Is Modi wave waning?

Future Trends

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

With the Lok Sabha elections moving forward, analysts and political pundits are now opining that the Modi wave is not quite manifest in most states. And any pronounced polarisation and consolidation of the electorate is not quite discernible. Questions are being asked whether the BJP-led NDA’s prospects of comfortably crossing the majority mark would become a reality keeping in view its failure to move ahead with all sections, specially the marginalised and backward sections who continue to languish being deprived of basic facilities.

The ruling party over the past six weeks or so has found it struggling to fuse the leadership advantage to a singular theme like ‘acche din’ in 2014 and the Balakot episode in 2019. It has switched back on the Ram Temple theme, rising Bharat and Modi’s guarantees. But reports indicate that these are not being taken seriously by at least a major section of the electorate.

The Congress manifesto and promises made by Rahul Gandhi are more appealing and his simplicity is capturing voters. NDA’s campaign has encountered choppier waters among Dalits and lower castes in the Hindi belt. Even if the BJP with its low base in states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh manages a few seats, if at all, this may not compensate for the losses in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and even Uttar Pradesh. What comes in favour for the ruling dispensation is stability and somewhat better governance, but its ‘authoritarian character’ and centralisation of authority chips into the advantage the BJP and NDA have enjoyed.

The cry being aired that India is poised to become a 21st century economic super-power, offering an alternative to China for investors looking for growth is actually not quite real.  Why then did Tesla’s South African-born boss skip India and visit China, which was obviously a big hit for the country as it considers itself the leader of the South. This has been reiterated by a CNN report which goes on to say that with Prime Minister and industrialists, Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani playing a key role in this regard, India’s position would emerge big in the global arena in the coming decades. This assessment can be questioned as none of these industrialists are known for their social concern except for garnering government favours and making huge profits.

“Both Adani and Ambani have become key allies as the country embarks on this resolution”, it stated. Reliance Industries and the Adani Group, the two conglomerates, have valuation worth over $200 billion each and have established businesses in sectors ranging from fossil fuels and clean energy to media and technology. The report is somewhat naive and one-sided as a country cannot move on the basis of investments along with profit-taking of two corporate groups. Moreover, there is no record of how these groups are helping the process of balanced economic development, rural regeneration, and employment generation as these are vital and critical problems at this juncture.

Also, though the report has talked of infrastructural boost of the present government is a well-known fact that social infrastructure continues to be neglected, thereby proving that the government is not giving priority to grass-root development and mitigating the problems of the rural poor. Free education and health and providing these facilities at affordable costs to the marginalised sections is a must, which the ruling dispensation has been ignoring. India may become an economic power with the rich and middle-income sections prospering and inequality widening to unprecedented levels while the poor and the economically weaker sections struggling for survival.

In this connection, it is interesting to make a note of what Rahul Gandhi has stated: that the “Modi government works for 22 businessmen of the country. He waived off loans worth Rs 16 lakh crores of these corporates”. If this is true, then the question arises whether the policy focus of the government is on grass-root development taking place.

Social analysts and youth leaders have also pointed out that the policy-makers of the government prefer to remain ignorant of the dimension of the socio-economic problems, specially relating to youth. The intervention actually needed and what the government has been doing for the youth is poles apart and much more action is called for. Even the government is not filling up vacant posts, not to speak of increased and necessary allocation for the rural employment scheme, or even encouraging research by ensuring that grants are adequate for the universities and educational institutions.

It is no denying that common people, including the educated youth have lost faith in the politics of the country, primarily because of false propaganda of leaders, being entrenched in corruption and maintaining an unholy nexus with business houses and completely neglecting the demands of the marginalised and backward sections of society. Taking opportunity of the incapability of the government to solve basic problems, the ruling dispensation has diverted attention of the people by bringing religion into politics.

The civil society is not in a position to challenge their false promises and ensure that they do not give unachievable and alluring hopes to the struggling masses. The attention of the half-educated sections has been captured not by improving their living standards or creating more employment opportunities but by playing with religious sentiments.

Though as days pass by, it is increasingly being felt that the ‘hypocrisy’ of the BJP is steadily being exposed and even if it does come back to power due to Modi’s charisma or its organisational strength or a strong alternative, theissues of grassroot development will remain. The campaigns not just of the BJP but of many regional parties like the TMC, NCP etc. too haven’t honestly dealt with basic problems of the people but more to remain in power. Would it be right to call this ‘Amrit Kaal’?

Though the contention of Rahul Gandhi that the BJP would get around 200 seats may be pessimistic, the figure according to many pundits may not cross 280 seats. The temple in Ayodhya has not generated the hype that BJP expected, the Chinese occupation has become a talking point and the economic issues of the day, the utter disregard for dissent in public life have overshadowed whatever positive action manifested in Modi’s governance. All these factors as also growing dissatisfaction of the educated unemployed youth and rural masses with governance, has raised doubts whether ‘Modi’s guarantee’ would get the party 400 plus seats, as being claimed. With three more phases of polling due, presumably bets will keep changing. — INFA