The PM has been a larger-than-life presence since leaving behind his deeply-contested legacy in Gujarat, winning election after major election.
Not unaccountably, the focus of the BJP, and the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in celebrating the third anniversary of its formation today is Mr Modi himself. This points to the imperative of building a personality cult in a party like the BJP, and the desperate need to do so now. The Prime Minister has been a larger-than-life presence since leaving behind his deeply-contested legacy in Gujarat, winning election after major election. This underlines his critical importance not just for the BJP but to all those who seek to overturn the past associated with the era of “the Congress system”, which had an overlay of liberal and Left thought — an interregnum founded in opposition to colonial rule with which names like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were associated.
Without Mr Modi, the BJP runs the risk of returning to being a ragtag outfit. No wonder the third anniversary celebrations are centred on the “great leader” — starting with the carefully thought-out acronym of MODI, which stands for the “Making of Developed India”. The acronym explains itself, but it also betrays its innocence of the ideas of development. A “developed” India, as that word is understood by economists and social scientists, must be at least a few decades away if all goes well, and using it so freely to propel a political campaign is to mock the poor.
MODI is to be a three-week-long festival. It envisages some 450 senior ministers and BJP leaders hurling themselves at 900 points across the country to spread the message of the “achievements” of the Modi government. What these might be is surely debatable. It is hard to arrive at clear answers. Should we look at registered successes, schemes which were a good idea but simply did not take off, or the passage of legislation like GST that could not be clinched earlier because the BJP itself was the principal opponent?
The successes are too few to name. Unemployment, according to the government’s Labour Bureau, is the highest in three years, banks remain in crisis, businesses are not investing, farmer suicides have risen. On the whole, the overall economic picture does not offer too much reassurance. But the prices are down, thanks to a drastic cut in international petroleum prices. This helps improve the macroeconomic picture somewhat. On the political side, fragile Kashmir is burning. The Opposition parties are under attack. In foreign affairs, relations with China, Pakistan and Nepal — the most consequential neighbours — have slid badly.
The idea of celebrating a mere three years in office is also a brand-new one. It object appears to be to create a media hype for the next round of state elections, going into the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.