When Narendra Modi registered an almost unbelievable victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, even his haters had to admit that he had a nation-wide charisma and appeal that perhaps was matched only by Indira Gandhi in the history of Independent India. Haters deliberately chose Indira and did not go as far back as to Nehru, as comparing Modi with Nehru would have been blasphemy. Also, Modi will have to win a third term in 2024 to be eligible for that comparison.
But comparing Modi’s charisma and hold on politics with those of Indira, even though begrudgingly, was on purpose and with a secret desire. The purpose was to claim that Modi was as autocratic as Indira, and the secret desire was that like Indira, Modi will falter and impose an Emergency, which will lead him to be voted out of power. This is why the trope “there is an undeclared emergency in the country” is repeated on every possible occasion.
Modi haters are waiting for an Emergency to happen with far more passion and restlessness than any ‘Sanghi’ might be waiting for a Hindu Rashtra to happen.
The 1975 Emergency was preceded by large scale student protests that had snowballed into a public movement. Modi haters want a repeat of that. As a result, mere the sight of anyone looking like a student and shouting slogans gives them hope that emergency is coming and that their long-cherished dream would now come true.
They thought their dreams were about to come true in early 2016 when police arrested a few JNU students for organising an event where anti-India and pro-terrorist Afzal Guru slogans were raised. Just a week or two earlier, another student named Rohith Vemula had committed suicide after being frustrated with the far-left politics he was sucked into.
“Gayaa! Ab Dalit vote bhi gayaa!” (it’s gone! Now even the Dalit vote is gone!) – this is how gleefully a Modi hating ‘journalist’ had reacted after she heard about Rohith Vemula’s death. Note that this happened in January 2016, when BJP had lost two elections in the previous year, first in Delhi and then in Bihar. Delhi was supposed to have taken away Baniya votes of BJP – recall the famous ‘main baniya hoon’ speech by Kejriwal – and Bihar was supposed to have taken away the OBC votes. The ‘liberal’ journalist was excited with Vemula dying as it could take away BJP’s Dalit votes too.
Whether it’s a suicide, a murder, a protest, an accident, a business deal, or a creative product – how it will affect the electoral prospects of Modi is all that the liberal crowd cares. The celebration or opposition by liberals depends on whether something will help or damage Modi. Student protests give them hope of an impending emergency, inherent in which is the hope of Modi being defeated like Indira was defeated post-emergency in 1977 elections.
With this hope, they had made heroes out of part-time-students-cum-full-time protestors from JNU. Rohith Vemula’s death was milked to the hilt at various educational campuses. There were student protests at FTII due to Gajendra Chauhan being appointed Chairman and that too added to the momentum. They even dressed up someone like Hardik Patel as a student leader. Students were restless on campuses and off it, they said. Then they created ‘mahaul’ around lynchistan, the murder of Gauri Lankesh, ghar wapsi, etc. and presented it all as signs of undeclared emergency.
The emergency is here, they shouted. The emergency is here, they dreamt. Revolution they awaited.
However, their dreams were shattered in 2019, when Modi returned with an even bigger mandate. But as it happens, a liberal is never wrong. It’s the people who are wrong. In his mind, a Modi hating liberal is totally convinced that Modi was all set to lose the 2019 elections but Balakot airstrikes changed the environment and stupid people were fooled with hyper-nationalism.
So in the second term of Modi, Modi haters are just repeating everything they did in his first term, with even more restlessness and added viciousness. They are once again dreaming of student protests and revolution, this time around the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
First, the Islamist protests at AMU and Jamia were dressed up as student protests. Then the police action against rioters at Jamia was presented as a crackdown on students. Sundry protests at other campuses were then organised and presented as ‘uprising’ in support against ‘crackdown on students’. And all this was followed up with carefully choreographed protests led by Bollywood actors and actresses to show how the student protests are turning into a public movement.
Smooth. No one can stop Emergency now. Anurag Kashyap even tweeted with the Emergency hashtag. QED. The emergency is here.
So will history repeat? Will it fail again like the last time and 2024 could see even more massive mandate for Modi?
Well, 2024 is too far away and no one can say with certainty what will happen, but I do think that Modi is poised to benefit as his haters have refused to learn anything from the 2019 defeat. The nationalism sentiment was ignited among common people much before Balakot airstrikes thanks to the imagined student protests at JNU in 2016. “Bharat tere tukde honge” everyone heard despite clever propaganda by the Left ecosystem to claim that JNU videos were doctored.
