With Scandal Over Amit Shah’s Son, BJP Feels Heat - And It Shows

NDTV, 10-10-2017 16:16:07

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With Scandal Over Amit Shah’s Son, BJP Feels Heat - And It Shows

The tide is turning, the narrative is changing and Mr Modi is feeling the heat. The BJP is showing signs of nervousness and anxiety is setting in. Into this restlessness, the website The Wire has added fuel with BJP president Amit Shah as target. The story is about his son, Jay Shah, and how his loss-making company allegedly earned 80 crores in a year (an increase of 16 lac percent) after the BJP came to power, and then, the very next year, it mysteriously went bankrupt. This coincides with the emergence of Modi as the Prime Minister in Delhi and his father Amit Shah becoming the party president. These two gentlemen are the two most powerful persons in India right now. Nothing moves without their consent, they control every nut and bolt of the party and the government completely. It is testimony to their power and ruthlessness that many TV channels refused to broadcast this big story; newshounds who don’t spare a minute to start a loud debate on a topic like this went mum last night. Newspapers did carry the story.

This story is a runaway success on social media. It heralds the arrival of digital media as a potent medium of breaking news with a game-changing capacity. The monopoly of TV as a medium has been broken. TV anchors were left gasping last night in their corridors of shame. It was Modi who along with India Against Corruption warriors invented social media as a powerful medium of political and social expression for India. This medium of late has turned into a battleground for naming and shaming, a killing fields for trolls, but with this story, digital media shows it can also be taken seriously.

I want to remind you of the time when the Manmohan Singh government was riding high after the 2009 election, and the opposition was hiding in grief. But a series of corruption exposes by TV channels created an anti-government crescendo which later discovered its soul in the Anna Hazare movement.

Within a few months of Modi’s stupendous victory in UP, the BJP has turned defensive. Be it the paradox of the bullet train project and multiple rail accidents, or the death of more than 60 babies in a Gorakhpur hospital, the total lawlessness in Panchkula by Ram Rahim supporters because of the incompetence of the BJP government in Haryana, or the confirmation that 99% of old currency has been returned to banks, or the tanking of the GDP growth to a historic low to 5.7%, the scary story of growing joblessness, the revolt of senior BJP leaders  like Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie - all this has left the BJP trying to brush off criticism. Yashwant Sinha’s column made the Prime Minister so nervous that he had to give a 52-minute presentation to counter the argument of the economy being in bad shape. It was a weak defence. This was the dawn of the new beginning.

The biggest transformation since 2014 is that now the opposition has a tool to write a counter narrative; the challenge is to stitch a narrative which can resonate with the people, and how to communicate with citizens, convey their point of view, their future plan of governance, their idea of India, their vision for the "New India". Till very recently, the Modi government had successfully changed the paradigm, it appeared to be making secularism redundant; the country seemed hooked to a brand of militant nationalism which is exclusive, hateful, devoid of dissent. The Opposition was dubbed anti-national.

But with the weakening of the economy due to demonetization and the faulty application of GST, every section of society is feeling the pinch. People are feeling cheated. Modi euphoria is waning. Now questions about the lack of jobs are openly asked, questions about small and medium scale businesses suffering, and industry dying are being asked more and more. It is the duty of the opposition to raise these issues and also to offer solutions. The Opposition has to offer a basket of new ideas much like Modi did during the 2014 election. It is argued in intellectual circles that there is no alternative to Modi, that the opposition is in fragments, that there is no one leader who can tower over others vis-à-vis Modi. Now we have a golden opportunity for the opposition to assault the ruling regime with vigour.

The Opposition need not be reminded that the allegations around Amit Shah’s son create an issue of the same proportion as Robert Vadra’s business dealings which erupted just before the 2014 parliamentary election. The Vadra issue gave a handle to the BJP to directly attack the top leadership of the Congress party. That issue made Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi vulnerable and when Priyanka Gandhi began campaigning and put Modi on the defensive, the BJP released  a thick booklet on Vadra. Jay Shah’s case is similar. Here the son of the second-most powerful leader of the BJP in the dock. Amit Shah is no ordinary politician. It is said that no party president has exuded so much power since the time of Kamraj. It can easily be argued and people will understand that questions about the son’s company suddenly making so much revenue need to be answered.

Amit Shah is vulnerable and is creating some negative feedback - look at his Kerala yatra, for example - and is fast emerging as the weak point in Modi’s armour. Sooner or later, Modi will have to take a call. If he continues with Shah, then it will be  great ammunition for the opposition, and if he is dispensed with, then it will be a great moral victory for the anti-Modi brigade. The Opposition benefits either way, but to accrue the benefit, the opposition has to weave a coherent strategy. The Opposition can’t afford to let this "wow" moment go.

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