FUELING ANGER

The nation-wide shutdown called by the Congress and some other Opposition parties Monday is prima facie a futile exercise. For, no such protest in the past had brought down prices, be it of fuel or of essential commodities. Governments can absorb such shock treatments and adopt a couldn’t-care-less attitude even as public life would be hit at least in some areas. Chances this time, however, are that the Modi government will not go scot-free. It could face some embarrassment over the Opposition’s calculated move to corner it.

General Elections are a few months away. Issues to cite against the present government are not one too many, unlike in the 2014 polls when corruption and scams – 2G, CWG, coal etc – provided enough ammunition to the Opposition BJP to take on the Congress-led UPA. Now, instead, even the Rafale bomb failed to explode in a way as to hit the government hard. One issue that had put the Modi government on the defensive in the recent past was the iterations of attacks on Dalits as also minority Muslims in some states. But, public memory is short. As of now, such attacks have been few and far between. The GST has its good side, and the flip side too. Demonetisation, which proved to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s undoing to an extent, too is now old hat.

Fuel price hikes – in small yet repeated measures over the past few years – have touched the level of Rs 80 rupees and is threatening to touch the 100 mark. Objectively speaking, fuel prices have not climbed too high. Some 20 years ago, a litre of petrol cost Rs 40. Even then, it has the potential to turn the public tide against the government now, especially in urban areas where almost everyone today has a fuel-run vehicle to ride or drive around. For the large mass of people, every extra penny that goes out of their pockets is an added strain. The Opposition is apparently cashing in on this anger, more so as there is a drought when it comes to the sprouting of issues that can upset the Modi apple cart.

This drought-like situation could be because of the perception created by the Modi government hat it is providing a “clean and efficient” government. It could, more likely, be due to the abject failure on the part of the present Opposition, mainly the Congress party, to find ways and means to put the government on the mat.