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Opinion

Four years of Modi government: Is the tide turning against BJP?

Arti Ghargi

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PM Modi

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.

Modi government

Image Source: Web

  • 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.

Modi Government

Image Source: Web

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.

Modi government

Image Source: Lokniti-CSDS-ABP News Mood of the Nation Survey 2018

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.

modi government

Image Source: Lokniti-CSDS-ABP News Mood of the Nation Survey 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.

Modi Government

Image Source: Lokniti-CSDS-ABP News Mood of the Nation Survey 2018

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.

Opinion

Is Modi government playing with fire with the Savarna Reservation?

Arti Ghargi

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We have seen a number of examples in the past where political leaders tried to meddle with the reservation policies which resulted in nothing but the electoral disaster.

 

On Monday, the Modi cabinet raised the heat amidst the ongoing winter session of parliament by clearing 10% reservation for the economically weaker upper castes. The cabinet decided to amend the Constitution so that the “economically backward” upper castes will get 10% reservation in direct recruitment in government services and admission to higher educational institutions.

The proposed reservation will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation enjoyed by the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking the total reservation to 60 per cent. Among the major castes to benefit from the proposed law are Brahmins, Rajputs (Thakurs), Jats, Marathas, Bhumihars, several trading castes, Kapus and Kammas among other Upper Castes.

As the news took over the TV screens and print columns, it was projected as a “Master Stroke” by the Modi government. Some even called it a “Surgical Strike” ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Considering the Savarna backlash that the government received over the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (amendment) act, this might have been a last-ditch attempt by the ruling BJP to save its Upper Caste voters. Incidentally, the upper caste Hindus are its core vote banks. Thus, this move was being seen as vote bank motivated.

The question, however, remains whether it is actually effective or ground? Whether it will pay the electoral dividends the party is hoping for? Will the move achieve consolidation of both, Dalit and Savarna voters in favour of BJP?

BJP may hope the answer is in affirmative. But a quick scanning of pages of India’s political history can easily tell that it is otherwise. On the contrary, we have seen a number of examples in the past where political leaders tried to meddle with the reservation policies which resulted in nothing but the electoral disaster in the immediate elections.

Karpoori Thakur:

Karpoori Thakur was the first political leader to have felt the heat on the ballot box due to his decisions regarding the reservation policies. The socialist leader who was Bihar’s first non-Congress Chief minister first introduced the reservation for the economically backward upper castes in the country. His decision was based on the findings of the Mungeri Lal Commission. This commission had suggested a total 26% reservation in the state, of which 20% were for the OBC, 3% for the women of any background and 3% reservation for the poor Savarnas.

Karpoori Thakur decided to implement the reservation formula in Bihar in November 1978. However, he decided to divide the OBC category into two other sub-categories for the distribution of quotas, i.e. Extreme Backward Class (EBC) and Backward Class (BC). While EBC were allotted 12% quota, BC was allotted 8%.

Electorally, it proved to be disastrous for the leader. He had to endure major upper caste backlash for this move. Within a week, he had to vacate the CM chair. The reservation policy he introduced is popularly known as “Karpoori Thakur Formula”. The policy was halted in 1992-93 until the Supreme Court quashed it. However, with the Modi government’s new reservation card, the demand for implementing the formula in government jobs and educational opportunities has started gaining pace in Bihar.

reservation

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VP Singh:

Who can forget the political debacle VP Singh brought upon himself by announcing the implementation of Mandal commission report. Not only the country burned for months following violent protests but the controversial move proved to be a fatal blow to VP Singh’s political career.

In August 1990, seven years after the Mandal Commission report on the identification of OBC’s based on 11 parameters, VP Singh in his independence day address declared his intention of implementing the commission’s suggestions. The report proposed OBCs to be given 27% reservation making the total number of reservation go up to 49%.

