A Brand Ambassador & Bulldozer

A Brand Ambassador & Bulldozer

The second term of the Narendra Modi government is scheduled to end in 2024 when the next general election will be held.

The second term of the Narendra Modi government is scheduled to end in 2024 when the next general election will be held. When Modi came to power in 2014, there was a massive anti-incumbency wave. Since then he has been an unstoppable force and cannot be called a stereotype Prime Minister – in respect of his dressing or actions.

Modi in his own words in an interview to a leading English magazine said, “When I start something, I know the end point, but I never announce the blueprint. I work on a big canvas.” He also said, “Makhan par lakir to sab karte hai. Karni hai to pathar lakir karo. Kathin hia to kya hua, shuruat to kare.”

Modi’s confidence stems the fact that he is a man connected to grassroots. He claims that his decisions are always a mix of expert advice and his ground connect. The Prime Minister over the last decade has earned the popularity as a political strongman who does not get upset over the kind of criticism that is made against him by the opposition on any issue. He does not instantly react as many politicians do. He has mastered the art of utilising the Parliamentary forum and the public meetings to counter the opposition criticism and this has been working in his favour in the Northern belt.

Though many of his opponents may not agree with me but Modi remains an enigma even today. He is known to present himself in a new form depending upon the situation whether it is a public meeting, a religious meeting or even promotion of tourism as was seen during the snorkelling at Lakshadweep. Many of his critics say that Modi by doing so is promoting himself. But that would be a myopic view. Modi need not promote himself at this stage of his life. What he is doing always has a purpose: One, to leave the imprint “Modi, Modi,” as people shout at his meetings; and, second, the kind of photo-ops he gives during his visits to various places can help in giving a boost to tourism. In other words, he becomes the brand ambassador of those places.

Though tourism is one sector which can help any state earn good revenue, most of the governments ignore it and focus more on revenue from liquor, mining of sand (legal and illegal), and are bogged down with narrow politics and distribution of freebies and indulging in caste-based politics hoping that it would bring a flood of votes, though the recent elections in Telangana and the three Hindi states Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have proved that “Revdis” including direct cash benefit schemes cannot make them win. People know that it is their own money which was being re-routed to them and no one gives anything from his pocket.

When it comes to implementing some of his decisions, he certainly has been a bulldozer. Demonetisation, introduction of GST, passing women’s reservation bill, abrogation of Article 370, conducting G-20 which everyone thought cannot and would not happen, pulling off a diplomatic coup in bringing about consensus on contentious issues such as Russia-Ukraine war and making the world look at India as the voice of Global South.

He never rushed to take sides whether it was Gaza or Ukraine war. He stated both inside and outside Parliament that such issues should be sorted out through dialogue and diplomacy.

In terms of economy. Experts say that that India currently is the world’s fifth largest economy and one of the fastest-growing economies, which was the result of high investments in digital and other infrastructure. The Modi government also has another feather to its cap – the successful landing of Chadrayaan-3 and the mission to Sun.

But what does the opposition have to say. The opposition says that it is all media hype. They also agree that in 2014 it was the anti-incumbency factor which made BJP win, in 2019 it won more seats because of airstrikes on Pakistan following a terrorist incident just a few months before the elections which generated sentiment in favour of the BJP. This time it will be polarisation of Hindu votes and that is why the inauguration of Ram Janmabhoomi temple has been timed to coincide with the elections, they claim.

The opposition also doubts the accuracy of the data relating to economic growth and inflation. They allege that unemployment had grown by leaps and bounds though government denies it. Women are not safe, and the farmers too were suffering because of the lopsided policies of the BJP-led NDA government.

All opposition parties including the bloc INDIA may not agree on many issues including seat-sharing but they are one in accusing the BJP government of “misleading” the Parliament. They say while Modi praised PSU banks for earning record profits, the government wants to privatise all PSUs including the LIC. The PSUs on the hit list of the government, they say, are Hindustan Aeronautics Limited which was also praised on the floor of the Parliament but was kept out of Rafael deal and Modi government chose a private company which had hardly any experience in aircraft manufacture which indicates the cronyism in India, they allege. All such PSUs are being dubbed as non-performing assets just to create a ground to hand them over to private companies. They quote the examples of acquisition of Mumbai airport, allocation of smaller airports, ports and infrastructure projects and acquisition of ACC to the favoured one.

On the economic front, the opposition says that the claims of better compliance of GST collections are also not true. They argue that the increase was on account of high inflation, increase in imports and growth of organised sector killing unorganised sector. They also question the sincerity of the government regarding curbing corruption. If the Modi-led government was serious to root out corruption, why cases like liquor scam and many cases of corruption and money laundering of people in high offices in politics would not have been kept pending and the leaders of such who are prime accused would not have been exempted from attending the trial, they say.

Opposition leaders allege that the BJP while claiming to be a clean party has been supporting some regional parties. In the recent Telangana elections, it was alleged that BJP and BRS were two sides of the same coin and that impression has still not been erased as the state leaders are criticising the just formed government and their tone and tenor give an impression that they are speaking like the spokespersons of the previous ruling party. In Andhra Pradesh, too, people strongly believe that even now, the BJP is soft towards the ruling YSRCP.

Well, one thing is certain. Notwithstanding all these criticisms and charges against the BJP government, the BJP, more so in the Hindi belt, seems to be on a safe and sound wicket. The renovation of Kashi Viswanath temple, Ganga cleansing project and now the mega event scheduled for January 22 – the consecration of the idol of Lord Rama at Ramajanmabhoomi Ayodhya temple – would become a focal point in the elections. All-out efforts are on to make it a national event and get global attention.

Along with this, the results of December 3 elections has already set the election mood in the northern states. The BJP would be going to polls not just with nationalist agenda but is bound to appeal to the large Hindu majority which it hopes will get them around 300 plus seats and make Modi the only hat-trick PM so far.

While regional opposition to the BJP is strong in pockets of south and east India, at the national level the opposition is still not able to create confidence of being an alternative to BJP. Bloc INDIA is riddled with infighting and seat-sharing would be a near impossible task. We have seen how the Shiv Sena, TMC and Samajwadi parties are not willing to give many seats even to Congress. The INDIA bloc so far failed to name a convenor. Congress which is in power only in three states is day-dreaming of throwing BJP out of power and making Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Minister.

On the other hand, the BJP has begun its nationwide pre-election activities like Bharat Sankalp Yatra to propagate the government’s nine-year achievements in next two months. On the political side, Modi and BJP leaders ae focussing on the welfare schemes such as cash handouts, free food and strong rhetoric against the opposition in general and Congress in particular. In contrast, the Congress is banking on the second phase of Rahul’s Bharat Jodi Nyay Yatra. The first phase, however, did not yield any positive results in the Hindi belt and if it thinks that the success in Karnataka and Telangana was because of Bharat Jodo Yatra then it is living in a world of its own.

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