There is no doubt in anyone’s mind in the whole country about the bad blood that exists between the BJP government and the opposition as a whole barring a few exceptions. This manifests in many ways with animosity, prejudice and malice towards Mr Modi, the Prime Minister (PM), being on top of the list. The lowliest of the opposition leaders invariably refer to the Prime Minister in an extremely derogatory and uncivil manner, taking the political discourse to new lows. From 2014 onwards, the opposition has been distinctly disruptive instead of being constructive.
On BJP government’s part, it looks at opposition as something to be tolerated rather than as a partner to work with for the betterment of the nation. This situation needs a course correction and the moot issue is who will take the lead. Without a doubt, it has to come from the party in power, more importantly from the leaders in power as only then will the message filter down. As part of its democratic responsibilities, the ruling party has to try and bring the opposition into a constructive role in national interests.
The most glaring issue today is the silence of the Prime Minister that for many translates into non-governance. This feeling took roots when the Shaheen Bagh protests lingered on for months. It was further strengthened after the Farmers’ protests followed the same pattern. More recently, the near silence of the Prime Minister for weeks during the second wave of Coronavirus, is once again being questioned and the charge of non-governance has come to the fore once again. In short, this silence points to a very pronounced communication gap. It has come at a time when the nation is seeing unimaginable sufferings among the people of the country. The public is angry and many are disenchanted with the leadership.
The other issue is the constant bickering between the center and the states. One accuses the other of lying and making false claims, more so if the state is ruled by an opposition party. It is amusing the first few times, but the public is no fool and can see through the game of political one upmanship that is being played. In the final analysis it is the common man who pays the price. Be it the shortage of critical drugs, beds in hospitals, oxygen supply or the derailment of the vaccination drive, people have been hit hard. At times like this, public mood and public perceptions are important. Is the nation’s leadership or the government doing anything to allay the fears or the apprehensions that have gripped the citizens? Unfortunately, they are not and it is only getting worse.
To give the government and the leadership its due, one assumes that they must be working earnestly. But in absence of any visible signs or assurances, why should a common man believe this? The authorities at all levels have to be seen to be in control of the situation and working for a better future. There have to be some optics, of the right type, to drive home this confidence in the common man. These optics have to come from the right sources, at the right time and must be convincing to reassure the public.
Mr Modi has built an image over the last few years of being a leader who connects with the common man. There are scores of schemes targeted towards the common man that support this image that is reinforced through initiatives like ‘Man Ki Baat’. Today, his image has taken a beating since that connect is missing in this time of crisis. Slowly but surely, this is resulting in a loss of credibility in his leadership and his persona. This is neither good for the nation nor for the future of BJP or Mr Modi as a leader.
Leaders make mistakes, that is natural and acceptable. But leaders who do not accept their mistakes or do not resort to course correction have no moral right to continue in leadership roles. Leaders cannot be seen to let things be and wait for effects of their mistakes to subside. Leaders, however popular or strong as they may be, have to be seen as accountable and therefore the need to rise above personal egos and to shed any vanity that may have crept in. They cannot wish away their accountability to the public that elects them or go in hibernation in difficult times.
Today BJP blames the opposition and sections of media for most of the ills that are around while presenting itself as the proverbial Holy Cow. It is time BJP realizes that the opposition has nothing to lose while they have a lot to lose. The government has to take responsibility for any ills that the nation faces today even if there are clear indications that the same were either inherited or not of their making. It is for BJP to find a way either to work with the opposition or around it. Any attempt to destroy the whole opposition, both at the Centre and in states, can only be counterproductive. The recent local and state-level elections have driven that point home, but it seems BJP just refuses to see the writing on the wall. If states and Centre have to fight over allocation of oxygen in courts, then apart from trust deficit, there is a serious governance issue as well.
India had everything going for it till about the end of last year. Its response to the pandemic was better than most nations across the world. Diplomatically, the nation’s stock was higher than ever before. The economy was coming back on rails at a pace that surprised many. If India had played its cards correctly, by now it could have been the messiah for all poor nations for supply of vaccines. The nation’s vaccination drive that became the envy of the world would not have floundered as it did in last few weeks. But the nation, or more correctly the Centre and state governments in tandem, squandered these strengths and instead brought the country to the precarious situation that we find ourselves in.
Nobody doubts the commitment of the PM towards the nation and its citizens. But it is time to ensure that the whole team is equally committed. There is an imperative need to ruthlessly weed out any inefficiencies that may have crept in the system. If some heads have to roll then so be it. The public needs to see some action instead of the routine excuses offered. It is time to restore the credibility of national institutions apart from ensuring that judicial activism does not overtake the executive powers of elected governments.
Fortunately for Mr Modi, most of the nation still has faith in him and he remains their leader of choice. Some of the achievements of his government have been path breaking to correct decades of historical wrongs. It is time for the PM, his government and his party to reinvent themselves and find a more proactive approach to governance where the citizens are aware of why and how things are happening the way they are. In short it is time to put into practice the oft-repeated slogan of ‘minimum government and maximum governance’ to regain the lost credibility.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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