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It’s Modi 2.0 Redux

With the election of Om Birla back as the Speaker the optics could not be more telling. The new Modi government is a continuation of the old. It is Modi 2.0 redux. All the naysayers who were claiming that Modi would have to compromise and give up the Speaker’s post to his allies have now […]

With the election of Om Birla back as the Speaker the optics could not be more telling. The new Modi government is a continuation of the old. It is Modi 2.0 redux. All the naysayers who were claiming that Modi would have to compromise and give up the Speaker’s post to his allies have now been silenced. More so when he also has the cabinet of his choice with Amit Shah, S Jaishankar, Nirmala Sitharaman and Rajnath Singh back in their old portfolios. Compromise if any was probably in the inclusion of Nitin Gadkari and Shivraj Singh Chauhan in the Modi government, but look at it this way. In having them as part of his cabinet they are in a ‘controlled environment’ and not gaining strength in parallel set ups, either as a CM contender or BJP Chief.
It’s not that the allies have just given in. They have made their demands but with Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar as state CMs their needs are regional rather than center based. And this also suits Narendra Modi.
One is drawing parallels with the Atal Behari Vajpayee government that also banked on allies for support. The allies then were much more vociferous but then Vajpayee had fashioned himself as the consensus man, and accordingly allowed the drama to be played out in public, both the demands and how he quelled, cajoled and pacified recalcitrant allies. Modi’s modus operandi is different. He is very conscious of his image as the Supreme Leader whose word is final. Therefor the optics have to be all in place. Whatever bargaining needs to be done is done behind the scenes away from the headlines.
As long as the allies get what they want they are ready to play along with this narrative, specially Nitish Kumar whose government is on BJP support in Bihar.
Of course the Speaker may be firmly in place in terms of public glare, but the semantics of the House will be different. With a strident opposition the government will have to be more cautious about passing controversial bills by voice vote and suspending MPs who disagree. With a watered down mandate the treasury bench may have lost some of its lung power but Modi has ensured it loses none of its swagger. However the opposition has come rejuvenated and strengthened so it is not going to be all that easy an act to pull off, even for someone with Narendra Modi’s aplomb. Its going to be an exciting display of democracy with Om Birla presiding from the Speaker’s Chair.

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