This has been an interesting week in politics full of stark contradictions.
Much to the surprise of all the liberal economists and opposition leaders who have been spelling doomsday on account of demonetization and implementation of GST the economy rebounded with very impressive growth figures of 7.7%. This growth rate is only a precursor of what to expect from our economic growth in the years ahead.
This was also a week when the Modi government completed 4 eventful and successful years. For the naysayers and the doomsday predictors, nothing good has happened in India and Rahul Gandhi has given a “fail” marking to everything without once acknowledging how he has performed as the party president.
Finally, the much awaited by-polls which were supposed to signal what is likely to happen in the general elections did not go the way the ruling party had hoped for. The motley group of opposing parties that came together on an election platform with the primary objective of beating the BJP succeeded in winning and hopefully in getting the powerful BJP to sit back and think.
The one paisa reduction in fuel prices the day before the elections was unfairly played up by all media channels. We know more than 20% of the electorate takes a call on who to vote for on the night before the elections and that this ridiculous rhetoric of the 1 paisa reduction seems to have struck home in the heart, minds and possibly the wallets of even the most committed BJP voter. What was surprising was why the petroleum ministry allowed this to happen. Was this done by someone to create this impression against the BJP? If yes, it succeeded.
On a positive note, businesses are doing well, rural incomes are up, factories are producing more, corruption is down, a good monsoon is predicted, jobs have been created, GST is a success and so much more can be seen. India has record foreign reserves and the country stands tall and as a world leader.
Too much has been written about the achievements of the Modi government and will continue to be written in the coming year, for me to regurgitate what is already there in the open for everyone to see, read and experience. These are no mean achievements.
So what are the lessons that the BJP and its cadres need to take from these events?
- The very effective communication machine of the BJP is now becoming jaded and the spokespersons who have stayed with the narrative that they started 4 years ago are no longer convincing, primarily because their messaging has not changed. This must change and a fresh set of faces with fresh messaging need to be show cased. The ministers need to come back to the television debates rather be seen as aloof.
Instead of responding quickly to sensitive topics like fuel price, farmers throwing milk and vegetables on the roads, issues in Kashmir etc., the BJP spokespersons are simply trying to rationalize and justify these actions thus giving opposition leaders firepower to make unnecessary noise.
Responses have to be immediate and proactive. Not after the press has picked it up and made a lot of noise.
- Quite clearly the opposition parties led by at least 5 prime ministerial aspirants have managed to change the narrative based on the continuous and relentless hammering of half-truths and untruths. The BJP spokespersons have been caught unawares. They need to proactively respond rather than keep talking of “in your time this happened as well.”
Former ministers of the UPA pontificate on how there is a possibility of reducing fuel prices by rupees 25 per litre but remain strangely silent on why they did not exercise this power when they were in power
- The shrill and irritating voices of some of the BJP ministers waxing eloquently on all the technology that existed at the time of Lord Ram is not finding favour with a very large section of the electorate. Why can’t these people simply keep their mouth shut or stop exercising their need to communicate their intelligence to members of the press who clearly and looking for “masala” sound-bites to take the narrative away from the achievements?
If Hindutva is to be the platform, which I don’t think it is, then the party needs to come and say so categorically rather than try to be something for everyone.
- Corruption is another major issue that the electorate had hoped to see decisive and deterrent action. The opposition parties are successfully managing to pass off their sins to the BJP after 4 years in power. NPA. Nirav Modi, Mallya and so many others happened in the UPA years but BJP is explaining their position.
The BJP needs to start taking quick action that is visible and at the same time make sure that there is no possibility of opposition leaders screaming political vendetta. In Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed stopped his predecessor from leaving the country within a few days of taking over.
- Farmers are distressed and the Dalits have started to feel they are being ignore. Though the BJP has done much more than most other Governments for farmers and Dalits, the communication from BJP has to change and the messaging to these constituencies has to be clear and concise.
No voter can possibly accept that opposing parties like the TMC and CPIM in West Bengal; the SP and BSP in Uttar Pradesh; the AIDMK and DMK in Tamilnadu; AAP and Congress in Delhi; JDS and Congress in Karnataka could possibly come together on a single platform. Then there are the minor parties like the RLD in UP who are taking full advantage. These parties have always had divergent platforms and have opposed with one another forever.
I don’t think that any well-meaning and right thinking voter can expect the mahagathbandhan to project a leader today. No single individual will be acceptable to most of the other political parties and they know this. Will they fight with on a common platform? How will their election manifesto look? How can they agree on anything to do with the economy or governance or financial matters when do not agree on anything? If they manage to scrape through next year with a majority, all hell will break lose.
But the nationwide alliance of “anti-BJP” parties becomes a credible option when the single largest ruling party is not responding to what is expected from them. The hard work of changing mind sets on cleanliness and moving towards a corruption free society needs to be pursued consistently if this is to become embedded in our DNA. We cannot slip back to a corrupt set of squabbling leaders
The countdown has started for the next elections. The opposition parties have also got their act together in social media and are attacking and responding faster than the BJP social media gurus.
It will be a shame if because of their own inaction the BJP were to lose these elections. The country needs stability and Prime Minister Modi has had the courage to make very significant and substantial structural changes which will pay very rich dividends in the coming years.
Mr Modi deserves to get one more term at the very minimum to see through the reforms so as to irreversibly put India on the path of high growth for the next two decades. Only continuing reforms can help to raise the life standards of the people of India. If the Modi is not voted back to power, India will lose.
People who have visited Singapore have always said that India needs a Lee Kuan Yew.
In Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we have got that strong, honest and hardworking leader who does not hesitate to take tough decisions and who has positioned India to take her rightful place in the World.
The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies. A keen political observer, he is an Angel Investor and Executive Coach. 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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