The Modi government still has an upper edge if the Lok Sabha polls are conducted today. The survey shows NDA will win 274 seats, while the UPA will improve its tally and get 164 seats.
Five years after the “Ab Ki Baar, Modi Sarkar” slogan took the country by storm, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has come up with a new slogan as it braces itself to face the Lok Sabha election next year. According to the reports, the BJP is gearing up to celebrate the four years of Modi government. Reportedly, the party president Amit Shah will be conducting series of media interactions between May 25 to May 28 highlighting various initiatives and schemes launched by the Modi government. The slogan for the upcoming campaign will be “2019 Me Phir Ek Baar, Modi Sarkar” and the theme will be “Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas”.
While the election mood grips the nation, let us have a look back at how has BJP fared in the four years of Modi government.
- Economic Policies:
The Narendra Modi government introduced several economic policies. However, the two policies that had a massive impact on the nation’s economy are -Demonetization and GST. While Demonetization was introduced with good intention, even the experts agree that the implementation of the policy went horribly wrong. The informal sector had to bear the most of the losses with many people working in the unorganized sector even losing their jobs.
GST is one of the most significant reforms undertaken by the Modi government. Introduced in the July 2017, the GST brought the “One Nation, One tax” to reality. However, it received a massive blowback from the traders’ community, especially from traders dominated Gujarat which is also PM Modi’s home turf. The opposition parties also opposed the four-tier structure of GST.
One of the major headaches of the Modi-led NDA government is the Burden of Non-Performing Assets. According to the RBI data, the gross NPA as of June 2014 was 2.4 lakh crore. However, it increased to Rs 7.8 lakh crore in the last four years. The government received a backlash for its dereliction of duty in cases like PNB scam by Nirav Modi and bringing back loan defaulter Vijay Mallya.
- Social Policies:
In its first four years, the Modi government introduced several social policies like the Mudra yojana, Jan Dhan Yojana, Ujjwala Yojana and initiatives like Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan, Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao. While the schemes like Ujjwala Yojana and Electrification of villages have seen steady progress, many of the schemes seemed to have fallen flat. A recent report by a parliamentary standing committee revealed that the Modi government has spent hardly any of the allocated money on the government’s flagship project.
The report by the Parliamentary standing committee on urban development said that the government spent average 21 percent on the top six infrastructure initiatives out of the allocated $5.6 billion i.e. $1.2 billion. Apart from government’s “Smart Cities” program, other projects including affordable housing, sewage, and drainage facilities, used less than 30 percent of the allocated funds.
One of the most ambitious programs of Modi government- “Namami Gange”: a project to clean up the Ganga was kickstarted with the allocation of Rs 2,037 crores for this purpose. Four years on, the project has turned out to be one of the biggest failures of the Modi government. In December last year, CAG rapped the Modi government saying the absence of a long-term plan and the lack of pollution abatement works are hampering the rejuvenation of the Ganga. The NGT in a harsh criticism said, “Not a single drop of river Ganga has been cleaned so far,” adding that the project only “wasted public money” in the name of the cleaning project.
- What the Public Mood says:
On the backdrop of Modi government completing four years, ABP News and CSDS conducted a Mood of the Nation survey. The findings of the survey can be worrisome for the ruling government. The survey shows a difficult path for the BJP in the high-stakes states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh which will go for polling later this year. The support base for NDA on a national level has also come down.
According to the Survey, 47% of the people interviewed were unlikely to give a second term to the Modi government. However, 39% were of the opinion that the government deserves another chance in 2019. The Survey has shown a hope for resurging of Congress in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh-both states ruled by BJP. In Madhya Pradesh, the anti-incumbency against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government is at its peak. According to the Survey, the Congress will take lead over BJP with 49% vote share while BJP will lag behind by 15% vote share at only 34%. Others are likely to get 17% of the vote share. With farmer’s and Dalit anger against the BJP government building up, there are strong chances that the 15 years old BJP rule may come to an end.