This move sparked a series of student protest. The Self-immolation committed by more than 50 students across the country and suicide attempts by more than 100 people marked the end of the VP Singh’s minority government. Just 11 months after he took oath as the Prime Minister, VP Singh had to step down and was succeeded by Chandra Shekhar.

reservation

Image Source: Web

Bhupinder Huda:

Having witnessed the fire sparked by the controversial reservation policies, Congress (UPA) for most of its term kept the reservation off its priority. Until 2014, when it made a last-ditch attempt to win the election, touched the reservation issue.

On the face of elections, Congress proposed to include Jats in Other Backward Class category. The Jat reservation only resulted in violent protests and hartals in the state. The Supreme Court eventually rejected it. The Congress, as we know, was reduced to only 1 seat.

Image Source: Web

Prithviraj Chavan:

The Congress-NCP coalition government in the state of Maharashtra too followed the suite off Haryana government. The Prithviraj Chavan-led coalition government announced 16% reservation for the Marathas who have been demanding reservation since long. The move did not prove much fruitful as the coalition had to face dismal numbers in the immediate assembly election.

Image Source: Web

These and many other cases in the past prove that any decision with regards to the reservation is equal to playing with fire. Thus, it begs a question whether the Modi government has learnt the time and again tested lesson provided by Indian Politics. With the recent decision, it seems it hasn’t or perhaps, it has chosen to ignore it.

Will it turn out to be political suicide for Modi government as well? Or will he be successful in breaking the jinx?

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Opinion

Don’t need Congress, SP-BSP strong enough to defeat BJP in UP: Kiranmoy Nanda

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SP-BSP

Kolkata | Samajwadi Party (SP) national vice-president Kiranmoy Nanda on Sunday said his party, together with the BSP, is strong enough to defeat the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming general election and there is no need of an “insignificant” force like the Congress to make it happen.

He, however, hinted that the SP-BSP alliance might just leave aside the Rae Bareli and Amethi constituencies, represented in the Lok Sabha by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi respectively.

“In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is an insignificant force, so we are not even thinking of including or excluding it. The SP-BSP alliance is the main force which will take on the BJP. The Congress might be there in one or two seats, it is for the Congress to decide what position it wishes to see itself in,” Nanda told PTI in an interview.

His comments came two days after Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav moved closer to finalise a seat-sharing formula, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Both the leaders held a meeting in New Delhi on Friday.

Nanda felt the Congress was yet to adjust to the mantra of “alliance politics” as it was unwilling to “leave even an inch to its allies in states where it is strong, but expects others to share their pound of flesh with it in states where it is a weak force”.

Asked whether keeping the Congress out of the alliance in Uttar Pradesh would be an advantage for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he said, “From our past experiences, we can say, in cases where the Congress had fielded candidates against the SP-BSP alliance, we did not face any problem in defeating the BJP. The Congress’s vote share is completely insignificant.

“Rather there have been instances where the Congress had not put up its candidate in a seat and the BJP got its vote share.”

Nanda cited the examples of the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha bypolls, where the Congress had fielded candidates against the SP-BSP nominees, but that did not deter the alliance from defeating the BJP.

Referring to the recently-held Assembly polls in five states, he said had the Congress worked out an alliance in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the BJP would have faced a complete ouster in the two states.

“Did the Congress go for a pre-poll alliance with the SP-BSP in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan? The answer is no. The Congress’s policy is it will take benefits from everybody, but when it gets an opportunity, it does not want to share it with others,” Nanda said.

The former fisheries minister of West Bengal during the Left Front regime asserted that the SP-BSP alliance would be a “gamechanger” in the general election in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats.

“Going by the current situation, it is clear that the SP-BSP alliance will sweep Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP will be ousted. The SP will play a vital role in the next government formation at the Centre, but we are not in the prime ministerial race,” he maintained.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP, along with its allies, had secured 73 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, whereas the SP had won five and the Congress just two seats.

Nanda also refuted the claims that Shivpal Singh Yadav’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) might play a spoilsport for the SP-BSP alliance in the Hindi heartland state.

“New parties crop up prior to the Lok Sabha polls in politically sensitive Uttar Pradesh, but they fail to create any impact,” he asserted.

