How the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tactically strategizes the conduct of important political events at critical junctures of time to ensure maximum political gains. The article reflects a plethora of incidents and examples to elucidate the theme – if the much talked of and apprehended simultaneous elections in 2018 in India (a year earlier than the completion of the regular general election cycle) are also an inherent component of this complex nexus of timing.
One thing that is undoubtedly mention-worthy about the incumbent central government is its acute sense of what is called “perfect timing”. Be it sweeping the 2014 general elections on a “pro-development and anti-corruption” manifesto ‘exactly’ when the Indian populace was strongly disappointed with the then incumbent UPA government being regularly embroiled in several corruption scandals, or inviting US President Barack Obama as the Chief Guest of the Republic Day function right before the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections, or the 2016 demonetisation stunt which, in addition to stealing half of the newly-elected US President Donald Trump’s limelight, is also said by many, to have been a very fine political move before upcoming elections in 5 major states, the Prime Minister Modi-led NDA government is indeed a ‘master in strategizing’. And may be that is one of the reasons, why it continues to retain a firm grip over its popularity among the masses.
It’s not even been a quarter of a year since PM Modi celebrated his grand victory in the 2017 state assembly elections that he has yet another occasion to rejoice – the 3rd anniversary of his biggest victory ever in an election that India will never forget (2014 elections). But as they say, ‘soup is a dish for starter or for the sick”, seems like the day which must have given some a reason to commemorate, ended up giving goosebumps and nightmares ‘to be wiped off from memory ASAP’ to others.
PM Modi changed the reason why the world “will remember” 08/Nov/16
New Delhi is 09 hours 30 minutes ahead of Washington DC. Seems like it’s just not the sun which embraces the east earlier but also political tremors which shake the east prior. Just hours before all the Americans stepped out of their homes to re-create history by electing their 45th President, the people in India were taken aback with the Prime Minister of India announcing the ‘policy of demonetization’ taking effect from midnight on the said day. Within a bat of eyelids, currency notes of bigger denominations like 500 & 1000 became officially ‘nonlegal tender’ and, to put in layman’s terms, basically ‘useless’.
The noble vision of the Indian Government behind giving a nod to this idea of blowing the then already foggy country with an overnight blizzard of demonetization was (as was then said !) the ‘elimination of the operation of the parallel black economy’.
But like former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram rightly pointed out – “how could demonetization check black money?”. The government and its ministers claimed and still do that this new scheme is a decisive war against black money but have so far failed to explain ‘how’. Let’s think logically for once.
Is all the black money hoarded in cash? It’s too kiddish to assume that the people who could carve master plans to dupe the hawk eyes of the tax department and sneak away with a galore of illegal wealth, never to be declared and thus, not liable to be taxed ever, would have hoarded them in gunny bags full of banknotes. In today’s world, to exhale the stress of getting caught and be fined for black money, people have explored refined ways of laundering money which include but may not be limited to converting the ‘black’ money into ‘gold’ and billions or stashing it away in benami properties, offshore bank accounts and foreign currency. Only the small fish keep their ill-gotten wealth in domestic currency notes and the impact on black money will therefore be very limited in this exercise.
We will not go into the deeper questions of the current economic growth slowdowns for 6 consecutive quarters, the massive economic burden on the government treasury to manufacture (additional, unapprehended yet gigantic expenditure) newer notes and alter ATM panels (economic burden again !) to make them receptive of the new note pattern plus the domestic currency mints which suffered huge losses due to this sudden decision and hence, their demand to be “compensated” (economic burden) adequately, the rapid decline in investments in India, and et cetera. No. We won’t talk about that.
Because a bigger question is here – with polls “then” approaching in five states (Punjab, Manipur, Goa, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh – where the BJP later won and subsequently formed governments in 4 out of 5 states, the only exception being Punjab), was this an economically overt yet politically covert move, with an undisputably remarkable example of “well-timed coincidence” ?
08/Nov/16: India “lost” big cash, Trump “missed” 100% limelight, BUT PM Modi…he “won”.
Unfolding and probing into the “already known” scandals
The NDA government stated that, “May 17, 2017 was the day of accountability for the “corrupt”.” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stoutly asserted that the “day of reckoning” has come for many and they will be held accountable for their misdeeds.
These statements flowed following the CBI and I-T raids on former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and former Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav respectively. While CBI raided 14 properties connected to Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram in Chennai, the I-T department raided 22 premises in Delhi and Gurugram in connection with benami land deals and tax evasion to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore allegedly made by former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad’s sons and daughter.