In Rajasthan, where the BJP lost two crucial by-polls of Ajmer and Alwar a few months ago, the Congress shows better recovery. The Survey predicts that Congress may get 44% vote share as against 39% vote share for the BJP. Others will get 17% vote share. While BJP sees 1% downward swing in vote share, the Congress shows a huge jump of 6% vote share from that of earlier elections. In Maharashtra, though NDA- 48% is ahead of UPA- 40%, it needs its scorned ally, Shiv Sena, to achieve the vote share.
Along with the NDA, PM Modi’s popularity has also taken a hit. While Modi’s popularity stands at 34% at present, Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s popularity rating has increased from 16% in 2014 to 24% in 2018.
However, the NDA still has an upper edge if the Lok Sabha polls are conducted today. The survey shows NDA will win 274 seats, while the UPA will improve its tally and get 164 seats. Compared to the 2014 tally of NDA i.e. 343, the NDA seems to get 69 seats less than the previous election, while UPA seems to improve on 104 seats.
The survey proves the equation presented by HW News right. In the article titled “Is opposition’s display of strength a trailer of 2019?”, we pointed out that if the opposition is united against the NDA, then the tally may go up to 141 which comes close to the survey result of CSDS. However, the number is still not enough to take on the NDA. On the other hand, there is no denying that the number may go up if Congress/Opposition alliance wins the subsequent assembly elections. If the opposition plays up well on the issues like GST, Fuel price Hike etc, it will still be able to turn the tide against BJP.
The BJP, however, will want to rely on the campaigning by PM Modi himself. As proven in Karnataka, the last-minute campaigning by the Prime Minister has favored BJP. So even for the 2019 campaign, the focus will be on Prime Minister Modi.
Did RSS influence BJP’s decision of quitting the alliance with PDP?
The Sangh had recently replaced its office holders in Jammu and Kashmir. The new RSS cadre was said to be in process of reviewing the alliance.
The BJP on Tuesday pulled out of the PDP-BJP alliance ruling the conflict-ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir. Though the announcement did come across as shocking, it really was no hidden surprise. Since the day, the parties joined hands to form an alliance government in the state, it was clear that a fallout between the two was inevitable. The differing ideologies of both the parties, which were termed as the North Pole and the South Pole, for over the period of three years, led to several incidents of confrontation between the allies.
When PDP-BJP got into an alliance with each other, they both knew that this alliance government in the state like J&K is like walking on the edge of the sword. Both knew that fall was fated. The parties only had to ensure that one of them gets bruised a little. By pulling out of the alliance first, the BJP achieved just the same.
So why in the first place the two parties went for such an “unnatural/unholy” alliance?
The Marriage of convenience:
The Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections took place in 2014 when the BJP had swept the Lok Sabha polls riding on the “Modi wave”. The Congress-Mukt Bharat slogan by PM Modi had turned into a mission for the BJP. Already having won the Assembly elections in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Jharkhand, the victory in Jammu and Kashmir would be another feather in the cap of BJP. Besides, if the party was successful in forming the government in J&K, the Muslim-majority state in the country, it could prove the opposition wrong who termed BJP “Anti-Muslim”.
Thus, no matter the times Mehbooba Mufti said that the alliance wasn’t about sharing, it was indeed about the numbers.
The confrontations between PDP-BJP:
From Article 35(A) to Ramazan Ceasefire, the parties went into different directions. The incident of violence, stone pelting and terrorist attacks increased multiple folds. The killing of Hizbul Mujahiddin terrorist Burhan Wani displayed the peak point of the anger in the valley against the alliance, the Kathua case did the same.
On the insistence of Mehbooba Mufti, the Centre called for a ceasefire which was welcomed by all the J&K parties but it turned out to be a disaster. According to the official records, in one month alone 73 terror incidents were recorded. While 22 terrorists were killed the death toll of army men rose to 9. Stone pelting incidents too shot up during the month of Ramazan. While in the previous year between April 2016 to May 2017 total 258 incidents of stone pelting were recorded; during last one month, 107 such incidents were recorded.
