Insight Delhi


          With the state level #electoral arithmetic not looking to be in its favour, Prime Minister #Narendra Modi and the BJP appear to be in desperate search for an agenda to win the voter’s favor in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

          This emerged even before the #Pulwama incident handed the issue of national security on a platter to the BJP.

          Towards the end of last year, it appeared that the BJP would try to build its election campaign on the issues of the construction of Ram Temple at #Ayodhya and the alleged economic growth of the country during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s four and a half year’s rule. But very soon it became apparent that both these planks would not work.

          The BJP tried to rake up the #Ram Temple issue in various parts of the country and even during the Assembly elections in the Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh. But the move did not get much traction with the result that the party lost by a narrow margin in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and heavily in Chhatisgarh.

          The results of the Assembly elections also showed that the claims of economic growth during the Narendra Modi rule did not cut any ice with the waters, especially the farming community. #Rural distress emerged as a key factor in the defeat of the BJP in the Assembly elections.

          With the Ram Temple issue and claimed economic growth not working, the BJP decided to shift focus. An indication of this came when the organizations earlier pushing vigorously for immediate action to build a grand Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya suddenly put off their agitation on the issue till the end of the Lok Sabha elections.

          On the economic front, the Narendra Modi government virtually admitted the failure of its economic policies – #demonetization and faulty implementation of the Goods and Services Tax framework – by coming up with a scheme to transfer money to small farmers across the country. It is another matter that the money to be transferred – Rs. six thousand a year – is a pittance which is unlikely to be of much help to farmers who have been hit hard by the policies of the Narendra Modi government.

          Simultaneously with the abandoning of the Ram Temple issue and adoption of measures to reach out to the rural communities, came a stepped up offensive on the “corruption” of the Congress and its allies, actual and potential. There was special emphasis on the alleged wrong doings of the #Nehru-Gandhi family and its current protagonist, Sonia Gandhi and her two children, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

          There was a renewed drive to speed up cases and investigations going on against the members of the Congress extended family as well as top leaders of other political parties, either in alliance with the Congress or with potential to ally with the Congress in the future, perhaps in the post Lok Sabha elections scenario.

          The attempt clearly was to distract attention from the #Rafale affair which the opposition parties especially the Congress and its President Rahul Gandhi were using to convey that the Narendra Modi government was no different from earlier governments so far as handling of defence deals was concerned.

          But before the BJP and Narendra Modi could fine tune the “corrupt Congress” tactic, the Pulwama massacre of #CRPF troopers has given them a major plank to woo the voters. The BJP is now putting out the line that only it has the capability to tackle national security issues.

          In the next few weeks in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, people can look forward to more of this type of rhetoric from the BJP and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance-NDA.

          The question is, how will the Congress and other opposition parties react to the BJP tactic. After initially supporting the government on the issue of national security, the Congress has now started questioning the way in which the Pulwama matter has been handled by the Narendra Modi government.

In another significant move, the Congress has set up a task force headed by former Northern Army Commander, retired Lieutenant General D. S. #Hooda to prepare a vision paper on national security. Lieutenant General Hooda headed the Northern Command when the much publicized surgical strikes were carried out to eliminate terror hot spots in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

But this may not be enough of a counter to the BJP raising the issue of national security in the Lok Sabha election campaign. The Congress and other opposition parties will have to come up with more innovative counters to the BJP electoral strategy.