Earthworms are working their way up from under the soil and committing mass suicide in Wayanad, north Kerala. The earth is getting too hot for them, say some folks, after the battering that the earth got from unprecedented rain and floods. There are lots of people around the world who would wish such a fate on politicians and it is a worrying thought for politicians from Barack Obama to Amit Shah.
The former United States President is giving ideas to people that he is on a comeback trail, probably the only ex-POTUS to emerge from retirement to attack a successor, who, if questioned, will say Trump has only himself to blame for wrath visited. The Democrats are hoping to make gains in the Senate and other elections slated for 2018 in the run-up to the “big un” in 2020. But Obama knows D’s Achilles heel.
Addressing a rally in Illinois the other day, he said the biggest threat to democracy was not Donald Trump, but “indifference” and “cynicism” that is keeping the “young voter” away from the voting booth. “Go out and vote,” he urged, around the same time Trump was telling his rally that America was a “developing country” and subsidies to China and India should be stopped.
“They call themselves developing nations and, under that category, they get subsidies. We have to pay them money to grow. This whole thing is crazy, but we’re going to stop it, we’re going to stop it. We have stopped it. We’re a developing nation, too, OK? As far as I’m concerned, we’re a developing nation… we’re going to grow faster than anybody else,” Trump told his “people” at a fundraiser in South Dakota.
This, when Obama was reminding “his people” that Trump should not forget “when the current growth of the United States actually started”; Obama is acutely aware that there is not much left by way of the legacy he left behind. For, even as the Modi regime was beating Jawaharlal Nehru’s legacy to the ground, the Trump administration was rubbing Obama’s to below sub-soil, a reverse earthworm phenomenon.
Which brings us to the realisation that both Trump and Modi face “acid tests” this year, the difference being that, while the two-party system entrenched in America makes Obama appeal to the voter to come out in droves, singly and collectively, the rise of regional parties, eating into India’s vitals, has forced the only national party in the Opposition to appeal to all Opposition parties to come together and “do whatever it takes to defeat Narendra Modi.”
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said, “The question is not ‘Modi versus Who?’; next year’s election is going to be ‘Modi versus India’. But that still leaves the Opposition without a ‘face’ and the absence of Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee at such ‘functions’ does leave the question open whether there is Opposition unity.
It is common belief that lawyers defy truth at the drop of a fee, and who better knows that than Kapil Sibal? At a function to launch his book, ‘Shades of Truth’, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivered his verdict on the Modi regime: A “failure on all fronts.” And Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury, to a question on who was an alternative to Modi, said, “The question is not ‘Modi versus Who?’; next year’s election is going to be ‘Modi versus India’.
But that still leaves the Opposition without a “face” and the absence of Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee at such “functions” does leave the question open whether there is Opposition unity. Ex-BJP loyalist Chandan Mitra, now a Trinamool recruit, who was present at the Sibal book release, was jokingly reminded of the ‘Jyoti Basu-moment’ of the CPI(M) by Yechury and that, probably, spoke of the “lurking” more eloquently than a direct reference.
The media, probably, is to blame. Unwittingly, or with a purpose, in the last several weeks, the media has been pitching Rahul Gandhi against Narendra Modi and, coupled with Rahul’s Europe tour, a “face” has emerged. More so, because the BJP wants the Congress to come out and say it straight that it is “Rahul versus Modi”. But the fractured Opposition likes “Modi versus India” better, and, like Obama at his Illinois rally, said, “Better is always good!”
The Opposition in India and the US are up against an ideology that has a dedicated base and the 31% who voted BJP-Modi must have only risen, by whatever percentage, while there is still no surety if the 69% who did not vote for BJP-Modi are together on purpose. The problem is that, of the 69%, only 24% voted for the parties now in the Opposition in 2014. The remaining 45% stood and watched, voting neither the BJP, nor the Opposition.
It is this undecided 45% who will decide 2019. As it will ‘2020’ in Trump’s America. Obama wants “his America” to come out and “vote” and it is not much different in India. The earthworms will have to squirm out and vote for the Opposition if the Opposition wants to avoid mass suicide. As Trump said, “The whole thing is crazy.”
(The author is a political commentator)