The killing of riflemen Aurangzeb and journalist Shujaat Bukhari proved to be the last nail in the coffin.
RSS role in J&K:
The RSS leadership had always been varying of the BJP’s decision of alliance with BJP. Though the RSS man in BJP Ram Madhav was made in-charge of the state, the RSS was sceptical about the alliance lasting long. According to a report in Economic Times, the RSS also surfaced the issue of Kashmir during last two meetings with the BJP. According to the report, there was another meeting of RSS functionaries in Jammu in March in which top leaders from Nagpur participated. The meeting talked about the need for the state government to adopt a sterner approach towards militants in Kashmir.
The Sangh had recently replaced its office holders in Jammu and Kashmir. Rupesh Kumar was appointed as the new RSS Prant Pracharak in Jammu Kashmir replacing Ramesh Pappa. It was speculated that his proximity with Dy CM Dr NIrmal Singh, Minister for Health Bali Bhagat and others in BJP with ABVP background led to a biased approach in communicating with the ruling party. However, the new cadre was said to be in process of reviewing the alliance.
Is Sangh the reason behind PDP-BJP fallout?
With 2019 just a year away, the BJP cannot afford to upset RSS which played a crucial role in subsequent assembly election post-2014. The BJP has already been facing a crisis in NDA with several alliance parties turning their backs to BJP. While Shiv Sena has already announced that it will fight the next election alone, the upset TDP quit NDA earlier this years following the row over Andhra Pradesh special status. The other allies like Akali Dal, Lok Janata Party, JD(U) too are seemingly on a bitter term.
At such a time, BJP does not want to get on a wrong side of RSS. The RSS had recently called ex-president of India and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee for an event. The Sarsanghchalak on several occasion had stressed that it does not believe in “Congress-mukt Bharat” or stifling the opposition voices. We can safely assume that it was a warning bell for BJP that RSS can even have a dialogue with Congress and define the narrative. It will not be overestimation if RSS is said to be one of the reasons why BJP dumped PDP.
Mob Lynching is being the new normal in India
Has human life become so cheap that a mob sees no wrong in killing human beings over a rumour?
“Please, don’t beat me”, “I am an Assamese,” the cries of Nilotpal Das fell on deaf ears as the angry mob surrounding him and his friend Abhijit Nath lynched them to death. Both in their 20s, Das and Nath were visiting Assam’s Karbi Anglong district but little did they know their nature trail would turn into a death call.
Abhijit Nath- a Guwahati Businessman and Nilotpal Das-a budding musician from Goa were travelling in a black SUV, when a mob of local villagers stopped them at about 7.30 pm on Friday few minutes after rumours spread that two men had kidnapped a child and fled in a black car. An eyewitness accounted that the mob forced them to get out of the car and searched it. Even though no child was found in the car, the villagers started beating them with bamboo sticks and machetes. The video captures the chilling moments where brutally assaulted victims could be seen begging for their lives. Though the police reached the spot 90 minutes later, however, both of them died before they reached the hospital.
The entire incident took place over a rumour which as The Indian Express reported was short- “Puwali aase garir bhitorot (There is a kid inside the car).” It further reported that the rumours were spread through social media, WhatsApp and even through phone-calls. As soon as the message of two alleged child-traffickers being held spread in the area, people from neighbouring villages too joined the mob mercilessly thrashing the two tourists. “People called their friends in neighbouring villages saying that child abductor has been caught. The people and even rode on bikes to join in,” said a 65-years-old eyewitness. “The crowd strength was at least 500 at one point,” she added further.
It is indeed appalling and shocking to believe that a baseless rumour led a mob to kill two innocent men. A false rumour turned the mob into murderers. A human life has become so cheap that a mob sees no wrong in killing human beings over a rumour. But given the rising number of lynching over false rumours, one can only say that it has become a new normal in India. The sporadically occurences of mob lynching have been increasingly reported since past few years. The incident based on rumours constitute a major part of it.
