CRUCIAL WINS IN THREE HEARTLAND STATES DEFLATE CONGRESS CHALLENGE, WEAKEN OPPOSITION UNITY AND EASE THE PARTY'S RUN TO A THIRD TERM AT THE CENTRE Prime Minister Narendra Modi, like all successful political leaders, has a panoptic vision, which, accompanied by an inspiring narrative, helps him identify key battles. He then draws up deft strategies of attack, strikes at the most opportune moment, even leading from the front if need be, to vanquish any opposition he may encounter. Qualities that he demonstrated in full measure in the recently-concluded assembly elections. The stakes were high both for Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), since this was the final round of assembly polls before the all-important General Election 2024. Together, the aspiration is to notch a third successive Lok Sabha victory—a feat only India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Congress have accomplished so far. And win not just a full majority but one of the kind that Rajiv Gandhi pulled off in the 1984 general election after Indira Gandhi's assassination, when the Congress bagged 414 out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, the highest-ever majority any party has won since Independence. The Congress had cornered a 46.4 per cent vote share at the time to reach that pinnacle. The BJP's highest vote percentage, by contrast, has been 37.3 per cent, in the 2019 general election, when it won 303 seats on its own. Its target this time is a 50 per cent vote share, along with its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Winning a third term will put Modi in the league of statesmen, a mantle that Nehru had worn. To turbocharge its endeavour for total political dominance, the Modi-led BJP deemed it essential that it win in the three Hindi heartland states—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh—that were going to the polls in November along with Telangana and Mizoram. To their dismay, the Congress, the BJP's arch-rival, seemed to be staging a spirited comeback, wresting power from them in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka late last year and in mid-2023, respectively. Worse, surveys showed the Grand Old Party at an advantage in the three northern poll-bound states, too, and experiencing a rebirth in the southern state of Telangana, where the BJP had begun to fancy its chances. Meanwhile, the Opposition, with Congress in the lead, combined its forces under the banner of INDIA, or the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, a 28-party coalition that soon armed itself with the potent narrative of increasing reservations for backward classes after caste-based surveys. It was a direct threat to the monolithic Hindutva plank the BJP had so diligently crafted over the past few years and which had yielded them rich dividends in state and general elections. Conscious of this hydra-headed challenge coming their way, Modi, along with his master strategist, the Union home minister Amit Shah, and BJP national president J.P. Nadda,
ROAR OF THE TIGER
India's hardest-working action star Tiger Shroff seems on track with a slew of releases planned next year When his debut film Heropanti (2014) released, it earned Rs 72.6 crore, unheard of for a newcomer. The Baaghi series (2016—) has been a blockbuster too, having collected 524 crore. Jai Hemant Shroff started being called 'Tiger' by his father Jackie, because as a baby, he used to bite everyone. Today, by the admission of even his co-stars, Tiger bites into every single role wholeheartedly. Kriti Sanon, his leading lady from his debut film to his last release, Ganapath (2023)—which was, incidentally, his lowestearning film ever—has this to say: “Once Tiger is convinced that something has to be done, there is no doubt that he will raise the bar when he finally does it. Whether it is a challenging action sequence or a complicated dance routine, once he knows he has to do it, he will ace it! So many times, he has actually mastered a dance step in just one go and then is assisting the choreographers in helping others do it! He's always that good student in a classroom who will master a math problem and then teach the weaker students!” On his part, Tiger admits that he wants to “be his own competition”, adding, “I want to prove myself with every film! I want to entertain people better, push myself more and more. The audiences have accepted me as an action hero and that's what they expect of me. So, I just try to raise the bar of action with every film I do. The stakes get higher and higher, the premise, the geography, the budgets and the landscapes get bigger and bigger. So, it's tough to reinvent myself in this space. But I think there is still so much to explore.” It is perhaps because of this tenacity that despite some lows like Student of The Year 2 (2019) and Ganapath, Tiger refuses to back down. The 33-year-old actor is perhaps the most prominent face of action in Bollywood, going by his releases for the next two years. Tiger's unwavering consistency and magnetic appeal further solidify his status as a bankable star. It is also superstars who have been co-actors with Tiger who are full of praise for him. A lot was written about the camaraderie between Hrithik Roshan and Tiger, when the duo worked in 2019's War. “When I first met him, it was like a mutual admiration club. I have literally seen him grow and feel just so proud of him. Tiger's dedication to everything that he does is something I really admire. He is a complete package. I think Tiger's biggest USP is how he has made his place in the hearts of people of all age groups—that is something I can't compliment him enough for!” says Hrithik. It is not just as a proud and indulgent father that Jackie Shroff says in his trademark style, “I used to think that non-stop three shifts in my time was hard work, but bhidu, yahaan toh mere bachche ne hi mujhe mehnat kya hoti hai, ye sikha diya! [my son has taught me what hard work is!]” Responding to comparisons with Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson, Tiger says, “I am what I am because of all these icons. I push
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