The Lok Sabha polls are due in around 12 months, but could be held later this year to suit the ruling party’s convenience.
If the political events subsequent to the recent Karnataka elections made it clear that preparations for the next Lok Sabha polls was on in right earnest, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cuttack speech on Saturday makes it pretty clear that Mr Modi intends to break the Opposition’s unity efforts by sending the State apparatus after them.
The Lok Sabha polls are due in around 12 months, but could be held later this year to suit the ruling party’s convenience. That would shrink the time window for the Opposition to devise a strategy to beat back the government’s tactics. From the Opposition’s perspective, the task would be to coordinate with one another, overcoming normal political rivalries to present a common face to the BJP.
From the government’s side, of course, the PM has now given enough hints that the effort would be to open more cases against leading Opposition figures on grounds of criminality and corruption. At Cuttack, Mr Modi declared the Opposition parties had come together because various agencies of his government had launched thousands of raids and sent former chief ministers to jail, suggesting that a corrupt mafia are now standing in solidarity with one another to challenge him and prevent him from cleansing the system. The message is that the raids raj will continue, and the Opposition leaders beware.
While announcing demonetisation, the PM had said he would clean the system by getting the black money out and soaking the rich so that the poor might be helped. The poor meekly absorbed this explanation and backed his party massively in Uttar Pradesh. The picture looks very different now after the economic shocks suffered by the poor due to demonetisation.
Mr Modi has now modified his narrative and claims it’s the Opposition leaders who are responsible for corruption and black money. The subliminal message is that his own government and party are clean and are being obstructed by the unity of some corrupt parties.
It remains to be seen to what extent this is accepted by the electorate. But it is amusing that a government should accuse the Opposition of corruption in loud decibels in a bid to escape scrutiny of its own term in office, when examples of doubtful conduct are scattered all around. The most recent is the effort to bribe non-BJP MLAs in Karnataka to change sides.
The PM’s implied threat of more raids on Opposition leaders and parties as the year progresses is worrying for its implications for democracy. People need to be even more vigilant.