Lynched over rumours:
A media report analysis by IndiaSpend in June last year revealed that out of total incidents of mob lynching, 52% were fuelled by rumours. Spreading the false news and false statements in someone’s name, spreading edited clips that misreport a particular incident has been on a rise in India. The news generated and forwarded through WhatsApp has also been on a significant rise. Most of the time, the forwards are based on rumours and fake news. With the proliferation of smartphones and wider accessibility of the internet, it has also become easy to spread misinformation and rumours. Some WhatsApp forwards or viral videos serve the purpose to create panic and hysteria among masses.
In two similar incidents last year, Jharkhand mobs beat seven people to death that horrified the country. All over rumours of them being “Child Traffickers”. The trigger was a WhatsApp message that had gone viral, urging people to be careful of strangers as they most likely belonged to a “child lifting gang”.
In 2018 alone, almost 9 cases of mob lynching have been registered. In April this year, a man was beaten to death by a mob after he was seen aimlessly wandering the streets in Tamil Nadu. The month of May recorded six such incidents including a man in Bengaluru being lynched to death after a mob suspected him of being a child trafficker. During the investigation, the police found out the panic was caused over a video in which two men on a motorcycle are seen pulling up to a group of children as one of them grabs a child and they ride off. However, the video is neither from India nor is it real. This happens in most of the cases.
What does law say?
In the past few years, with the increase in social media users in India fake news and rumour-based news has become a menace. Though India has an IPC section 505 to tackle the rumour-mongering, it isn’t doing enough. Especially, in digital formats it is difficult to find who sparked the rumours or where did it originate from. However, by the time it is decoded, the damage would have been done as seen in most of the cases above.
Without a dedicated team of cyber experts, it is difficult for police to take precautionary action. Talking to BBC, senior Assam police official Mukesh Agarwal said, “When rumours start circulating on social media, it takes some time to stop them completely.”
While police departments in the state of Tamil Nadu and Telangana have started awareness drive, in Karnataka, police have set up social media control rooms to monitor posts, viral messages and videos. But it is the need of the hour to find out more robust and potential solution for the problem.
Even if it is over rumour, how is lynching justified?
Over the years, the problem of the mob taking control of the situation and acting on its own will have increased significantly. What or who empowers these mobs, collective mind-sets to take the matter into their own hands disregarding the very law and order in the country? These no more faceless mobs feel that they are immune from the law and act according to their own sense of justice.
In the case of Assam Lynching, so far 19 people have been arrested but it is not so in every case. Last year, when Junaid Khan- a 15-year-old youth from Haryana was lynched over a seat-sharing feud in the train, police found no witness to identify the culprits even when the lynching took place in front of a packed train.
The mob mentality hide behind numbers, which makes it easy for even a small number of people to get away with the horrific crime such as lynching. There have been attempts in the past to justify it as a reflection of people’s anger and frustration, but as a civilised society can we afford to have the mob run the rule? It is our indifference that contributes more to the flourishing of such incidents. The growing cases of mob lynching should unsettle us, worry us; and if they don’t then the day is not far when the anarchy will hit home.
Is Congress regretting its decision to back Lingayat demand?
From the election results, it was clear that the Lingayat votes did not swing in favor of Congress as the party had anticipated.
About three months ago, on March 20 the Congress government in Karnataka finally decided to grant a separate religion status to Lingayat- an electorally and socially powerful community in the state. The decision was taken after a marathon meeting between the state government and influential Lingayat Seers. Back then the decision was hailed as a master-stroke by Congress ahead of the high stake Assembly Election. The issue did rattle BJP enough, however, it could not be transferred into votes. Congress which was hoping to cash on Lingayat votes after granting religious minority status, fell flat on face as it was reduced to only 78 seats from 122 seats.
