When Narendra Modi started speaking in the Parliament on the Constitution on Friday, most expected the PM, armed with razor sharp wit and sarcasm, to attack the opposition. The stage was set with other senior leaders from the government already having taken potshots at the opposition. But what happened next shocked many. Modi played the role of a perfect statesman, invoked Nehru, paid tributes to all the past Prime Ministers and spoke about cohesion in governance. The PM also gave an account of his foreign trips on the floor of the Parliament.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shorty after that Modi greeted Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh for a session of ‘chai pe charcha’. According to reports, Sonia Gandhi did most of the talking and the PM and his ministers tried to assuage the Congress leadership about their doubts regarding the GST. On Sunday in his monthly radio program ‘Mann Ki Baat’, PM Modi spoke about ‘EK Bharath Shreshta Bharat’ to promote inclusiveness amidst concerns about growing intolerance.Just a month ago, Modi steadfastly refused to mention Nehru in his speech at the India-Africa forum summit even though the African leaders were gratuitous in paying tribute to India’s first PM in cementing the relationship. So what changed in the interim? One suspects BJP’s defeat in the Bihar elections is one of the major reasons behind this change in tactics. The air of invincibility that Modi enjoyed, even after the Delhi debacle, is now gone. The BJP can’t just win elections by having Modi turn up and whip up a mass frenzy. What it will need is strong groundwork and the ability to show tangible results on the ground. For that BJP needs the Parliament to function so that crucial bills like the GST pass. But the BJP is currently a hopeless minority in the Rajya Sabha. So it needs the Congress’ help to get crucial bills through. PM Modi’s outreach can be looked at that context, as a way to mend fences with Congress.The BJP can also afford to tone down its rhetoric for some time as it doesn’t stand to gain much in the upcoming series of polls except in Assam. So till mid-2017, when Uttar Pradesh goes to polls, BJP can afford to lie low and focus on governance and finally gett out of poll mode. But will the opposition allow them to settle down? Having the government firefight peripheral issues helps the opposition.But can the BJP crack down on its fringes who make unsavoury statements from time to time and derail the governance agenda? That remains one big question mark. Sadly for BJP, it is easier to cut down on rhetoric but much more difficult to tame inherent bigotry.
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