Prime Minister’s luck, Modi’s alibi

Chitragupta | Updated on July 04, 2021

The devastating second wave of the pandemic and the Bengal election loss are a double whammy for the PM   -  PTI

Forget luck; PMs over time have never been held accountable. Both, Congress and the BJP are equally responsible for this mess

There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has run, or is running, out of luck. Well, the Prime Minister may have but in the case of Narendra Modi, it could be a different reason altogether why he is doing so badly.

There are two bits of supporting evidence for the bad luck lament. One is the BJP’s defeat in the Bengal election and the other is the vicious spread of the second wave of the Corona virus during April-June. How else, except for bad luck, could things have gone so badly for Mr Modi?

But while bad luck can be adduced as a defence of the Prime Minister, what about Mr Modi? For the latter, luck has nothing to do wit h it.

Indeed, luck is just a way of explaining to yourself why your own preconceived notions were belied. But the question arises: preconceived notions about whom? The Prime Minister or Mr Modi?

Bengal, virus etc

The fact is that Mr Modi did not ‘lose’ Bengal. What he lost was credibility because, in order to enthuse the troops, the BJP leadership started boasting that they would win 170 around seats. Some even said 200.

But that was never on the cards. Indeed, it was not the plan, either.

The party, while planning its strategy, had not aimed at winning the election. It had a much more modest aim: to get around 90 seats so that it could increase its strength in the Rajya Sabha. And mind, this is not spin; it is the truth.

For Mr Modi, this was a far more important objective. In achieving that limited objective, he has succeeded. So luck is a non-starter.

But if 85-90 was the aim, why did he not stop his party from boasting that it would win 200 seats? 200? Out of 294? Seriously? And that too when it had won only three seats in the 2016 election?

That was not luck, either. It was just plain old stupidity. Seen in this light, Mr Modi has only himself to blame for his loss of credibility.

He should have cautioned his party to stop talking nonsense, an activity in which it runs a close second to Rahul Gandhi, the astonishingly strange president of the Congress party.

Mr Modi might also like to introspect on whether it was worth spending all that much money — one estimate says ₹200 crore — for just 90 seats which, in the event, turned out to be just 75. It was a clear case of much ‘So much ado over very little’.

Then there is the second wave. If the failure to carry out the 170-200 seat boast caused Mr Modi’s credibility to take a huge hit, his own failure to anticipate the second wave has pretty much decimated it. None but the most fanatical supporters believe anything he says now.

So all in all, luck is the easy explanation and is applicable to the Prime Minister. Not so Mr Modi, however. He goofed up badly.

Parties and PMs

But then so do other prime ministers. When that happens in other countries, the party calls the prime ministers to account.

But this calling to account has never happened in India. Neither the Congress nor the BJP has even dreamed of asking a Prime Minister to explain why he or she made such a mess of things.

Thus the Congress never asked Jawaharlal Nehru to explain the 1962 defeat at the hands of China.

It never asked Indira Gandhi to explain the Emergency and Operation Bluestar.

It never asked Rajiv Gandhi to explain either the Bofors payoffs or the IPKF misadventure in Sri Lanka. Manmohan Singh also got off lightly over the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.

Narasimha Rao was not asked what he was doing while the Babri Masjid was being demolished.

Likewise, the BJP never asked Atal Bihari Vajpayee to explain how Kargil was allowed to happen or the attack on Parliament. LK Advani was never asked to explain the 2009 defeat in an election that was the BJP’s to win.

Nor, it must be added, is anyone in the Congress party, which still has a 20 per cent vote share, asking the Gandhi family to step aside. They may write letters and quit the party but accountability? Never.

And so it is wholly unlikely that anyone will ask Mr Modi to explain the debacle over the second wave, although it is clear to all that none but he was to blame for the unpardonable negligence.

Everyone is hoping it will soon become water under the bridge.

In the genes

This sort of thing happens because both parties have tended not to make a distinction between the person and the office. If it is out of respect for the person in one case, it is because of a fear of the PM’s office in the other. So the parties grumble privately but grovel publicly.

It is the same with the regional parties. No one has ever asked any of the regional bosses to give what in north India is called a ‘full-and-final’.

In other words, lack of accountability is inherent in our culture. And that’s why, regardless of the constitutional and institutional arrangements, when it comes to political arrangements, we remain stuck in a feudal mindset and keep paying the price for it.

Published on July 04, 2021

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