Battling perceptions

In a battle of perceptions, to concede an inch is to lose several feet. After having won the 2014 Lok Sabha election >on an anti-corruption platform, relying heavily on a carefully crafted clean image of himself, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot afford to now be seen as leading a party or government of corrupt individuals. But, with the former chairman and commissioner of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi, >embarrassing his colleagues in government and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in a series of revelations, all that Prime Minister Modi seems to be doing is to wait silently in the hope that the noise would die down. Acting decisively against Ms. Raje, as propriety demanded, would have opened up several fronts. For one, Ms. Raje is enormously popular within the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Rajasthan unit and >commands the support of a majority of the party’s members in the Assembly. Dislodging her would result in the national leadership, Mr. Modi and party president Amit Shah in particular, having to deal with a revolt in the State unit. Ms. Raje has in the past defied the national leadership, thwarting attempts to project alternative leaders at the State level. It would be unrealistic to expect her to go down without a fight. Secondly, to admit that the BJP in its avatar under Mr. Modi is no different from the BJP of old would be to admit that he has made no difference to it since he worked himself onto the national stage. If the BJP today comes across a lot like the Congress on an issue like corruption, then Mr. Modi would have to be deemed a failure. Thus, to even recognise that there is corruption in its ranks is for the BJP an issue of its very raison d’être.

Of course, one reason Ms. Raje remains powerful in Rajasthan is that a year after he assumed office Prime Minister Modi does not quite retain his national appeal. While there is no challenge to his authority at the Centre, regional satraps such as Ms. Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan do not believe they owe him anything in their political careers. But inaction is not an option for the BJP at the national level in l’affaire Lalit Modi. If denial remains the default response, sooner or later the party would be seen as condoning corruption. Allowing Ms. Raje to continue could have long-term effects on its credibility and its anti-corruption stance. As for Ms. Raje, the >financial dealings of her son Dushyant Singh with Lalit Modi, and an affidavit she filed in favour of the former IPL commissioner, raise serious issues. Her continuance as Chief Minister without these issues being addressed quickly would only fuel the agitations that the Opposition parties have launched, and cramp the government’s functioning. In the long run, that would be disastrous for both Ms. Raje and the BJP.

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2020 9:39:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/lalitgate-need-for-the-bjp-to-battle-perception/article7364284.ece

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