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Will Modi be able to tackle saffron fundamentalism and usher in ‘achhey din’?

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By Amulya Ganguli

To most supporters of Narendra Modi, including those outside the saffron fold who welcomed his economic agenda, the prime minister’s tenure so far has been disappointing. That he has sensed the uneasy public mood is evident from his directive for action against non-performing bureaucrats.

But, apart from disciplining the officials, what is expected of him is the kind of sternness which he showed as the Gujarat chief minister. As a result, he was able to marginalize his predecessors like Keshubhai Patel and silence rabble-rousers like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Pravin Togadiya.

In Delhi, he has taken similar effective action against incorrigible troublemakers like Yogi Adityanath and seems to have persuaded Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat to refrain from saying that all Indians are Hindus.

But his task remains incomplete as the hooliganism of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists recently showed in Allahabad University, where they held a senior journalist hostage in the vice chancellor’s office to prevent him from speaking at a seminar. Their charge against the journalist was that he was “anti-national”, a label which they also used to defame the Dalit student, Rohith Vemula, who recently committed suicide in the Hyderabad Central University.

It is patent enough that Modi’s call for upholding constitutional governance, under which anti-nationals are to be identified only by the state and not vigilante groups, is not being heeded by some of his party members and associates.

There is little doubt that their words and deeds are reflexive in nature. Having been tutored in the RSS shakhas (schools) to regard themselves as the epitomes of patriotism, the saffron-tinted activists have routinely dubbed those not adhering to their creed as enemies of the nation.

Their pursuit of the same line, despite Modi’s restraining efforts, is the main reason why sections of the intelligentsia have expressed misgivings about the prevailing intolerance in their view. Had the prime minister, followed up his general advice with firm admonitions on specific occasions, the sense of despondency might have been dissipated.

But perhaps because he feels that it is below his dignity to react to the various incidents which can appear to be minor in the larger perspective, he prefers either to say nothing or leave it to the party president Amit Shah and others to speak to those who step out of line.

However, his “dangerous silence”, as the New York Times once called it, has begun to hurt the party as mavericks like Subramanian Swamy continue their campaign for building the Ram temple and suggestions are made by the RSS chief to regulate the media “to ensure that no ill-effects prevails in society” as a result of their writings.

Although the temple is unlikely to be built in the near future – if at all – or Mohan Bhagwat’s veiled plea for censorship implemented, it is a familiar tactic of fascistic outfits to keep on harping on their provocative projects to sustain communal tension.

It is not surprising, therefore, that an opinion poll has shown Modi’s ratings to be higher than the BJP’s. There is little doubt that at the national level, the people across the board continue to repose considerable faith in his pro-development program even if it is yet to reach the take-off point.

But what the BJP has to be wary of is, first, the significance of the party’s lower approval rating and, second, the fact of its inconsequence in states like West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puduchery which will go to the polls this year. Only in Assam, which will also go to the polls, can it expect to fare reasonably well, but it is still a touch-and-go affair.

In Uttar Pradesh, too, the BJP may face a hard time next year because of the alienation of sizable sections of Muslims and Dalits in the aftermath of the targeting of so called beef-eaters and the suicide of Rohith Vemula.

Amit Shah is right in saying that just as the political polarization at one time pitted Indira Gandhi against the rest, it is now Modi vs the rest. But there is a slight difference – the middle class today is much larger and more politically active than it was in Indira Gandhi’s time. Modi’s high approval rating comes from this segment of society, which was also largely responsible for his victory in 2014.

But it is also a group which will not take kindly to the antics of the ABVP, the Shiv Sena and other Hindu militants. It is also possible that they are siding with Modi at present because there is no alternative at the all-India level. But this isn’t the case in the states, which is why the BJP is unlikely to have an easy run in the assembly elections.

To give the party a nationwide edge, the prime minister will have to crack the whip much harder where the saffron fundamentalists are concerned, for even an eight percent growth rate will not help him to usher in the missing achhey din if the extremists continue to rave and rant against the “anti-nationals”. (IANS)

Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal.

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Karnataka Polls: BJP On The Way to Win, Congress May Get Hard Defeat

Any party or grouping will need 113 of the total 224 seats to secure a majority in the Assembly. Polling did not take place in two constituencies on Saturday.

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A state of 60 million people, Karnataka is home to the Information Technology hub of Benguluru and was ruled by the BJP once before.
Congress may have to taste defeat in Karnataka, VOA

The BJP was on Tuesday set to return to power in its southern bastion Karnataka as its candidates crossed the half-way mark in vote count, stunning and ousting the ruling Congress and leaving the JD-S at the third spot.

Noisy celebrations broke out in party offices in Bengaluru, New Delhi and across Karnataka as Bharatiya Janata Party nominees were on the victory lap in 118 of the 222 constituencies which voted on Saturday.

This was a dramatic jump from the 40 seats the BJP won five years ago.

The Congress, desperate to retain power in the state amid shrinking appeal nationally, suffered major blows and was ahead only in 62 seats, with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah trailing in both the constituencies he contested: Badami and Chamundeshwari.

The Congress leader was way behind G.T Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal-Secular in Chamundeshwari, Election Commission officials said. And after leading initially, Siddaramaiah fell behind B.R. Sriramulu of the BJP in Badami.

In contrast, the BJP’s Chief Ministerial face B.S. Yeddyurappa was ahead of his Congress rival by more than 11,000 votes in Shikaripura.

Energy Minister and Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar said that the numbers indicated that his party was on the way out after five years in power.

Any party or grouping will need 113 of the total 224 seats to secure a majority in the Assembly. Polling did not take place in two constituencies on Saturday.

The BJP was overjoyed. “We are in a jubilant mood because we have crossed the half-way mark. We are confident of winning,” spokesman S. Shantharam told IANS.

BJP activists and leaders celebrated noisily in both Bengaluru and New Delhi, waving party flags and shouting slogans hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their main vote-getter, and party President Amit Shah.

There were also celebrations outside the residence of Yeddyurappa, who has been Chief Minister earlier too.

Of the 2,654 candidates in the fray for the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections, at least 883 are crorepatis and 645 have criminal cases against them, said two watchdogs after analysing their affidavits filed with the Election Commission (EC).
Karnataka Polls counting suggests big win for BJP, wikimedia commons

The Janata Dal-Secular of former Prime Minister H.D. Dewe Gowda, which has been expected to play the role of a kingmaker in the event of a hung Assembly, was leading in 40 seats — the same number it won five years ago.

As the vote count progressed, BJP leaders became assertive, saying they were confident of taking power again in Karnataka while Congress leaders began to speak about the possibility of an alliance with the JD-S.

BJP leader and Union Minister Sadanand Gowda said that there was no question of any alliance.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar, who is in charge of Karnataka, met BJP President Amit Shah in New Delhi.

Analysts said the BJP was leading in Lingayat dominated seats and the JD-S in Vokkaliga dominated areas.

Expectations of a BJP victory in Karnataka lifted the key Indian equity indices during the mid-morning trade session on Tuesday.

Modi’s Performance: Survey Reports That Significant Number of People Rate Performance of Modi Government as Below Expectations

According to market observers, broadly subdued Asian indices and disappointing macro-economic inflation data points released on Monday capped some gains.

Sector-wise, healthy buying was witnessed in banking, capital goods, metals, consumer durables and automobile stocks.

The Sensex has so far touched a high of 35,993.53 points and a low of 35,498.83 points during the intra-day trade. (IANS)