Modi down if BJP fails in Bihar

The next 24 hrs until the Bihar election results stream in will be a pressured, stomach-churning, wait for Narendra Modi. On his party’s success ride the next three and half years of his remaining first term in office. There are many who feel the elevation of Nitish Kumar in Patna even if propped up by Lalu Yadav’s regressive casteist politics is a turn of events to be welcomed because it will compel Modi to rein in the wacko element in his own party, and even leaven the attitude of the RSS high command, who will see clearly that persisting with the unnecessary roiling of the social milieu will dim Modi’s prospects of a second term and lose the Sangh the prized political ground it now occupies and the attendant benefits. The danger and the greater likelihood, however, is that Modi’s loss will embolden the opposition parties to a point where sessions of Parliament until the general elections in 2019 will degenerate into virtual pitched battles and an interminable series of adjournment motions, etc. that will be so disruptive, it will affect the functioning of the government until it begins grinding to a stuttering halt. This is the worst possible denouement for an India which desperately needs the govt to get going on economic and administrative reforms and for the country generally to fire on all cylinders. The still worst fate is that, with the BJP regime sidelined by its failure to control the many Hindu fringe groups, single party government will acquire a bad name, and the next general elections onwards India will be saddled with gridlocked coalition governments that will be unable to work at all.

What that may mean for India’s future is nightmarish to contemplate, and will only spark rueful sentiments about what might have been had Modi trusted not the Establishment of babus — the permanent secretariat of civil servants and police officers, but his own ideological thrust of trusting in the genius of the individual and the Indian private sector instead of falling back, in effect, to save and sustain a decrepit apparatus of state habituated to corrupt practices and to spreading poverty in the guise of promoting socialist aims. And further, how very different India’s stature would have been in the world had he junked the usual retired babus he has surrounded himself with and brought in outside advisers and expertise to help him configure a more outward-looking, agile and purposeful foreign and defence policy that would take up the challenge posed by a bumptious China instead of staying with a policy set that is strategically myopic, deepened the differences with neighbouring states and, in real and substantive terms, has lost India ground (by needlessly alienating Russia, for instance), reducing the country to growing irrelevance. If Manmohan Singh’s time in office is seen in retrospsect as the “lost decade”, the one-term Modi will be dismissed as an aberration, and the responsible right-of-centre ideology –reflecting the conservatism of an Edmund Burke, say, which distrusts big government and values the liberties of the individual, that so needs to gain strength and put down roots in the Indian polity and which a few of us had seen, perhaps mistakenly, as encompassed in Modi’s ideas, will remain unmoored. And India will oscillate between Leftist populism and illiberal socialism of the Indira Gandhi variety the declining Congress Party has, post-Lal Bahadur Shastri, represented.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Pakistan, Relations with Russia, Russia, SAARC, society, South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Modi down if BJP fails in Bihar

  1. Siddappa says:

    It is symbolic, that the election in a backward state can take the country backwards.
    Losses do propel introspection.
    If Modi gets to watch his 2013-14 campaign speeches (starting from 2013’s speech at Sriram college, Delhi), he’d find his inspiration. We need that leader back, who saw the cup as not half-full, but half-filled with air & half-filled with water.

    His party itself did not believe in Mission 272, but Modi delivered it.
    His party did not wholeheartedly rally behind him, but he still trumped.

    It’s time, he starts the check-dam, electrification drive & busting administrative troubles.

    One thing is sure, If he can’t, then nobody else will.

  2. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    @BK, for somebody more inclined towards weaponry and military capability etc. the politics of getting to it all will always appear an unnecessary distraction. From there its a short distance to excessive criticism. You forget, that the original nationalist goal was 180 national seats without others in 2014. People of India has given much more than the nationalist could have asked for. You are characterizing it as a brilliant outsider vs. slogging babu when the reality is that any of these two constituents of a healthy nationalist polity will stake claim only when they have some killer app in their hands. Rest of the times both sides play by the rules. And Modi has been reasonably successful in making both sides brilliant outsider as well as the slogging babu work well. You forget that current RBI governor has been kept on the toes by the use of brilliant outsiders, even when the base of this performance by Modi was provided by the slogging babus in the years before the Lok Sabha 2014.

