Post 23/5 we have had a plethora of political analysts giving us their considered opinions. I have read many of them in both print and online. Let me add my own two pice to the debate.
Firstly, my choice of headline. Those familiar with my writings are aware of my penchant for double entendre, a la Dan Brown. There are two meanings, and therefore two reasons, for my choice of title. Mirage, as we know, is an illusion, especially for a thirsty traveller in the desert. The closer one gets to it the further it recedes into the background, as we shall presently see. I call it Mirage.2 because it could be a second illusion for a thirsty “Yeh Dil Mange More” populace.
The second choice of the word is the Mirage 2000. You’ve guessed right. It is the strike bomber that was deployed to “surgically strike” Pakistan in Balakot on February 26th. I see a possible umbilical cord between Mirage.2 and the Mirage 2000; because one couldn’t have happened without the other.
In my previous articles “War Games People Play” and “War Games Part II” I saw a pattern in how Indira Gandhi laid the ground for the Bangladesh War in 1971 by having an Indian Airlines plane hijacked to Lahore; the Purulia Arms Drop that could have resulted in another war; and the Pulwama “lapse” that necessitated Balakot’s Mirage 2000 strike; thereby delivering Mirage.2 on a platter to Namo.
I will here reiterate what I have said earlier, that Pulwama, Balakot and now Namo 2 seem to be a progression of events. Those who could not see through Mirage 2000 have now been fated with Mirage.2.
Subsequent events have borne out my earlier contention that Balakot was not aimed at some Islamist terrorists in Pakistan, but rather at ultra-nationalists in Hindustan. What else can explain Mirage.2?
We have been told about toilets, gas cylinders, low cost housing and rural electrification, as major factors in Namo winning the elections hands down. While acknowledging and appreciating these developmental works, as also Nitin Gadkari’s hard work in road building, I do not believe that this “vikas” by itself could have resulted in the BJP winning more than 300 seats now. I have two reasons.
Firstly, the much touted vikas was not as much as Govt stats and propaganda would have us believe. Noted economists, including one of the Prime Minister’s own advisors, have warned of an economic slow down as happened in Brazil and South Africa. GDP and exports were down, as was the rupee at 69.66 to the US Dollar. Car sales were down 17% year on year (YOY). Air travel was also down 4.5% YOY. Maruti had reduced one factory shift (that is a 33% drop in production). Unemployment, we were told, was at a 45 year high. Farmer distress had peaked, with them resorting to long marches in Maharashtra and Tamilnadu. Farm prices had hit rock bottom. When Namo won on 16/5/2014 the BSE Sensex was at 24,122. A bhakt told me that in five years it would have crossed 50,000. But on 23/5/19 it was a modest 38,811. Nothing extraordinary there. What was extraordinary though was buddy Adnani’s group shares jumping 27% just on the day that the exit polls were announced!
My second reason is the marked difference between December 2018 and May 2019. The “Pappu” led Congress had wrested three cow belt States – Rajasthan, M.P. and Chhatisgarh from the BJP. Then how did they draw a near blank just 5 months later? What had changed so drastically in the interim?
Again, political analysts would tell us that it was due to the 2019 Union Budget presented in February, that had put one, or possibly two instalments of Rs 2000/- each in the accounts of poor farmers, and increased the Income Tax exemption limits. There was also the 10% reservation for upper castes, even if there are no jobs. Such last ditch measures could have partially offset the anti-incumbency trend seen in three States in December. By themselves they could never have been game changers. I therefore reiterate my view that Balakot was indeed the Tipping Point that decisively tilted the scales in the BJP’s favour. Pulwama then could not have been a mere lapse. Someday the truth will emerge about who planned what and how, to what effect.
The way Namo used this “surgical strike” to his advantage, and his repeated references to it in his election campaign; despite a mild tap on the knuckles from a docile Election Commission, is reason enough to believe that it was more than meets the eye.
Let’s return to the Mirage 2000. In the aerial dogfight the aging Mirage actually clipped the wings of a far superior fighter, the Rafaele, deployed by pilot Rahul. Though many analysts had warned him that Rafaele could not be the central plank of his election campaign, he persisted with it, and accordingly met his Waterloo.
Why do I refer to the election results as Mirage.2? The economic parameters aforesaid are but one of the indices to show that vikas was not really what it was claimed to be. Secondly, in the last 5 years the Kashmir scenario has spiralled out of control, with terrorist attacks increasing threefold, despite the claims of surgical strikes and “mooh tod jabab” (jaw breaking retaliation). The worst thing was the increasing social unrest and suspicion generated.
There is the adage “Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches”. So too it is those who have faced the brunt of mob lynchings, rationalists being killed, dissent and media being stifled, and institutions being controlled, that feel the pain. Social media trolls, and armchair critics who don’t lift a finger for social upliftment or involvement, may think that everything is hunky dory. Not so those who have been victims of this social upheaval. Arthik vikas (economic development) is good, but if it is at the cost of samajik vinash (social destruction), then it is not.
The signs for Mirage.2 are equally ominous. In his victory speech Namo sarcastically said that in this election nobody spoke of secularism. What was he pointing at – that secularism was no longer sacred in India? So was his bowing in front of a copy of the Constitution that enshrines secularism, mere tokenism? After fanning communal passions and polarization during his election speeches has he suddenly turned over a new leaf? It reminds me of the Hindi saying “Saw chuhe khaye, billi chali haj ko” (After killing a hundred mice the cat is now embarking on a religious pilgrimage”!
In Mirage.1 Namo talked of vikas. In Mirage.2 he has added vishwas (faith or trust). It is too early to say if this too is mere rhetoric, to placate the foreign media that he loves. Here too the signs are ominous. Already there has been an instance of mob attack on some Muslims in M.P., allegedly for carrying beef. A skull cap wearing Muslim was beaten up in Gurugram, though newly elected Delhi M.P. Gautam Gambhir thankfully condemned the act.
On his thanksgiving visit to Varanasi Namo said that his electoral chemistry defeated the caste arithmetic of the SP/BSP grand alliance. What he omitted to say is that many chemical reactions require a catalyst. I am inclined to believe that the catalyst was Balakot.
It will take a lot more than rhetoric and tokenism for non-bhakts like me to believe in both vikas and vishwas. Till such time as he proves his credentials and walks the talk, I am constrained to feel that we are now heading in to Mirage.2. For the sake of my country though, I would be only too happy to be proved wrong.
* The writer is a secular patriot (not ultra-nationalist) who does not belong to any political party.