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Rajneeti 2019 I Of Weddings and Warheads

A monthly column rounding up the latest news related to Indian politics in the run up to the 2019 General Elections. We’ve got you covered, with some laughs in between. 

In our latest segment of “Modiji ko kaun harayega”, the last three weeks saw the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls get fairly action-packed.

On the diplomatic front, as part of the news:  

The 26th of February saw the government, in response to the Pulwama attack, launch a post-midnight strike with what was reported to be between 12 and 14 MiG aircrafts across the Line of Actual Control (LoC) in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Military claimed to have hit multiple Jaish-e-Mohammad camps and claimed to have killed between 200-350 terrorists. Pakistan then termed India’s cross-border air strike “uncalled for aggression” and vowed retaliation. On the same day, Pakistan initiated ceasefire violations by shelling with heavy calibre weapons in 12 to 15 places all along the LoC. A day after the strike, Indian and Pakistani Air Force jets engaged in a chase over the Line of Control. One Indian MiG-21 Bison aircraft was lost and a Pakistani F-16 was shot. Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was arrested by Pakistan, an incident that sent shockwaves across the country. A video of him being rescued by the Pakistani army surfaced wherein he was shown to be safe, and he was later released by the Pakistani army in a show of good faith and arrived in India to a hero’s welcome. Eventually the situation fizzled down, but not after some ripples like Pakistan closing their airspace causing major delays and leaving thousands of travellers stranded, and the closing and the subsequent reopening of the Samjhauta Express.

A social angle wouldn’t ordinarily make it to a political weekly roundup, but the social event in question was one that made you sit up and take notice, with the man from that building at Altamount Road throwing a grand wedding for his son, an event that saw invitees like Ban-ki-moon and Sundar Pichai, as well as an interesting appearance by Mr. Sibal, who, for all his Primetime lambasting, seems couldn’t resist the call-up of the richest man in Asia.

On the Rajnaitik (Political) Front, a little news, a lot of opinion:

The Election dates were announced by the Chief Election Commissioner and the Electoral Code kicked in with the Modi government’s advertising blitz drying up thanks to ECI rules. One wonders whether such rules apply or should apply to backend advertising (I’m looking at you, bhakts on Twitter). Talks between Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal broke down with both vowing to fight all seven seats in Delhi. The opposition would be well advised to put aside their political differences, one only remembers how well the Mahagathbandhan worked in the Bihar legislative polls in 2015, just a year after the Modi wave had propelled the current government into power. The well-wishers of the opposition, or rather the ‘ill-wishers’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are either lamenting the delay in forging a strong mahagathbandhan or are advising the opposition to give up their egos, forget the bitter past, overcome their prejudices towards each other, create a common minimum programme, and sacrifice claims on the number of seats. These well-wishers are, however, divided on their perception of Rahul Gandhi. Some of them say that he has come a long way, matured as a politician and is boldly confronting PM Modi. Also, that Rahul Gandhi has shown an accommodative spirit in aligning with the JD(S) in Karnataka despite the Congress being a much larger party. However most in the country still haven’t risen above calling him Pappu. At the forefront of this derision are the metropolitan elite, who, even though are exhausted with the policies of the Modi government, (a fine example being the tiring GST compliances that have rolled out for lakhs of businesses), cannot bring themselves to press the button with that Hand. But the fundamental question is: Why is there such disunity, if indeed all of them fear the return of Modi with more than 220 seats or with a simple majority? What prevents them from coming together? Their egos, competitive ambitions, political immaturity, prejudices, hatred towards each other, protection of their fiefdoms, or simply their behavioural stubbornness? The answer is twofold, and lies not only in the lack of ability shown by the Gandhi scion to manage his party and his resources and present himself as a viable leader, but also in the fact that Mr. Modi has ended up curbing any internal rebellion within the BJP too, whether it be from a certain Advani or Joshi. This means that not only has is he emboldened from within, but is also emboldened from the without. Does it seem certain then, that the 56-inch chest will be thumped from the ramparts of the Red Fort again, the voice bullish and the saffron turban firmly affixed? Does the fresh-faced young boy of all of forty-eight years have what it takes to dislodge the Modi-Shah electoral blitzkreig? Will any regional satrap manage to snipe a good deal? We must just take a ring-side seat and witness the new plotting and scheming our not-so-humble Executive will provide to us in the coming weeks.

Shubham Morarka is a Volunteer at One Future Collective.

Featured image: Satish Acharya

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