From the election results, it was clear that the Lingayat votes did not swing in favor of Congress as the party had anticipated. On the other hand, the issue backfired the party with Congress losing in several Lingayat strongholds. Now that the Congress-JD(S) government has been formed in Karnataka, where does the Lingayat issue stand? But let us first assess the aftermath of the decision:
Lingayats rejected Congress:
While many people had called the separate religion status to Lingayat, a Master-stroke, few Congressmen had cautioned that the former CM Siddaramaiah might be playing with fire. The latter anticipation was proved right when the Lingayat “Trump Card” eventually trumped the Congress.
Congress had hoped to add more seats to its tally from the Lingayat-dominated regions of Bombay-Karnataka and Central Karnataka. However, the party faced a defeat in this region. In Bombay Karnataka, the Congress won 17 seats, down from its tally of 31 whereas BJP won 30 seats, up from the 13 it had won in 2013.
In Central Karnataka Congress’ tally dropped from 19 to 13 whereas the BJP’s tally went up to 15 from 12. In Hyderabad-Karnataka, the party barely managed to retain the lead after a close contest with BJP on most of the seats.
Lingayat issue thrown under the carpet?
The Congress’ campaigning ahead of Karnataka Assembly Election centered around the Lingayat issue. So much so, that Congress even made Lingayatism founder Basavanna’s statement “Nudidante Nade” (Walk the Talk) their campaign one-liner. Rahul Gandhi in his every address mentioned Basavanna’s teachings without any fail. Now, it has been almost three weeks since the Congress-JD(S) government took charge. However, there has been no mention of what will be the new government’s course of action regarding Lingayat issue. It is important to ask whether it is deliberately keeping away from addressing the same, now that the party has felt the heat? Where does JD(S) stand in this row? And what should the Lingayat Separate Religion supporter expect from the new government?
Did the loss affect Cabinet selection?
The initial camaraderie between Congress-JD(S) and the euphoria over victory in Karnataka has died down. Three weeks after the swearing-in of HD Kumaraswamy, the parties are faced with the ground reality as the discontent brews among party men. The party seems embroiled in internal strifes over the selection of the cabinet.
On Wednesday, the cabinet was expanded to induct 15 legislators from Congress who were scheduled to take an oath the same day. While few senior Congressmen like D.K.Shivakumar, R.V.Deshpande, Shamanuru Shivashankarppa, K.J.George, Krishna Byre Gowda made it to the cut, most of the ministers from the previous Siddarmaiah government like MB Patil, Satish Jarkiholi have been omitted. The rebellion against the cabinet selection has grown to an extent that these excluded leaders even staged a protest outside the party office in Bengaluru two days ago.
While the party has clarified that the names are selected on the basis of high command’s direction of introducing new faces, the speculations state the contrary. MB Patil who hails from Babaleshwar and is considered the second-most influential Lingayat leader after BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa was at the forefront of the Linagayat separate religion movement. Having worked for the same in the background, Patil took charge of the matter when Congress party decided to back the demand. Reportedly, his persistent effort also led to the Rashtriya Basava Dal campaigning for the Congress.
On the other hand, JD(S) prominent leader Basavraj Horatti has also been excluded from the ministerial berth. He is serving a record seventh consecutive term as MLC representing Karnataka West Teachers’ constituency. Along with MB Patil, he was also at the actively campaigning in favor of the demands of Lingayat community. He had even called out for a public debate with Dingaleshwar Swamiji of Balehonnur Peetha of Gadag district.
Were MB Patil and Basavraj Horatti deliberately kept away from the ministries despite having strong clout? Not only those who supported the Lingayat demand but also those who protested against it (like Eshwara Khandre) have been kept away from the ministerial positions. This indicates that the Congress party no longer wants to associate itself with the Lingayat demand. While it may not abandon the community completely as it may again cost them their numbers, for the time being, it is tight-lipped about the issue.
While the Karnataka Congress is on the verge of a crisis, the future of state-backed Lingayat separate religion demand seems ambiguous.
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