With the successful landing of Chandrayaan 3 on the South Pole of the Moon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on the Moon, himself, confident of making a hat-trick in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Besides the landing of Vikram, Modi is already basking in the glory of hosting the G20 Summit in India, much before the event has started and the outcome is known. The Jhuppies with the Heads of States will be a good photo-opportunity for the BJP-led NDA to showcase India’s emergence on the global stage, with its booming economy that promises to grow at a fast-pace. Modi has assured that the Indian economy will be the third largest in the world by 2028.
From the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day, Prime Minister Modi has promised to make India a Developed Nation by 2047. If one would recall, Modi came to power in 2014 with the slogan of Achhe Din. In 2019, he somehow sufficed people that the golden days are on the way, by doling out freebies to the poor. In 2023, though unemployment has increased to enormous proportions, Modi has managed to capture the imagination of the people by conjuring up the vision of Naya Bharat, with Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas and Sabka Vishwaas.
Hats off to Prime Minister Modi, who succeeded in selling the dream of an India, where the basic needs of all will “surely” be met in the near future. Majority of the 140 crore Indians believe Prime Minister Modi, swearing by his honesty and hard work. It is this personality of Prime Minister Modi, which is lacking in any of the leaders in the INDIA alliance.
Prime Minister Modi may not have fulfilled his promises, but he has a vision which he skilfully manages to project to the people. Being a good orator, he keeps on engaging with them through his Mann Ki Baat and connects with the masses instantly.
In the Opposition, no other leader, having Prime Ministerial ambitions, has the same calibre, whether it is Rahul Gandhi, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, or anyone else. At the Opposition conclave to be held in Mumbai, on August 31st and September 1, the INDIA alliance should come up with a Vision Document, enabling the voter to compare between the NDA and INDIA.
Rahul Gandhi, the most vocal of the lot, has been taking pot shots at Prime Minister Modi, left, right and centre on all the issues – whether it is on the communal violence at Nuh in Haryana, the civil strife in Manipur, land grab by China, rising inflation, or any other issue. He has been unsparing in his attacks against Modi. In fact, he does not hesitate to attack Prime Minister Modi from the front. His 4000- km-long Bharat Jodo Yatra, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, was a great success, as it benefitted his party electorally, in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka. Starting from October 2, Rahul Gandhi is learnt to undertake yet another yatra, which will be more political in nature. Unlike his first yatra, this time round, we will see a fiery Rahul, who is all set to call the bluff of the Prime Minister. But, the people here again have witnessed the plight of the Gandhi scion of landing himself in trouble every time he opens his mouth. Rahul should thank his stars that his conviction was stayed by the Supreme Court on the statement he made on the Modi community. Otherwise, he would be languishing in jail when the poll bugle would be sounded for 2024. Even in the next elections of 2029, he would have been barred from contesting.
Ironically, the leaders of the INDIA alliance are engaged in one-upmanship among themselves, rather than working in a unified manner to take-on Modi.
Now, having coined a new name for their alliance, INDIA, they should unveil a vision for the country, which counters the strategy of the Modi Government. A series of welfare measures and programmes should be unleashed, creating a wow-moment for the citizens. The voters should be in a position to judge the two alliances on their vision for India and their well-being in the years ahead. Possibly, the vision should be of a near future, so that they know which party has the capability of enhancing their lifestyle in the next five years. The poor, aspirational and the service class, besides farmers, have been disappointed with rising inflation and are hoping to get the basic needs. Raising the nationalist sentiments is welcome, but this should be accompanied by their security and well-being.
In none of the two meetings earlier, the INDIA alliance has talked about their vision for the country except to find fault with one another, raise suspicion on the sincerity of other parties, criticise the NDA, etc. Even on the basic issue of who will lead the INDIA alliance remains a mystery. Except for Lalu Yadav, who has a soft corner for Rahul Gandhi, no other leader is ready to name the Prime Ministerial candidate from the alliance. In fact, they will use all their might to embarrass the other, rather than talk about selecting their leader. An exercise to this effect has already started, where the JD (U) workers are naming Nitish Kumar as the next Prime Minister and TMC MPs are taking the name of Mamata Banerjee. The Congress is quiet, as it is not sure whether Rahul Gandhi, himself, will agree to become the Prime Minister. Who knows, at the last-minute, he may develop cold-feet and nominate Mallikarjun Kharge as the Congress candidate for Prime Minister’s post.
However, it seems unlikely this time, as the Gandhi scion is sweating it out by addressing a plethora of meetings inside & outside the country, not leaving any opportunity to spar at the Modi Government and himself undertaking strenuous yatras to join with the masses. His conviction by the Gujarat Court and upheld by the Gujarat High Court and the scathing attack mounted against him whenever he opens his mouth, by the Modi Cabinet, is all reflective of the nervousness of the Modi Government. If the elections turn out to be a contest between Modi and Rahul, even then the latter should be ready with the vision he has for India and her people.
This time round, Modi is wary of presenting himself as the sole leader of the NDA, with the slogan of “Ek Akela Sab Pe Bhaari ” having failed in the elections held in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, where he campaigned single-handedly. Knowing that his charisma is fading a bit, he has pledged to take along with him all the 38 constituents of the NDA. Since no party is keen to give these elections a Presidential form, the contest will be between INDIA of 26 parties and NDA of 38 parties. More than the personalities, therefore, it would be interesting to watch who has a better Vision for India.
(The writer is Delhi-based senior journalist and political commentator. Views are personal.)