Why the Nirav Modi- Mehul Choksi affair can turn out to be a proverbial noose around the neck of the Modi Sarkar
After a demoralizing January 2018, when BJP had to bite the dust in the bye-elections held in the state of Rajasthan, came February with a bomb drop. The biggest banking fraud in the history of independent India was still unraveling in the first week. Even before the details of the fraud were clear, came another big shock. That the perpetrators of both frauds had left the country and were in no mood to return any time soon.
What happened in the immediate aftermath is only too well known to require any repetition. The main opposition party clutched it with such grip and accused the ruling dispensation- right at the top, of facilitating the disappearance act. Suddenly it was looking as though a little sheen was off the ruling party. An anti corruption image that it had carefully and painstakingly built for itself was suddenly coming off. In a battle of perceptions, the Congress could easily paint what was essentially a fraud as a scam and worse, the commoner -not the hard core supporter of the BJP or the usual sympathizer, was beginning to raise his eyebrows; another fraud and another coincidental escape?
While the victories in the North East state assembly elections came as a big morale booster, once the din settles down, the bank fraud issue is once again going to rear its head. It is not going to go away easily. And then the real litmus tests are the elections to the assemblies of bigger states going to polls later this year, where the weight of anti-incumbency will be felt by the BJP which is the ruling party in nearly all of these states.
The general elections to the Loksabha are still more than a year away; this can be both a blessing as well as a bane. The time available can be utilized for fulfilling some of the promises made to the electorate during the 2014 elections and win the confidence of the electorate. It is also vital for the government to get back these fraudsters and submit them to the law of the land as quickly as possible, the prospects for which appear very bleak. Under the circumstances, one more such fraud and another scoot will spell the death knell for the BJP, which can then forget 2019 for all practical purposes. It will do irreparable damage to the reputation of the PM personally and BJP as a party.
The congress is at its lowest ebb and has nothing to lose going ahead from here. With no cases registered against the party bigwigs for corruption, it can go to town claiming that “it was all exaggerated by the BJP”, as Sonia Gandhi said at an event recently. With a lot of anti corruption sheen off, what will be left for the people to judge will only be the track record of the current government.