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Credibility Contest

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In his speech during the motion of thanks on the President’s address to Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi threw down the gauntlet to the opposition in no uncertain manner. It is true that the coming General Elections are going to be crucial for the future of India, determining what direction it will take in development and social terms. It is not just that the opposition denies the government’s claims on achievements, it also questions the manner it has been done.

Be it the Prime Minister, Finance Minister or Foreign Minister, the fundamentals of India’s ideological, economic and strategic direction have been meticulously explained on many fora. It has led to the country’s emergence as a major global power and the fifth largest economy, with a continuing growth trajectory. All of this has been questioned by the opposition, primarily the Congress, on the basis of the discredited model of the past.

Modi argued rightly that most political parties have been reduced to family proprietorships and all considerations were subject to the interests of these ‘owners’. He also questioned the sense of inferiority that afflicted those entrusted with India’s governance in the early years, which adversely influenced their decisions. In contrast, India today has a more representative leadership that has confidence in the people’s ability to achieve political and economic goals.

What aggravated the opposition the most was his assumption that the BJP would be back in power for a third time. Leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge have described this as a move to a Putin like dictatorship, overlooking the reality within his own party. With very little time to go before the polls, a pretty clear picture is emerging of the lines along which these will be fought. The continuing erosion of the INDI Alliance is making it further difficult for the opposition to forge an effective counter-strategy. So, the exchanges in Parliament were even more personally abrasive; all the more so as the NDA charge is riding on “Modi’s Guarantees”. This reflects the BJP’s confidence in the Prime Minister’s personal charisma. It gains even greater traction when contrasted with Rahul Gandhi’s attempts to construct an alternative narrative.

The opposition’s effort has been reduced to tapping into the misgivings many sections have about Hindutva. Unfortunately, too many fail to make the distinction and seem to oppose Hinduism. The presence of actual anti-Hindu elements in their midst doesn’t make it easier. Under the circumstances, who has greater credibility – Modi or the opposition?