In the recent past, whatever political events that have unfolded in different states give a feel that all is not well with the Narendra Modi-led NDA government. There is a clear sign of emerging dissatisfaction and displeasure with the government from various sections of people. The youth, the business community, Dalits, and sections of the middle class – the regret is evident across the country and including in Gujarat, the home state of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
Discussion and debate are two key aspects of democracy but both were haplessly missing from the Gujarat Assembly when BJP and Congress MLAs exchanged punches in yet another sorry example of Indian politics. The MLAs in Gujarat assembly displayed their barbaric side when Congress legislators interrupted a speech being made by Agriculture Minister R C Faldu. Tempers flared quickly but just when it appeared that it would remain a verbal confrontation, two leaders exchanged several blows even as fellow legislators attempted to calm them. People who voted for BJP thought that the Gujarat Model was real. It’s been more than four years and the party has failed to fulfil its election promises. For those who never took time to check whether the facts and figures were real, it would come as a surprise that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is currently investigating the GDP of India. Fudged figures have made India incredible to the world so much so that creditors are wondering whether to lend or invest.
The release of Masarat Alam, unrest in the NE and repeated outrages from BJP MP have not helped the poor upgrade to the middle class or inspired trust for FII yet. But the propaganda wagon keeps rolling for states to go to poll.
BJP leaders must realise that this slow wind of change in political mood has the potential to gather into a storm and things just might slip out of the party’s hands in 2019. But at this moment, this change in political mood is only to the extent of being a matter of concern for the BJP, not yet something that is giving its leaders sleepless nights. The results of multiple university elections, assembly by-elections, roadside discussions amongst common people, opinions expressed by a growing number of people on mainstream and social media, opinions expressed by BJP leaders like Subramanian Swamy and Yashwant Sinha, all leave no doubt in the mind that there is a change in the political mood of the people. What is important to note is that views expressed by Yashwant Sinha is shared by many within the party but they are unwilling to express it due to fear. Only two leaders rule BJP, it has centralised power. No other leader has any voice here.
When such dread to express critical views about the government prevails, the ballot remains the only option for the people to express their condemnation against the government. That seems to have begun in some universities in recent months and during state by-elections, especially the Bawana by-poll in Delhi.
True, the electoral verdicts in the student elections of universities may not be a good display of the overall national political mood, but they do give some indication of the mood amongst young Indians. The BJP-supported ABVP lost elections in JNU, Delhi University and Hyderabad Central University. The Congress-supported National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) also performed badly, except in Delhi University, and the popular choices of the students were varied in different universities. But the trend was clear; these verdicts were certainly against the BJP-supported ABVP. These setbacks should ring alarm bells for the BJP as it is important to note that young voters played an important role in the party’s victory in 2014. Findings of a Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) survey indicate, that young voters not only came out in large numbers to exercise their franchise but that they also voted for the Modi-led BJP in sizeable numbers. The mishandling of the recent incidents at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has only added fuel to the fire amongst students. What may prove even more dangerous for the BJP is the growing unemployment due to the government’s inability to generate more jobs, which Modi promised in numerous election speeches. The latest data indicates that the unemployment rate in September 2017 is at its highest in the last 10 years. The decline in GDP growth rate – from 7 per cent during the last few years to 5.7 per cent last quarter — has made matters worse for the ruling party.
The unhappiness of farmers against the BJP government is widespread. Farmers are agitating across the country — in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat. While their main demand is for a minimum support price there are other issues, including loan waivers, which are bothering them. Demonetisation paved way for shortage of cash, which is the main mode of transaction in the farming sector, has made matters worse for them.
The list of those who have started to question the government does not stop here. Even government employees, especially those on central payrolls, seem to be unhappy, too, due to the truncated pay commission. The BJP lawmakers have been making open attacks on their ministers and their behaviour. Since 2013, Narendra Modi has been campaigning and has not stopped even overseas yet. He bad-mouths UPA even in Canada. It does not help that Adani and Ambani tag follows with him wherever he goes.
NDA (Modi) government is turning out to be another UPA 1. Lot of promises, no allegation of corruption, blind worship, lots of show biz, appearance of messiah, feel good, etc etc. but nothing much on the ground. There is no plan to increase the number of railway tracks to run more trains, especially in busy routes.
No plan to increase the numerical strength of armed forces and Central Police Organisation (CPO), to improve security, reduce workload, reduce fatigue and increase employment. There is also no initiative to separate the investigative arm of police from law and order wing. Lack of interest in increasing the number of judges to speed up delivery of justice. No plan to improve local police setup, so that local issues are tackled locally and prevent it from becoming national issues. No priority for rainwater harvesting and conservation of water in manmade water bodies, to break the cycle of flood followed by drought. The govt is very far to introduce monthly income scheme for small and marginal farmers to prevent farmer’s suicide. All in all, present NDA government is just taking forward the policies of erstwhile UPA government.
Nevertheless, the question remains, how long will Narendra Modi be able to hold the wave turning into a tide against his government and the party with only his own image and credibility? He must remember that there have been elections when people have voted to boot out a party and not to elect a government. The 2019 election might turn out to be another such poll. After all, people want their government to deliver, not just indulge in rhetoric.
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