Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a knack of stealing the show every time he takes guard. May 26 was no exception. The prime minister inaugurated the Dhola-Sadiya bridge, India's longest, at the easternmost part of Assam, on Friday and he did it in style, killing more than one bird with a stone.
Analysts mostly saw the inauguration of the 9.2-kilometre bridge on River Lohit connecting Assam with Arunachal Pradesh as a strategic move vis-a-vis the Chinese. But that was certainly not all. The prime minister also sent across the message that his government is as caring about northeast and that the BJP is not a just party of the Hindi heartland.
Making the neglected northeast a part of the 3rd anniversary party
May 26 was a great date Modi to divert the nation's attention to the northeast for it not only made the northeast a party to the celebration of the third anniversary of the Modi government at the Centre but also marked an eventful first anniversary of the Sarbananda Sonowal government in Assam which took control on May 24 last year.
It is the BJP's first-ever government in the northeastern state and with the saffron party gradually expanding its influence in the northeast, Modi did not waste the opportunity to inaugurate the bridge on a special day.
The PM was also seen taking a stroll on the bridge along with Sabarwal and other dignitaries, just like he had done inside the newly laid tunnel in Chenani-Nashri in Jammu & Kashmir. Co-incidentally, that tunnel is also the longest road tunnel in India and measures up to nine kilometres. Modi used the media's glare to his maximum benefit on both occasions to show that he is a leader whose feet are planted on the ground.
Tunnel in J&K, bridge in northeast: Modi knows gestures help when real solutions are difficult
The tunnel and the bridge in two of India's most disturbed regions also add to the infrastructural development, a slogan Modi has been selling to the people of the country ever since his days as the chief minister of Gujarat and when he started inching towards the throne in New Delhi. Modi knows very well that finding the real solutions to issues in Kashmir or the northeast are not easy and thus focuses more on the photo-ops to make it up.
The Congress rightly slammed Modi asking what was his government celebrating when the frequency of farmers' suicides is still high. But this moral positioning is ineffective to unsettle Modi's politics of show off. Not facts but frames matter in this era of post-truth.
The Dhola-Sadiya bridge is not the only feather which will be added to the Modi government's crown. More such infrastructure is coming up in the northeast over the next few years [India's longest road-rail bridge Bogibeel near Dibrugarh is likely to come up in 2018] and the NDA government is all set to extract credit for these works thanks to the previous UPA government's lackadaisical approach despite knowing the significance. The end result of all this is going to Modi's favour.
Cashing in on the Bhupen Hazarika factor
The BJP has also kept in mind to connect Sadiya, the birthplace of late maestro and BJP leader Bhupen Hazarika, arguable Assam's biggest icon, by the bridge. The Aruanchal Pradesh Literay Society requested PM Modi to name the bridge after Hazarika and the latter obliged. The BJP, which lacks a strong historical foundation in these regions, will find it profitable to bank on icons like Hazarika to strengthen its grip.
The bridge that PM Modi inaugurated on Friday 26 is therefore not just about India's strategic move against China. There is unlikely to be a war between India and China and tanks rolling down the bridge for troops' mobilisation. Those are more postures by the government. The bridge is actually a capsule of a number of benefits that the BJP is aiming to gain socio-psychologically and socio-politically. And with a master craftsman like Modi at the helm, there is very little chance for the Opposition to match the level of smartness that the prime minister and his party bring into the game.