The reaction of his cabinet colleague Rajnath Singh clearly showed mission accomplished - the Union Home Minister shook his head and pumped his fist post the Prime Minister's speech in the Lok Sabha.
The contents of Modi's speeches essentially consisted of attacking the Gandhi family and the Congress party with dollops of extremely problematic history - virtually a course in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's alt history - thrown in. It identified the agenda for mission 2019; senior BJP leaders said that attacking the Gandhi family and corruption would be the central theme that Modi would take to the voters.
Modi's speeches were also notable for what they chose to omit. Curiously Modi, despite four years in office, did not showcase his own track record on governance. Jobs - he had promised to create 10 million a year - farm distress and foreign policy found no mention. He seemed to be asking voters for another chance to attack the Congress and the Gandhi family, which are the root cause of the country's problems.
BJP leaders say that attacks on the Gandhi family, specially Congress president Rahul Gandhi whose image the party has systematically tried to destroy, still have a lot of traction among the party's base. But corruption, the issue which Modi hard-sold to get into office in 2014, does not have the same resonance even among the faithful.
If the Gandhi family and corruption are central issues as they were in 2014, the BJP strategists have another issue they have used before - communal polarisation. This, not surprisingly, actually fires up the base. The dog whistles remain. So Modi will maintain his strategic silence on gau rakshaks and hate speeches in Parliament and on the campaign trail will add an occasional jibe like the one about "kabristans".
Take the case of Bajrang Dal founder and BJP Rajya Sabha MP, Vinay Katiyar who is courting a controversy a day asking for all Muslims to go to Pakistan and attacking the Taj Mahal. This desperate headline hunting is to ensure that his Rajya Sabha term is renewed. Katiyar's current term in parliament started in 2012. BJP leaders have learnt that Muslim baiting pays as Katiyar, despite his hate speeches, has attracted no censure from the party.
So as Modi sounded the poll bugle from Raisina Hill, brace yourself for election season. Expect more Gandhi family bashing, alt history lessons, the Ram Mandir.
It is the opposition's job to hold the Modi government to account on jobs and economic and agrarian distress. And, as Modi kicks off the battle for the general election, the voter will decide.
(Swati Chaturvedi is an author and a journalist who has worked with The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Hindustan Times.)
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