Growing Opposition Against Modi: Are the Tides Turning?

The Modi government has finally managed to create disillusionment amongst large numbers of people who were earlier unaffected by this government's erosion of social justice, violent suppression of dissent, crony capitalism and so on.

opposition
Courtesy: TOI, National Herald

The growing opposition against the government is making itself visible every day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday is coming up on September 17. This year, he will turn 70. While BJP has announced a week-long celebration of his birthday as ‘Seva Saptah’ (Service Week), the people of the country would rather celebrate it as ‘National Unemployment Day’.

Calls have been given for another nation-wide protest for 17 minutes at 17:00 hours on 17 September under the hashtag #17Sept17Hrs17Minutes. Before this, people have protested for 9 minutes at 9 pm on 9th September under the hashtag #9Baje9Minute, and for 5 minutes at 5 pm on September 5 as well. With large participation of the country’s youth, these acts of protest have also received support from opposition leaders.

The symbolic protests that have been taking place are a play on the earlier mobilisations by the BJP, where the PM gave calls for people to bang thalis on their balcony, turn off their lights, and so on at specific times. This act was used as a distraction from the issues facing the country in the pandemic, including the lack of equipment, protection for frontline workers, the migrant crisis, and communal violence.

The widespread support such calls from the Prime Minister received at the time ensured a show of strength that came close on the heels of the nation-wide anti-CAA-NRC protests. At the local, neighbourhood level, non-supporters and dissenters were cornered by the fanatic show of support through completely unscientific means based on a mere speech by the PM. During that time, in many neighbourhoods, non-conformity with even these acts would lead to certain families being profiled as anti-nationals, as many Muslim families reported doing the acts out of fear.

More ‘Dislikes’ than ‘Likes’

However, the heady days of the early stages of the pandemic and the nationalistic fervour of ‘Janata Curfew’ and other such stunts is beginning to fade away. In the last month, videos featuring PM Modi have consistently garnered lakhs of dislikes on Youtube, largely weighing out the number of likes on the videos. This includes an episode of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ which got a record number of dislikes, and then Modi’s address at a leadership summit of US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF).

Of course, there has been widespread opposition against the government before this as well, especially sparked by the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Registry of Citizens. Protests took place across the country in a sustained manner for months, in spite of violent repression, with protestors from across caste, class, gender, and religious lines. However, these protests were demonized by Islamophobic media propaganda, and the pandemic taken as the perfect opportunity to incarcerate protestors and put an abrupt stop to the movement. Muslims began to be scapegoated en-masse for the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and the caste-Hindu middle classes were indifferent or hostile to the protests.

Youth holding candle and poster saying “We want #JusticeForYouth and Rhea nahi Naukariya (Jobs not Rhea)

However, since then, the Modi government has finally managed to create disillusionment amongst large numbers of people who were earlier unaffected by this government’s erosion of social justice, the violent suppression of dissent, crony capitalism and so on. Although the propaganda machines have been churning out distractions constantly, be it Corona-jihad, Bhoomi Poojan, or now, the Sushant Singh Rajput case, the Modi government’s decision to conduct the NEET-JEE exams during the pandemic has alienated many.

The decision to conduct various exams in spite of widespread opposition and appeals from students with the support of State government leaders, began a wave a discontent that has been further solidified by the effects of the massively mishandled pandemic, the record fall in the GDP of 23.9 per cent, rising unemployment and inflation, and large-scale privatisation. These are all issues that can be seen, at least by some sections of the society as non-political and non-partisan, and as a result, earlier strategies of demonising this opposition using communal propaganda have not been successful.

The unempathetic response of the government to these issues has impressed upon many students, especially, that opposing the government in any way is enough for them to be branded as anti-national, even though they may have been supportive of the larger agenda of the BJP. Further, the Modi government has taken various unnecessary steps under the guise of ‘national security’ that have especially angered the previously non-political youth- including the banning of TikTok and PubG, both of which had massive numbers of users across social groups.

All of these events and the growing show of resistance shows that Narendra Modi is no longer the infallible, all-knowing, supreme leader he was seen as even a few months ago. The government had taken the support of the caste-Hindu middle classes for granted and the way in which the BJP’s pro-corporate anti-people policies have been slowly destroying the economy has been slowly turning the tide against the party. It is important at this juncture to be vigilant of the propaganda the government unleashes upon us, to ensure that this discontent does not fizzle out over time, and to resist manufactured distractions.

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May 2024
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