CBI confirmed that the raids in Chennai were related to INX Media, formerly owned by the allegedly sordid duo, Peter and Indrani Mukerjea. The agency alleged that Karti received kickbacks from this company when his father was the finance minister in return for his help in allegedly getting the finance ministry to overlook irregularities. Specifically, INX Media crossed the approved limit of foreign direct investment (FDI) by bringing in Rs 305 crore as FDI, as opposed to the approved FDI of Rs 4.62 crore.
On the other hand, the I-T department raids come after some BJP leaders alleged last week that Lalu Prasad’s daughter Misa Bharti and his two sons were involved in benami land deals to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore.
But the question here is – “why NOW?” (since the scandals were/are already in the public’s knowledge, that too since a good long period of time).
PM Modi’s Colonial Inspiration
After years of sovereignty and democracy, the one menace that’s still got India in its clutches is our people’s crave and craze to “stick” to rotten roots, even while “superficially” campaigning to uproot those. The Constitution, the people, the country – everybody wants an end to caste-based discrimination but how ? By time and again, addressing “them” as “Dalits” and thus, “begging” for votes for them ?
Am I expected to underline the legitimacy or competency of a candidate only and exclusively because s/he is from a historically under-privileged background (but now no longer so due to the extensive usage of government sponsored benefits) ? I don’t remember of the Constitution mentioning this qualification of “being a Dalit” as a criterion to be the President of India. Caste-in-politics is such a vice. But unfortunately both the ruling party and the opposition fielded their respective candidates for the 1st citizen of India, the President of India, by introducing them as “Dalit faces”, whereas both the candidates had achieved distinctiveness in their respective career paths. Mr. Kovind, the incumbent President, has been an eminent lawyer and the Governor of Bihar while Ms. Kumar, his opponent, is, by education a lawyer, and by profession an Indian Diplomat (Indian Foreign Service Batch of 1975), a former cabinet minister, five-time Member of the Parliament and the 1st woman Speaker of the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Parliament) of India. Why couldn’t they be presented as “distinguished and qualified professionals” ??
Nominating Mr. Kovind, hence, meant 3 fundamental victories for PM Modi.
- BJP now has THE foolproof minority appeasement card. Because as Ms. Kumar pointed out – the Presidential Polls were announced at a time when the incumbent government was facing charges of being anti-minority post the incidents of religious intolerance and lynching. Posing a man from the Minority community as its Presidential candidate was the most welcoming and perhaps the only option left with the ruling party so as to perform the required ablutions to cleanse the anti-minority charges stamped on its head.
- Another plus point with choosing Mr. Kovind was his being the Governor of “Bihar”, the state where the BJP had tasted a humiliating defeat in the previous elections and the state ruled by a staunch anti-BJP alliance led by Nitish Kumar, PM Modi’s direct rival and critic “then”. Plus, Bihar accounts for nearly 8.2% of the country’s total “Dalit” population as revealed by the 2011 census. So, BJP can now look forward to a riper vote bank in Bihar in the next election.
- Because Unity is strength, so, “Divide and Rule”. Nitish Kumar, Bihar CM, and PM Modi may have had a difficult equation in the past, but there are no permanent enemies in politics but only permanent interests. The “Grand Alliance’s” another prominent leader AND Nitish Kumar’s decades-long personal arch-rival, Lalu Prasad Yadav was used as a pawn in this game of power and politics where Mr. Yadav was roped in by Mr. Kumar when he came to power in Bihar in 2015 with the support of his “anti-Modi” alliance but seems like they couldn’t let go of their rivalry. A strong team needs loyal team members but in Bihar, teams are more likely to change their allegiances even with the slightest sight of a bait of power – Mr. Kovind’s candidature was a strong enticement that Mr. Kumar could not resist. Thus, the Presidential Nominee’s being the Bihar Governor could not have been a mere coincidence but rather, a very well-planned step to divide the already bitter and frictional Nitish-Lalu alliance. Now the alliance has been shattered into smithereens and Nitish Kumar is back in PM Modi’s team which clearly emboldens the fact that PM Modi has successfully wiped out his biggest rivals and the possibility of even the most negligible opposition to his rule.
So, it’s all win-win for PM Modi this time !
The NEW Rajya Sabha Hegemon !
