By Advaita Kala
With the elections drawing closer the narrative changes from week to week. This week has seen Prime Minister Modi launch the #MainBhiChowkidaar campaign, first on social media and then through a cross-country outreach.
On the day of the outreach, news rolled in from the United Kingdom that absconding economic offender Nirav Modi had been arrested and subsequently denied bail: he will remain in jail till March 29th. The arrest of Nirav Modi comes in the backdrop of some decisive steps by the Modi Sarkar to take on high-level corruption.
Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Agusta Westland case, was extradited to India in December and two more accused Rajeev Saxena and Deepak Talwar in late January.
Vijay Mallya, the former ‘King of Good Times’, lost his bid to challenge his extradition to India, paving the way for his much-anticipated return to face prosecution.
These high profile extraditions have blunted the Opposition’s charges against Narendra Modi on being soft on economic offenders. Nirav Modi referred to suggestively as ‘Chhota Modi’ by the Congress was meant to imply a collusion between the prime minister and the fugitive because of the coincidence of a shared last name.
However, as people in the know have alleged it, it was Rahul Gandhi who was spotted at a cocktail soiree hosted by the disgraced diamantaire in New Delhi.
Allegations aside, the Congress has in the last few months made Nirav Modi the lynchpin of the prime minister’s promises to fight defaulters, challenging him on numerous occasions to bring back Modi.
Now that Nirav Modi cools his heels in a jail in London, the prime minister has been credited with his incarceration and what one hopes will be his eventual extradition, although the process, as the Mallya case has shown, can be long.
With weeks left for the General Elections, this situation paired with the #MainBhiChowkidaar campaign will bolster the PM’s credentials as an anti-corruption crusader, tapping into the distaste that the general public feels for the ultra-rich who try to escape the law and swindle people, employees and banks off millions.
The Opposition’s grand promise of a ‘Mahagathbandhan’ hosted by Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in January has come a-cropper. There is also no cohesive messaging, apart from the repetitive ‘defeat Modi’ slogan, which coming from the lips of a person like Chandrababu Naidu who enjoyed the fruits of power for four years before the volte face, is taken lightly.
The ‘Mahagathbandhan’, as promised on that stage one warm winter morning, has shown little signs of fruition. In Bengal itself, the host of the grand show of ‘unity’, which Rahul Gandhi skipped, the Congress, Left and the Trinamool Congress have been unable to agree on seat-sharing, with each one forging their own path.
Just this past week, the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Congress, best friends in New Delhi, were unable to come to an agreement, with the beleaguered Left releasing its list of candidates even before the final meeting could take place with the Congress.
In the bellwether state of Uttar Pradesh, a fragment of the proposed ‘Mahagathbandhan’ exists due to the coming together of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, who arithmetically are a challenge to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
However, their decision to exclude the Congress has not gone unnoticed; it has even caused heartburn amongst some. In Saharanpur, Lok Sabha constituency number one, the Congress candidate Imran Masood, of ‘boti boti’ fame, in which he vowed to kill the prime minister, a position in direct opposition to the ‘politics of love’ ostensibly espoused by the Congress president, was noted grumbling to a national daily about the non-starter ‘Mahagathbandhan’.
Any seat which has a sizeable Muslim population will now see a three-way contest with the BSP-SP combine announcing a Muslim candidate to take on the BJP and the Congress, hence splitting the Muslim vote.
While Akhilesh Yadav has been more circumspect in his criticism of his former ‘UP ke ladke’ alliance mate, Mayawati has made her distaste for the Congress clear. Congress’s new general secretary, Priyanka Vadra, recently met with Mayawati’s bete noir – Chandrashekhar Azad of the Bhim Army, in what was seen as an overt snub to Mayawati, further antagonising the combine, leading Yadav to finally come out and openly denounce the Congress and reject allegations of a cosy understanding with them.
Subsequently, the Bhim Army chief also distanced himself from the Congress for reasons best known to him.
Meanwhile, the #MainBhiChowkidar campaign marches on, its cleverness evident from the fact that it has seen people from all walks, regions, castes, class, et cetera sign up for it, thereby creating a constituency that is caste, region, etc. agnostic, and an example of participatory campaigning.
Will it pull in the votes? We will know soon enough!
Advaita Kala is an author, screenwriter and a columnist.
Polls: How #MainBhiChowkidaar will boost BJP’s chances
By Advaita Kala
The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. These opinions do not reflect the views of Yahoo.