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All is not bright on the BJP front

The news from centres where four rounds of voting are over is not encouraging for the ruling party

All is not bright on the BJP front

On the back foot: It is apparent that there is no election ‘wave’ this time. PTI



Julio Ribeiro

THE Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the more recently established National Stock Exchange (NSE) have spoken. The BSE’s Sensex, which began teetering after the first round of the Lok Sabha elections, fell with a bang by a thousand points after the third phase! Sensex and the BSE’s Nifty are fairly reliable guides to political situations.

The use of unfair tactics like imprisoning a leader of a national party is a clear indication of the nervousness that has taken hold.

In 2014, the market was anxiously awaiting the arrival of a right-wing government. Speculators had predicted a victory for the BJP. The party’s performance in the polls was even better than what the optimists had visualised. Sensex took off at a very fast clip initially and then settled down to a steadier pace till it reached astronomical heights recently when Modi declared that he was aiming for 400 Lok Sabha seats.

The share market is the biggest single gambling den in my city. Of course, gambling on stocks is perfectly legal, though very risky all the same. The operators are not going to venture in without their dollop of khabar. Since their money is at stake, the gems of information that Dalal Street operators collect are more authentic than what normal rumour mills produce.

The steep drop in the prices of shares like those of Reliance Industries, HDFC Bank, L&T and TCS, all market leaders, is nothing but ominous. The market feels that the Modi-Shah duo is in trouble. I suspect (kindly note that my suspicion is just that — a suspicion) that the voting trends must have been garnered from the foot soldiers serving the army of ‘exit’ pollsters. They have been debarred by the Election Commission of India (ECI) from publicising their findings till the last vote is punched in on the last day of the month-and-a-half-long battle.

The BJP’s inability to enthuse voters this time has been doing the rounds on the streets of our cities and towns. That there is no ‘wave’ is also apparent. The use of unfair, ungentlemanly tactics like imprisoning a leader of a national party at election time is another clear indication of the nervousness that has taken hold. Even the spectacular inauguration of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya did not help, as we now note with the benefit of hindsight.

To add what we desis call masala to the narrative, one of the first accusations Arvind Kejriwal made on being released on bail to canvas for INDIA candidates was that Narendra Modi would step down at the age of 75 in September next year and that he would be succeeded by Amit Shah as the Prime Minister. This possibility, which incidentally the common man had already predicted, ruffled the feathers of BJP bigwigs. Four of them — Shah himself, Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman and JP Nadda — protested vociferously. They asserted that Modi would serve his full term of five years.

By doing so, they confirmed two hypotheses that would often be debated in parlours and marketplaces and set our doubts at rest. The first was that Modi’s diktat that leaders should retire at 75 applies only to his colleagues, not to him. The second, more relevant to us citizens, is that Shah is not the people’s choice or even the BJP’s rank and file’s choice for the top job. The very mention of that possibility by a sworn enemy (Kejriwal) set the alarm bells ringing. Kejriwal is set to return to Tihar jail on June 2. Before that date, he should draw some more rabbits out of his AAP hat in order to elicit some more truths from the BJP’s top brass.

When Kejriwal was released on bail by the Supreme Court, a BJP leader even suggested that the honourable judges were taking sides in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. That inference was in very poor taste. The judges explained in detail why they had decided as they did. What the judges refrained from saying, but was probably on their minds, was that it was the Enforcement Directorate (ED) which was taking sides in the elections by waiting for nearly two years to arrest the leader of an up-and-coming party like AAP. The ED had issued summons to Kejriwal nine times before the arrest. It could have applied the guillotine after the third summons was dishonoured. But, no, the ED obviously had a grander design.

By releasing Kejriwal for the period of the elections, the judges have righted a wrong that the ED had perpetrated and provided a level playing field for the electoral game. The decision restored the people’s faith in the impartiality of the judiciary which, unfortunately, was under question at times of late.

Another well-respected institution, the ECI, should take a leaf from the Supreme Court’s book and regain its honour and prestige as an independent, impartial body reporting only to the Constitution and its own conscience. It can regain its good name and establish its creditability if it raps all parties equally when their speakers indulge in hate speech or utter inanities without thinking. The Prime Minister should set the standards. His outburst in Rajasthan about infiltrators and those with large families was one of the worst instances of hate speech heard on the election trail.

In the midst of all this evil, the BJP’s partner in Karnataka, the Janata Dal (Secular) of former Prime Minister Deve Gowda, lent a thick slice of spice to the election scenario in that crucial (for the BJP) state. When the story of the patriarch’s grandson, Prajwal Revanna, broke, Modi’s party immediately distanced itself from the young man’s peccadilloes. But some of the stain will remain.

If Prajwal’s alleged escapades were not enough, the cup of despair was filled to the brim when allegations of molestation were made against a constitutional functionary in West Bengal by a female Raj Bhavan employee. The Governor’s claim that the charge was fabricated and politically motivated may have cut ice with the public but for his misconceived move to summon the media and display CCTV footage to disprove the allegations. The Governor was not caught in flagrante delicto like the late Congressman from Uttarakhand who was the Governor of Andhra Pradesh when three women were pictured purportedly in his bed.

The news from the centres where four rounds of voting have been completed is not encouraging for the party that spoke of a tally of 400 for the NDA and 370 for itself alone. At present, it is squarely on the back foot, fighting for a marginal victory in a close battle.

#BJP #Lok Sabha #Sensex


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