Campaign Speeches of the Prime Minister and the emerging public issues

Narendra Modi1

In the run up to the campaign for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the speeches of the Prime Minister have received wide condemnation. The statement related to having Mutton and Machli during sawan a festive season, Muslims as infiltrators, Muslims as ones who give birth to several children, opposition as bearers of Mughal mentality, Mangalsootra being snatched away, Buffalo being taken away, Ram Mandir being locked with Babri lock, Sports team to be filled with minorities represent a new low in political campaign from a high office as that of Prime Minister. This is in line with his WhatsApp university image as a Hindu Raja who has come to protect the interest of the Hindus who are threatened by the Muslims. The opposition according to this aims to side with the Muslims and works against the interests of the Hindus. To project himself in this image of a Hindu protector, the half completed Ram Mandir was inaugurated in a grandiose event which was attended by the rich and famous from the world of business, movies, sports and politics. The religious leaders too were sidelined with him taking the center stage of temple inauguration.

The new low in speeches is happening at a time when a shift seems to be happening with growing people’s concerns on matters that concern daily lives. The CSDS-Lokniti pre-poll survey indicated that unemployment, price rise, corruption, rural distress and deteriorating economic conditions of households are seen as significant issues by the voters. This was the case in 2019 too but then Pulwama was made an emotional issue and there was a shift in voter preference for BJP. This time Ram mandir was sought to be projected as an emotional issue. The survey shows that Ram Mandir has received a low priority as a matter to be considered for voting.

The attempt to project as a fighter against corruption is not appealing to people as the ‘washing machine’ campaign of the opposition is clearly indicating rather than fighting corruption the party only is accommodating and aligning with the corrupt. While ‘Acche din’ has lost its appeal, ‘Vikshit Bharat’ , a twenty five year future dream is no longer attracting the people. This is in a context where an attempt by farmers to demand an ‘MSP guarantee’ was responded to through use of teargas and road blockades through inserting nails on the road. While a section of youth looked at service in the military as a source of employment, the introduction of ‘Agniveer’ was only a disappointment. Rather than expanding, it was snatching away employment. No plans were in place to actually expand employment opportunities. The attempt to display that India is doing great by becoming the fifth largest economy under the leadership of the prime minister has not received any attention as people can only relate to economic conditions which are hardly witnessing much change.

Rather than addressing the key concerns of the public related to unemployment, price rise, growing economic inequalities, and the need for improving on the governance and human development front, the speeches have increasingly resorted to identity politics. There is no talk of the manifesto of BJP but a talk of the manifesto of Congress, which is sought to be projected as one that is trying to appease the Muslims. While it cannot be denied that these speeches would appeal to BJP’s core voters who are already inducted into the communal ideology, it would not attract the shifting voters who are constrained by struggles related to daily lives and livelihoods. The identity politics too has come to threaten them. Attempting to impose language, playing one ethnic group against the other, one caste against another apart from one religion against another is proving counter productive to the Party. Images and Videos of certain communities deciding to vote against BJP, or the BJP leaders being questioned are emerging.

The perception of threat to the constitution is also growing. The statements made by some of the BJP leaders that they would change the constitution if they were voted to power and BJP’s talk of ‘Chaar sau paar’ are seen with suspicion. Opposition has been able to take the message that affirmative action and welfare of marginalized people guaranteed by the constitution would be threatened as BJP aims to change the constitution if voted to power. It forced the Prime Minister to declare that there would not be a change of constitution even if Dr. Ambedkar wanted that to happen.

Rather than the image of the protector of Hindus, an image of the party as a protector of the super-rich Adani and Ambanis, corrupt, women abusers (such as Revanna and Brijbhushan) seems to be growing.

While the outcome of the results would only emerge on 4th June,  the tide seems to be shifting. Has the time come for this change?

T Navin is an independent writer

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