The BJP has lost one more seat in Bellary and the Congress has already blown the winning trumpet of the incredible leadership their “young” leader is providing to the nation!
While the BJP will go through its “Chintan Baithaks” it is time for the BJP think tank to start taking stock of what is really going on in the mind of the electorate and why the communication to its constituencies seems to be falling on deaf ears.
Clearly the opposition strategy of continuous attack on alleged corruption charges is beginning to affect the mind of the voters with the all too familiar reaction that “if there is so much smoke, there might be a fire somewhere”. The opposition strategy of going after Prime Minister Modi repeatedly is beginning to hurt the BJP.
Political niceties have been thrown to the winds and in the opposition “Arjunesque eye of the fish cross hairs” is Prime Minister Modi. From calling him corrupt to a scorpion to Hitler to an Anaconda, they have not left any negative adjective in the book.
Most opposition leaders are still trying to figure out whether it is a good idea to attack the Prime Minister who is seen as the tallest leader of the current times. They are not sure of what subjects to base their attacks on.
The so called mahagathbandhan, in its own way, seems to have found a method in their madness. Their repeated attacks are reaching the voter though whether the voter will accept their narrative is still unclear.
However, is the mahagathbandhan for real?
Can political parties with completely diverse ideologies like the CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress or the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party really come together on a common platform? Will they ever be able to agree on a common economic agenda and a corruption free system of governance?
The smart Indian electorate recognises that they cannot have a situation where politicians play a game of musical chairs with the chair of the Prime Minister of India with the key contenders being Mayawati, Mamta Banerjee, Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav and Chandrababu Naidu.
Everyone accepts that it would be a disaster if Mr Modi does not get a second term because the alternative of getting a new PM every year by rotation from the multitude of political parties is a frightening prospect. It is frightening to imagine a new Prime Minister and possibly a completely revamped Cabinet every 12 months!
The Congress knows that its only opportunity to survive beyond the next elections is to get aggressive. From attacking the BJP to temple visits and soft Hindutva to promising loan waivers to banning alcohol in Chhattisgarh, Rahul Gandhi is not leaving any opportunity.
Their attacks are generally centred around RSS, Rafale, Demonetisation, Crony Capitalism, GST and Non-Performing Assets. Attacking the RSS is ridiculous. Everyone associated with the RSS does not believe a word of what Rahul Gandhi keeps alleging. Those not associated with the RSS agree that Hindus can never be terrorists. Does the common voter even understand what the Rafale deal is all about?
Does anybody really believe Rahul Gandhi on matters of corruption as he stumbles through his speeches making one faux pas after another? Is it the pot calling the kettle black? What is the Congress strategy for the elections other than abusing Modi and talking about several non-existent corruption charges?
Is Rahul Gandhi now a huge liability not just for the Congress but also for the mahagathbandhan? Will the dissent within the Congress be able to get their leaders to pull together in one direction? Are the carefully laid out plans of Rahul Gandhi coming apart at the seams because no one really trusts him or his capabilities?
Is Rahul Gandhi “peaking” too early in the election game and will his quiver still be full of laded arrows by the end of the first quarter of 2019 or will he be firing blunted and used arrows?
Every decision that is now taken by the Government is questioned repeatedly by Congress politicians and their affiliated journalists who have been left out by the BJP in the last 4 years. This crescendo will get louder as the polls approach. It almost seems like a situation where Rahul Gandhi and his team scour the papers every morning to see what is the “flavour of the day” that they need to attack.
Counter attack by the BJP spokespersons is not being heard as they try to raise their decibel level and trade counter charges or worse say “well they did this as well when they were in power”.
The BJP came to power on the platform of development and removal of corruption under the strong leadership of Mr Modi. Very substantial developments have taken place in the last 54 months and it is important to keep emphasising the successes rather than go on the defensive.
The main question to ask is whether all this anti Modi propaganda and noise is consolidating the Hindu vote behind the BJP because no one really believes any of the corruption charges against Modi?
Yet, the BJP is not being able to take advantage of all its positives and is getting sucked into the mess being crafted by the gang of opposition leaders who have a single objective — to win at all costs, consequences be damned.
What the BJP can hope for is that the opposition strategy had peaked too early because it is difficult to keep telling lies repeatedly without repeatedly contradicting oneself.
Politics and elections are a game of perceptions.
Corruption is a subject that the Indian voters understand and despise. The BJP has established that the Government of Prime Minister Modi has significantly reduced corruption in the country.
Are the elections in Rajasthan Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh really an indication of what is likely to happen in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019? The Lok Sabha elections are still 6 months away. Polls being run by various news channels have very diverse results and we know that these results will keep changing over the next few months.
As someone said, development is needed for the country and the electorate expects this from their leaders. But development happens over a period of 5 years and does not win elections. Elections are won or lost based on how the marginal voters decide in the last few days.
Perceptions, falsehoods and corruption charges create doubt in the mind of the voters and need to be countered immediately and very strongly as was demonstrated by the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister on the Vyapam matter which made Rahul Gandhi retract his statements.
Staying silent on corruption charges or waiting for an appropriate time to respond simply strengthens the lie and makes the voter question the reason for the silence.
The BJP needs some good fortune in the next few months starting with a drop-in oil prices which has started to happen. A good monsoon and more money in the hands of the farmers will suddenly change the narrative in favour of the BJP again. What the BJP also needs is for its leaders to stop talking of diversionary topics like renaming of cities and places and similar topics that take the narrative away from development and corruption.
The ruling party always must face headwinds and the opposition knows the wind is filling up its sails. There more questions than answers at this stage.
What is clear though is that the BJP needs to change its narrative and change this fast. The results of all the fundamental changes that have been made will be seen in the next five years.
This is a critical “must-win” election for the BJP.
The author is an Executive Coach and an Angel Investor. A keen political observer, he is also the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here — Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here — My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.
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