Troubles mount for BJP as migrant crisis shatters PM Modi’s pro-poor image : The Tribune India

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Troubles mount for BJP as migrant crisis shatters PM Modi’s pro-poor image

Troubles mount for BJP as migrant crisis shatters PM Modi’s pro-poor image

Migrant workers wait for transport vehicles to reach the railway station for returning to their homes in UP and Bihar, amid ongoing COVID-19 lockdown in Ahmedabad. PTI

Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 8

Troubles appear to be mounting for the ruling BJP with questions intensifying on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling and management of the COVID-19 lockdown, after the heart-wrenching migrant crisis across the country.

Read: 16 migrant workers mowed down by goods train in Maharashtra 

On a day reports emerged of several migrants crushed to death by a goods train Aurangabad and a hapless couple trudging home on a bicycle meeting similar fate in Uttar Pradesh, adding to the mounting pile of horrifying stories involving migrants across the country, political analysts and strategists said the Modi government’s lockdown management has “sharply divided the society” in two parts (middle/affluent class and economically weaker class) and “undone PM Modi’s carefully crafted pro-poor/humble/’chaiwalla’ image”. 

Amid the lockdown, the migrant tragedy has reaffirmed the BJP is a “middle class party and thinks only of people staying in homes with balconies and terraces”, they claimed. 

According to political strategist Naresh Arora, “migrant crisis has completely undone the pro-poor image the BJP crafted to dispel its middle class image with PM’s ‘chaiwalla’ brand that went beyond political caste equations”. 

Political observer Sudheer Panwar agrees. “The political constituency Modi built with great care is feeling angry and hopeless. The economically lower section these migrant labourers belong to is the vote-bank he built with great care with the ‘chaiwalla’ image. 

“This class, which transcends caste combinations and equations, has been most committed to the BJP when he came to power. It was with this ‘chaiwalla’/humble image he was able to influence a large section of voters for the BJP which earlier was known as a ‘brahmin-bania’ middle class party,” said Panwar.

While migrant crisis as per analysts has undone PM’s pro-poor image built through his humble moorings and later the controversial demonetisation exercise, and given credence to Opposition’s claims of “BJP being a party of rich and privileged”, Arora believes “there is also no coming back from this”.

“The party will have to work very hard and come up with new tricks to break the current image of a ruthless, draconian, iron-fisted state that sprays bleach on labourers, forces them to walk thousands of  kilometres on foot and lets them starve to death.

“And the constant modification of orders, going back and forth with decisions, releasing and re-releasing press notes has also exposed the indecisiveness and amateur approach of the government. It will be very difficult to bounce back from these two conflicting images that the migrant crisis has brought forth in the public eye,” he says.

Panwar explains why it may be difficult for the BJP to gain confidence of its till now committed vote-bank.

“No one can predict the future and the next general elections are four years away. However, PM’s handling of lockdown has divided the society into two parts. There are those who have homes to stay and stand on their balconies to light a diya and those who are dying in the process of going home. The ‘thali’ ‘diya’ are for upper middle class and for economically lower sections there is nothing.”  

What happened in Karnataka with Chief Minister BS Yeddiyurappa first cancelling trains and then making a U-turn further added to these perceptions.

“People have no faith in what the government is saying as there is also no verification of its claims. What happens in four years no one can predict but at present the BJP’s stock is at the lowest,” says Panwar.


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