaming himself for everything

Narendra Modi hits rock bottom after blaming himself for everything

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When everything revolves around Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his party and its centuries-old network of Hindu nationalism are propelled to unimaginable heights.

With his unique personal charisma and political skills, he brought once-marginal religious ideology to the center of Indian life. His landslide electoral victory reshaped Indian politics, which was once dominated by a diverse coalition representing a country that achieved independence on secular principles.

But there is always a risk in entrusting the fate of a party entirely to the image of one man, and in filling a multi-religious, multi-caste, multi-cultural country with the name, face and voice of that leader. Voters may start to think that everything is about him, not about them. They may even revolt.

Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were mired in a quagmire on Tuesday, having promised their biggest electoral victory yet only to lose more than 60 seats. Modi will remain in office for a third term but will have to resort to a contentious alliance of parties, some of which oppose his core beliefs and want power of their own.

As a result, India’s strained democracy seems to have regained its strength and its beaten-down political opposition has been reinvigorated. After a decade in which Modi’s successful consolidation of Hindu supremacy often felt like the new common sense, India is looking at its leaders and itself in a new light and trying to make sense of this unexpected shift.

Most fundamentally, as Modi increasingly distorted the playing field, the opposition, reunited in what was supposedly a do-or-die moment, found a way to exploit the cult of personality around Modi to their advantage.

Opposition leaders focus on livelihood issues, often specific to particular constituencies. They slam Mr. Modi for persistent unemployment and deep inequality. But the BJP, with Mr. Modi as its sole spokesman, often has only one answer: trust “Modi’s assurances.”

“The slogan ‘Modi’s guarantee’ ended up being our undoing,” said Ajay Singh Gaur, a BJP worker who campaigned in the party’s stronghold of Uttar Pradesh, where Modi suffered his worst blow on Tuesday, losing nearly half of his BJP seats.

“The opposition’s account makes it sound as if he is not demonstrating that he has delivered on his promises or is working to deliver on them, but rather that he is an arrogant politician,” Gower said.

Modi has given his opponents many resources to exploit, and he even claimed that he might not be “biologically born” but sent by God.

So far, he has still fared better than other highly centralized Indian leaders. He still holds the levers of power that could help him and his party return to dominance. Indira Gandhi, who also boasted that she even suspended India’s democracy after declaring a state of emergency, was voted out of power at the height of her power and returned to politics three years later.

But analysts say Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, the world’s largest political party, is in trouble after years of centralizing power and relying on a one-man government apparatus. The party’s huge advantage in numbers and resources has been eroded by a lack of internal consultation and decentralization.

That was a key reason for the party’s failure in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with 240 million people, and its surrounding states. Local BJP leaders were frustrated by the top-down approach to selecting candidates and by the misguided belief that Modi’s popularity would allow the party to sidestep important local issues and caste.

With Mr Modi sucking up all the oxygen at the top, other senior party leaders have been left struggling for influence and a voice. His relentless self-aggrandisement has also alienated leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, the BJP’s right-wing fount.

During election season, the RSS activates its vast grassroots network to support BJP candidates. Although Modi was once a foot soldier for the group and he has advanced many of its goals, his consolidation of power goes against the group’s discipline and its nature of valuing ideology over individual personality.

An RSS insider, who requested anonymity to discuss internal thinking, said Modi’s self-aggrandizement had created such a deep resentment within the group that some leaders would welcome any kind of reality check against him short of ousting him from power.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, a political analyst who served as an aide to the first BJP prime minister in the 1990s, said Mr. Modi had rammed through unpopular legislation, particularly the farm laws that sparked a year of protests that choked New Delhi, without consulting party officials in the affected states. They were left to deal with the consequences on their own.

“The BJP was never a party with one leader,” Kulkarni said. “Everything changed in 2014 when Narendra Modi came to power. He tried to promote a new idea of ​​dictatorship, one country, one leader.”

The opposition believes that Modi’s popularity has reached its peak, giving him a chance to compete for a decisive portion of votes in India’s political landscape.

India’s two largest parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress, had been unable to secure a majority on their own for decades before coming to power in 2014. Modi has expanded his party’s base by consolidating right-wing Hindu voters and drawing in new supporters using his personal story of a humble caste and economic background and his promise to transform lives through strong development.

Ten years later, in this year’s elections, the opposition found that Modi’s image had changed a lot – he was the dictatorial friend of billionaires. The opposition believed that since Modi had achieved everything he set out to achieve, his pursuit of an overwhelming majority could only mean that he would seek to overhaul the constitution.

The claim stoked anxieties among India’s Dalits and other disadvantaged groups, who see the constitution as their only protection in a deeply unequal society, guaranteeing them a share of government jobs, higher education and seats in elected institutions. The opposition was able to further its message when some among Modi’s right-wing supporters, long seen as biased against upper castes, called for the quotas to be scrapped.

Caste identity is a key driver of voter participation in many states, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 parliamentary seats. The decline of Dalit parties in that state means around 20% of votes could be up for grabs.

Earlier this year, Modi inaugurated a grand Ram temple in the Ayodhya constituency in an effort to shore up his Hindu support base. The opposition fielded a Dalit candidate in Ayodhya. He easily defeated the two-term BJP incumbent.

In other cases, voters were angry at the BJP’s impunity. In Kheri constituency, a BJP minister lost after his son rammed his SUV into a crowd of protesting farmers, killing several.

In Modi’s home constituency of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, his margin of victory shrank to about 150,000 votes from nearly 500,000 in 2019 – a disappointing performance even though he has stationed some of the BJP’s most senior leaders there to help him achieve a bigger victory.

Jai Prakash, a tea and samosa vendor in Varanasi, said some of Mr. Modi’s initiatives were welcome, especially improving roads. But Mr. Prakash said Mr. Modi was missing the point by focusing on issues that had nothing to do with people’s daily lives.

“Prices are skyrocketing and unemployment is high,” Prakash said. “He has done some good things. But people can’t worship him endlessly.”

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