Now that Narendra Modi has won for the third time in Gujarat, there is considerable momentum for him to take on a national role. There must be introspection in the Congress about the defeat in Gujarat despite all of their dirty tricks there. I suspect that they will take heart (and lessons) from how President Obama, another unpopular incumbent like themselves, managed just a month ago to carve out a victory against Governor Romney in the US. And they will apply the lessons learned therefrom.
» This is what seems to have turned the tide for Obama:
» An unremittingly hostile negative campaigning worked
» A media that picked on and magnified any minor gaffe built a negative image
» Identity, vote-bank and special interest group-based appeals worked
» A bruising primary season took a major toll on Romney, financially and image-wise
» A better get-out-the-vote mechanism helped
» A poor choice of Vice-presidential running mate might have helped
The last, of course, doesn’t apply in India, but the others may. Thus, if we assume that Narendra Modi is the presumptive BJP candidate for Prime Minister in the 2014 elections, here are the contours of possible Congress poll tactics:
There will an unremittingly hostile negative campaign against Modi. This will be waged in the paid media (as it has been for ten years already), in the courts, using the CBI, the governor, the income tax authorities, friendly foreign media, and any and all other means possible.
The paid media will obligingly sing the tune that emanates from Congress HQ. In addition, they will manufacture quotes, spit-and-scoot and use all other known smear tactics
Obama’s black-Latino-Asian-gay-young-pot-smoker alliance is nowhere near as complete or thought-through as the Congress’s past vote banks (eg. KHAM kshatriya, harijan, adivasi, muslim, in Gujarat), not to speak of the wonderful new victim-banks they think up daily, and so this is a Congress mainstay.
The Congress and the media will push forward everyone in the BJP who can be flattered into believing they have a chance to lead the party to power in the next election; cause bhedam in their ranks; nurture various mavericks (such as the Kejrival Mango Man party as they did with Kesubhai Patel’s party in Gujarat) to split the anti-incumbency and anti-corruption votes.
This is my current estimate of what the Congress is planning. The negative media campaign is old hat, and it is not exactly paying dividends any more as most have tuned out the tiresome rhetoric, except for the true believers and the terminally naïve. Therefore expect them to come out with clever new tactics – for instance pressing into service and planting pieces in friendly media such as [famous American paper] and [leftist British paper], not to mention [imperialist British magazine]. Fortunately, perhaps alone among the impressionable BJP ranks, Modi does not give a damn about what some firangi paper says about him, but some voters may.
Pandering to vote-banks is something the Congress are past masters at. But let us look at the logic behind it and how it played out in Obama’s case. A widely-quoted exit poll by CBS News suggests that 60 per cent of American voters rated Romney better on leadership and economic acumen, but that when they were asked “Which candidate cares for you?” they voted 80 per cent in Obama’s favor. In other words, if they thought they could get some goodies from him, they voted for Obama.
Similarly, a young Indian-American on Twitter informed me that he preferred Obama as he had “made the task of getting a green card” easier. Interestingly, under Obama, protectionist unions have had a field day, and, for instance, the numbers of H-1Bs has been reduced quite a bit.
The fact is that Obama assiduously wooed blacks (93 per cent voted for him), Latinos (71 per cent), women (55 per cent), those who think Government needs to do more (91 per cent) and on. Women were told that Obama stood for their reproductive rights. This, in addition to some blunders by Republican candidates (such as “legitimate rape”) unnecessarily annoyed voters. The vote-banks – surprisingly, Jews, who should have been influenced by Obama’s hostility to Israel, also chose (70 per cent) Obama – stayed loyal.
In India, vote-bank appeasement on a particularly large scale happened in 2009, will happen with renewed vigor in 2012, and can be expected to bring in scores of happy voters, bought at the taxpayer’s expense:
» Gave Rs 30,000 crore to government employees through the 6th Pay Commission in 2009
» Gave Rs 75,000 crores (which would have enriched rural cadres) through a farm-loan waiver in 2009
» Gave Rs 100,000 crores, and counting, (mostly to cadres and friends) through the leaky NREGA
The mother of all giveaways, a Rs 320,000 crore ‘direct-transfer’ plan to people ‘below the poverty line’ per year, is apparently to go into effect in January 2013, as announced on November 26. Of course, existing subsidies will not be withdrawn as they are too lucrative for cronies. This will be in addition to the current subsidies for electricity, fuel etc.
In addition, the BJP is scoring self-goals with its tendency to be shamed into submission, as well as its lack of discipline, and these will be exploited to the hilt, just like the Republicans’ tendency to shoot off their mouths. This will be a part of the Congress’ standard bag of tricks.
The Gadkari controversy and the BS Yeddyurappa incident showed the BJP at its confused best. With Gadkari they should have either brazened it out, or fired him, instead of letting it be a festering sore in the party’s image. Similarly, with BS Yeddyurappa, since he is a proven vote-getter and organiser and the Congress had to go to great lengths to pry him out of office, they should have welcomed him back with open arms and rehabilitated him pronto. Instead, they allowed BSY to stray, with possibly disastrous results for them in Karnataka.
When there is one strong candidate – Modi – all other pretenders to the throne should fall in line, so as to avoid extended internecine battles (this did Romney enormous damage). There is a simple question they should be asked: exactly why do you think you will do better than Modi?
Now that the Arvind Kejrival party has been finally unveiled – and it is clear it has no chance of doing anything other than being a spoiler, thus indirectly helping the Congress – we can rest assured that this party will also be supported indirectly by the Congress. This will be in similar to their support for paid media and for pet think tanks and ‘public intellectuals’.
All these tactics would boil down to one strategy – retain power at all costs. If all else fails, of course there are the trusty Electronic Voting Machines, which did such yeoman service in 2009. With a friendly Chief Election Commissioner in place, the electronic voting machines can be fooled with to miraculously rescue their candidates.
We have it from the horse’s mouth: a news item on December 19 said that Congress leader and former Union Minister Naran Rathwa is claiming that Modi wins because of EVM fixing. This is an admission by the Congress that EVMs are tamperable, which they have stoutly denied in the past. If they are tamperable, believe me, the Congress would have tampered with them.