It is for the “first time” in the political chronicle of India that all the four top constitutional posts are held by people affiliated to and owing allegiance to the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). After Mr. Kovind’s decisive victory in the Presidential polls, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, popular BJP leader and former Union Cabinet Minister, was nominated and later elected to the office of the Vice President of India. Although it was officially stated that Mr. Naidu’s experience as a four-time Rajya Sabha MP made him well-versed with parliamentary proceedings and hence, the suitability of his candidature. But the fact that the main objective behind selecting Naidu (who then held important ministerial portfolios like that of Information and Broadcasting, Urban Development and Housing and Urban Poverty alleviation) and pitting him against Opposition candidate Mr. Gopal Gandhi – a former bureaucrat, West Bengal governor and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi – “may” have been a rather strategic move to tame the belligerent Congress-led Opposition in the Rajya Sabha where the government is in minority, cannot be entirely ruled-out.
The second reason that weighed in favour of Naidu was his being from the South. After the selection of Uttar Pradesh (North) born Ramnath Kovind for the post of President, the BJP may have prioritised a regional balance “this time” in order to woo the voters from South India, where the party is a little far from a remarkable presence.
Moreover, unlike the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha has a galaxy of veteran leaders of substance (in the Opposition) – like P Chidambaram, Ahmed Patel, Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jairam Ramesh – who have been able to keep the government under extreme pressure. The Deputy Chairman PJ Kurian is from the Congress and does not always play ball with the BJP. So, in a smart political move, the BJP fielded Mr. Venkaiah Naidu as its vice presidential candidate, who is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, “at a time” when the government still lacks majority in the Rajya Sabha to push crucial constitutional amendment bills.
1.3 billion Indians but 13 months to appoint just one Governor? ?
Mr. Konijeti Rosaiah’s term as Tamil Nadu Governor ended on 30 August 2016. Maharashtra’s incumbent Governor Mr. C. Vidyasagar Rao was given additional charge as Tamil Nadu Governor from 2 September 2016 to 30 September 2017 (1 year and 1 month approximately). And Mr. Banwarilal Purohit became the new Governor of Tamil Nadu on 30 September 2017. Question is in a country with 1.3 billion people, why did it take us 1 year and 1 month to appoint a new governor to a state ? That 1 year and 1 month was the exact period when that state, Tamil Nadu, was amid intense political turmoil after their popular political pioneer, Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa; a period when a single man was left to juggle between two of the biggest and most politically active yet strenuous states; a period when two political rivals started washing each other’s dirty linens in public; a period when oath taking and ministerial portfolios became a joke; a period when a 20-year old disproportionate assets case was finally closed with a ground-shaking verdict. A period whose aftermaths still find their ways into the national headlines daily.
But still no one was given the independent, not ad-hoc/additional, charge of being the Tamil Nadu Governor. A state was left to boil and burn post its matriarch’s demise yet nobody from the Centre made a single attempt to recruit a Governor. Why ? The man who appoints the Governor, then incumbent His Excellency The President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and there’s no dearth of qualified candidates in India then, why this “unexplained” delay ?
And you say, “timing” isn’t one of the many specialities of Modiji ?
Look at the bigger picture – 2019!
Well, no amount of analyses and assumptions can ever advance a concrete theory on the “why this day” question; after all, politics is but understood only by a few. But what a common man can draw from this entire scene is – all of what is happening now and all of what is about to happen is and will always be in line with the 2019 general elections.
Ooops !! Now that the talks of simultaneous elections happening in 2018 are also doing rounds, who knows when the next elections are due !
Now ‘only time’ will explain if NaMo’s ‘theory of timing’ worked !
Ananya served as the Analyst for The Indian Economist and currently, discharge the roles of the Global Ambassador for the Kosmos Journal (USA), the Alumni Ambassador for the Yale Young Global Scholars (Yale University, USA), and the Goodwill Ambassador for the Committee for Legal Aid to Poor (CLAP, India). Ananya isa regular contributor to The Huffington Post , TUNZA Eco-Generation (powered by UNEP & Samsung Engineering), Voices of Youth (powered by UNICEF), and have also been a blogger for The SPAN, the official magazine of the US Embassy in India in the past. Ananya have also been on board of the editorial team of the Novak Djokovic Foundation. In addition, she also worked with the Climate Trackers as an editor- translator where she translated and edited handbooks on Climate Change , which she later presented at COP-22 in Morocco . She has been awarded a silver prize in the senior category of the International Essay Competitiorganizedsed by the Royal Commonwealth Society twice, in 2014 & 2016 respectively, on the merit of her submitted entries & as recommended by the jury panel. She was a special invitee at the International Literary Fest chaired by Ruskin Bond.