Politics is all about perception and credibility, and nowhere is this truer than in today’s India. If the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fails to address the political crisis that has hit the government, it may lose its steam altogether early into its term.
One of the reasons why Modi struck a chord with the Indian masses was his promise to deal with rampant political corruption. He promised to deliver a scam-free India and usher in a new era of economic and political reforms. People trusted his words blindly and he received a historic mandate.
It’s the time for him to live up to the pledges he made to the nation not so long ago.
Can he act against his own foreign minister who put personal and family interest above the national interest by helping a fugitive, Lalit K. Modi, who is avoiding Indian law? Can he take his own Human Resources Development (HRD) minister to task for lying to the Election Commission about her own educational qualifications? Can he ask his party’s Chief Minister in Rajasthan to step down for the murky financial dealings of her lawmaker son? Can he address the nation on the biggest scandal in Madhya Pradesh, a BJP-ruled state?
It has been almost three weeks since these questions have been vying for the prime minister’s attention, but he has kept his usual enigmatic silence on these controversial issues. As a result, his intentions have come into question.
The previous Congress regime was taught a very harsh lesson in the last general elections for not being tough on corruption and for not maintaining a transparent administration. Modi promised a new political narrative and culture for governance in India, but his silence does not bode well for the BJP regime. The reputation and credibility of the Hindu right-wing government lies on Modi’s shoulders.
The Congress, now in opposition, was at the receiving end of Modi’s diatribes in past. Now, it is up in arms against the government since these scandals have come to light. With the Monsoon session of the parliament set to begin on July 21, the opposition has threatened to disrupt proceedings unless the government acts against the unscrupulous ministers.
The BJP fears that if it acts against the erring ministers it could lose face. But non-action and silence would also mean a big dent in the credibility of the one-year-old government. With a crucial election due in Bihar in September and changing tides in other BJP-ruled states, there is little room for error.
Morevoer, the warning bells have been ringing against the government on the issue of violence against religious minorities and over a perceived crackdown on civil society groups. If the corruption issue is not handled firmly and carefully, the BJP government stands to lose the battle of perceptions. Modi may find himself unable to govern at all.