Talking about the choice of prime ministerial candidate of the opposition alliance, Nanda said the matter would be decided on the basis of consensus after the polls.

“We are not averse to anyone for the prime minister’s post but that issue will be decided after the polls, following a discussion with all the parties,” he added.

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Opinion

Is “Pliable” offensive because Rahul Gandhi said it?

Arti Ghargi

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pliable

As the entire hullabaloo surrounding “Pliable” continues, a quick search on Google will tell you what the word means.

 

Many of our journalists on ever-buzzing Indian Twitter are outraging over the word “Pliable”. For those who are completely unaware of how this fairly innocuous-seeming word offended many of my colleagues, let me give you a brief background.

It was on Thursday that Congress President Rahul Gandhi during a press conference sought to take a swipe at Prime Minister Modi’s interview with ANI editor Smita Prakash as being “staged” and lampooning the interviewer as “Pliable”. His remarks were followed by a prompt rebuttal by the ANI chief calling it a “Cheap Shot” and “downright absurd”. “Not expected of a president of the oldest political party in the country,” she tweeted. Many journalists and even politicians (read BJP leaders) came out in her support and slammed Rahul Gandhi for his comments.

“The Grandson of the ‘Emergency dictator’ displays his real DNA – attacks and intimidates an independent Editor,” tweeted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Adding a question on the silence of “pseudo-liberals” (Wait. The Irony just died). On the other hand, many others disagreed and saw nothing wrong with Rahul Gandhi’s comment. As the debate around “Pliable” heated, the IT cells of both parties aided their respective sides by releasing interview videos of Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi- which is supposed to be a commentary on how certain journalists suck up to the rival parties and what “Pliable” journalism looks like.

As the entire hullabaloo surrounding “Pliable” continues, a quick search on Google will tell you what the word means. According to Google, Pliable means easily bent; flexible or easily influenced. The Cambridge dictionary elaborates a little more- (often disapproving) A pliable person is easily influenced and controlled by other people. Now, going by the literal meaning of the word, it is hardly offensive. But as what’s offensive or what’s not is subjective, let us consider for a moment that it was indeed offensive to some. But the subjective cannot be selective.

Was it a standalone incident where politicians indulged in name calling? Hell No! Many journalists on regular basis are subjected to uncivilized criticism just for doing their job. The range of cuss words used to discredit journalists and their work is innumerable. Not to mention the few which you would see in very often which degrade the standard of public discourse. I am sure many of us have been called “Presstitute, Dalal, Baazaru” and what not. And while Mr Jaitley is busy pointing fingers at Rahul Gandhi. Here is how his own cabinet colleague described the journalists as:

 Not to forget the Modi interview to Smita Prakash in which he terms some journalists as “News Traders”.

Now, after the furore, Editors Guild and other journalistic bodies stepped in and condemned Rahul Gandhi for “words” used by him to criticise the ANI chief. Though it wasn’t a standalone case of politicians name-calling journalists, in this particular case the guild stepped in. The promptness is definitely noteworthy.

In the next few lines, the guild raises the question on the objectionable language used by senior BJP leaders and AAP leaders to criticise the journalists and media at large in the past. This condemnation in retrospect hardly seems genuine and comes across as an effort to escape the whataboutery. The guild says that journalists aren’t immune to the civil criticism. Going by this statement, Pliable is more civil than “Presstitute”, “Dalal” or “Baazaru”.

So what was the outrage for? Was it really because of the use of word Pliable? If it is so, why the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy calling journalists “News Traders” doesn’t incite such response? Or was the outrage because it was Rahul Gandhi who said it. Which then means two things: either the fraternity thinks they do not merit criticism from Rahul Gandhi (or any politician, for that matter) or Rahul Gandhi is too civil in his conduct that we as journalists don’t expect him to use such words. The standard for judging Rahul Gandhi is higher than it is for his contemporaries.

In my opinion, politicians should be the last ones criticizing the journalists. But should they be barred from criticizing the media completely? Not at all. But if we are to condemn them for their comments the ground should be the same for every politician.

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