    Bihar is less of a lesson for BJP and more for the nationalist camp as a whole. And here is why.
    JDU was 22% votes in 2010 and is now at 17%. (Tom)
    Cong was 8.3% votes in 2010 & is now at 6.7% (Dick)
    RJD was 19% votes in 2010 and is now at 17% (Harry)
    BJP was 16.5% votes in 2010 & is now at 25%
    LJP was 6.74% votes in 2010 & is now at 5.1%
    Jitan Ram Majhi has entered at 2.3% votes this time in 2015.

    1) What has happened is that the BJP strategy on relying too much on partners has bombed badly. Shows clearly why people who are serious about their agenda must build up strength from within AKA get India R&D upto 20% of defence budget :). Do not rely on fair weather friends except when you already have undeniable advantages that you can shift around.

    2) What also has happened is that Tom, Dick and Harry have united successfully to rob Peter to pay Paul. And TDH can always rely on the support of Paul for all this. This is the easy lesson to learn for all sides. Nationalists cannot miss it. Make sure you are able to divide your opposition. In 2014 the nationalists were able to divide but not this time. Result is that even with lower vote shares the TDH+Paul have succeeded.

    The core of the BJP strategy is intact, what they have lost on, is the extra that was expected on account of the halo of 272+ they got in 2014. 272+ was not the core of the strategy even in 2014. It was a largesse given by the janata janardan. And nationalist should be thankful for it instead of using it as a new base. Bihar elections have infact shown that the base never changes by very much. Bihar, taken as a whole has voted like a compromised polity and which we have been a witness to since before 1947 (nearly 80 years now).

    In fact my take away and also my advise to Modi would be that he must not rely too much on the strategy of making the finances strong right away. It was the good work of ABV which enabled the Congress system to flourish and start muftkhori and made a bunch of lame duck people last for 2 terms. Modi must curtail the hold of Raghuram Rajan and to make the Niti Aayog work against him for good. Nationalist efforts must not yield beneficial results when the TDH are in power (give them the poisoned chalice instead, something they themselves have done always) and nationalist efforts must give economic results when they themselves are in power.

    The take ways also is that while the core Hindutva limit is around 25% (highest 30%) , the so called Vikas based vote seems like a mere ~6% (highest 10%). Ergo find new ideas that can add another at least 10%, now that Hindutva+Vikas has been properly sewn together. And find that new idea before 2017 ideally but it is a must achieve before 2019.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Do not ever forget that BJP had 2 seats in 1984 (with 7.74% voteshare). Find the common thread in all of strategizing since then and keep working away with exactly that.

      What that means is that at one point everybody was a Congressi. Today at least a confirmed 30% of India is not.

      If 7.74% can go up 4 times to 30% in 30 years then I would be more than happy if they can do that again in next 30 years.

      Nationalist vote is the next big idea with another 10% max voteshare. Go get that, tiger.

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        Oh and one more thing. Perhaps BJP thought that more men+money+manpower+machines+enterprise can help with unlimited number of votes.

        Sorry, but politics is not management.

    • SIddappa says:

      “272+ was not the core of the strategy even in 2014. It was a largesse given by the janata janardan. And nationalist should be thankful for it instead of using it as a new base.”

      Brilliant analysis.

      Nationalist efforts must not yield beneficial results when the TDH are in power (give them the poisoned chalice instead, something they themselves have done always) and nationalist efforts must give economic results when they themselves are in power.

      What you sow, that you reap…. How does that go with above statement?

      I remember Modi saying in a rally “If things are to continue, as they are, there’s no need for me to take over the job in Delhi”…
      Alas, How I cringe, he remembers that?

      As Bharat Karnad had said some time ago, Modi can either focus on winning 2019 elections or else keep looking at all elections till then.

      The die has been cast. It’s up to him, how he’ll make good on his words.
      I fervently hope, he does make Bharat’s words “just another namoona from India’s political…..” false.
      Bharat would be more than happy to be proved wrong.

      & Next time, how about putting a nice name for your sharp analysis.
      ~!@#$%^&*()_+ seems bit too vague.

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