Similarly, the current imagined student protests around CAA could ignite Hindutva sentiments among the general electorate, simply because the anti-CAA protests are nothing but either naked Islamism or apologia of Islamism. This despite the clever propaganda being run again to claim Hindus in scullcaps indulged in violence. Notice that they are repeating “JNU videos were doctored” strategy again by coming up with such laughable conspiracy theories. They are just repeating everything they did in Modi’s first term.
If Modi haters are hell-bent upon repeating the history, then history will definitely oblige them and 2019 will repeat in 2024, at least that’s what I feel today.
However, do I really believe that the Modi government is protest proof? That no amount of student protests or public protests can damage its electoral prospects? What if someone says that the current anti-CAA protests should not be compared with the 2016 JNU protests but with the 2011 anti-corruption protests? After all, some guys have cleverly coined the term “IAC” again – then it stood for India Against Corruption and now it stands for India Against CAA.
This is a good argument that should be analysed on its merits. Could this be Anna moment for the Modi 2.0? Could history repeat, but not as 2019 repeating in 2024, but 2014 repeating in 2024?
For that, we’ll have to see why Anna movement succeeded and how it damaged the Congress party, and if the same applies to anti-CAA protests and the BJP.
The major difference between the two protests is the subject. Corruption is something that touches every Indian, while the threat of losing citizenship does not. The anti-Modi strategists made a mistake here. They kept shouting that CAA+NRC was anti-Muslim, and thus they indirectly said that non-Muslims need not bother. It was not a problem like corruption that touched every citizen.
The Left now realises that it was a big strategic mistake. To control the damage, people like Farhan Akhtar spread highly misleading pamphlets claiming that the poor, the Dalits, the Adivasis, the transgenders, and other motley groups could also lose their citizenship. That made no sense really. He essentially was saying that almost 90% of India will be stateless and deported. Deported where? Who will believe such stupid propaganda?
It’s too late for them to convert this protest into some secular-humanist protest, though attempts are on with the help of an ever-obliging mass media. However, they have already indulged in so much of fear-mongering about CAA+NRC being anti-Muslim, that Islamist mobs have now taken things in their hand, which will make sure that the issue continues to be seen as a Muslim issue only.
The other difference is how the two protests affect the respective parties in power. The 2011 anti-corruption protests were instrumental in making the Congress party synonymous with corruption. Not that it was seen as some squeak clean party earlier, but Congress’ image, especially among urban youth, was damaged considerably. Congress ceased to be an option if corruption was your concern.
If we are to admit that the anti-CAA protests are like anti-corruption protests, the worst damage it can inflict upon the BJP is that it will make the party synonymous with being anti-Muslim. Umm…
Let me drop any political correctness here even though I have none, is that really something that can damage BJP more than it has already damaged? Is BJP really seen as a pro-Muslim party currently, or even a party that gets the support of Muslims? And such protests led by Bollywood actors and with support of ‘intellectuals’ most appeal to the urban English-speaking youth. This section has already been bombarded with much more impactful anti-BJP propaganda in shape of stand-up comedy and other sundry ‘activism’.
It does not, however, mean that an average Indian, or rather an average Hindu, doesn’t care if you have an anti-Muslim image and thus BJP has got nothing to worry. In fact, an average Hindu is so much guilt-ridden for just being a Hindu that he could indeed feel that BJP is being unfair to Muslims and thus he should punish BJP.
But this is where the violent protests by Muslim mobs kick in. Such visuals are not going to let Hindus be guilt-tripped into seeing Muslims, especially Bangladeshi and Rohingya infiltrators, as some poor victims. Strengthening of such sentiments will further be helped by ingrained Hinduphobia of the Left; it’s just a matter of time before placards mocking cow, beef, temples, etc. will come out in support of the protests. Some smartass ‘comedians’ are already doing it actually. This behaviour negates any guilt that might have been induced in ordinary Hindus.
Obviously, it depends that how far these images and videos of violent Islamic mobs and ‘woke’ liberals mocking Hindus go. The JNU’s “tukde tukde” slogans reached millions. I remember a friend of mine telling me that he had to go near JNU and took an auto, and the auto wallah referred to JNU as Pakistan. The ‘hyper-nationalist’ and anti-Pakistan sentiments were ignited then only, much before Pulwama and Balakot. The same could repeat now and it could fuel anti-Islamist sentiments. A fear that ‘secular’ India has allowed far too many violent infiltrators in who can put the neighbourhood on fire.
Sometime in early 2024, maybe Narendra Modi will do a grand puja at the newly constructed Ram Temple in Ayodhya or some other such thing. Then liberals will say Modi communalised the ensuing Lok Sabha elections to win it. Truth is, they have communalised it already.