Confident Modi enters year 4
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi enters his fourth year in office next week, he is confident that he will not only complete his present term but also come back after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The opposition still has two years to challenge Modi and his BJP. His confidence stems from the fact that the weak opposition has not been able to get its act together and has allowed the BJP to expand its base and overtake Congress in becoming a pan-national party.
What is Modi's report card? Media reports quoting surveys claim that about 61 per cent of the people believe that expectations from the Modi government have been met despite perceived loss of confidence concerning issues of law and order, inflation, terrorism and employment. He has also scored high marks on the foreign policy front. He has succeeded in giving a perception that he is a doer with his many welfare schemes like the Make in India, Housing for all, Swatch Bharat and Jan Dhan Yojna. His political gimmicks of the 'surgical strike' against Pakistan and 'demonetisation' have helped him get votes. He has also been able to market India abroad by his high pitch. He touts his success by talking about the passage of the GST bill, power and banking sector reforms as big drivers of the economy.
The stock market also is booming. However, there are areas where Modi has not delivered, the biggest disappointment among them is providing jobs. The government data itself acknowledges that overall unemployment has risen by five per cent. The poll promises to create one crore job every year and depositing Rs 15 lakh in every bank account are yet to be met. The government needs to fix the labour laws, skill up the youth and invest more in education and health sectors. For all the Centre's tall promises, the benefits of the schemes, which it has launched, have yet to percolate to the ground. The incidence of terrorism and youth unrest has not come down in Jammu and Kashmir. The Naxalites are raising their head.
Politically, Modi has strengthened the BJP in the past three years. Since he took over, the BJP has formed governments on its own in four states for the first time — Maharashtra, Haryana, Assam, and Manipur — and joined hands with the PDP to form its first coalition government in Jammu & Kashmir. It also came back to power in Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, and Goa. It suffered humiliation in Bihar and Delhi in 2015. The party has also done well in the civic body polls in Maharashtra, Odisha and Chandigarh besides improving in West Bengal. However, the BJP expansion in the southern states is still a dream for the party. Since 2014, the Congress has lost about a dozen states including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Uttarakhand. The saving grace was Punjab where it snatched power from the Akali Dal-BJP alliance and became a coalition partner in Bihar.
The lack of opposition unity is glaring despite the efforts of the opposition parties trying hard for a common stand. The various parties led by leaders like Sonia Gandhi (Congress) Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD), Nitish Kumar JD (U), Sitaram Yechury (CPI- M), D.Raja (CPI) Sharad Pawar (NCP), to name a few, have been making efforts for unity but they are going nowhere due to inherent contradictions and ego.
The first test of opposition unity can be seen whether they can put up a joint candidate for the upcoming presidential and vice presidential polls. It will go a long way if the opposition can put up a good fight in these polls although it will only be a token contest as the BJP has the adequate number to get its vice presidential nominee and it is just short of 25000 votes for the presidential nominee. This shortfall can be bridged from parties like the BJD, AIADMK, TRS, YSR Congress and other smaller parties but it has to keep its NDA flock together.
The second is the wrong strategy adopted by the Opposition in criticising Modi for every step he has taken, as it has not made any dent in his popularity. The opposition plank of secular – communal divide also has not clicked, and on the contrary, the BJP seems to be surging forward by becoming a pan-national party with the highest number of members in the country.
There is a need for the opposition to change the narrative. It has to come up with an alternative, which will appeal to the voters. It needs to figure out what it could be or else the BJP's expansion will continue.
Modi has completed three years without any dissidence from within the BJP. He has the total control of the party and the government as senior leaders like L.K. Advani and Dr Murli Mahohar Joshi have been sidelined for the past three years. He has been able to implement his orders through his party chief Amit Shah. He has established his supremacy in the party by nominating candidates of his choice as chief ministers of Maharashtra, Haryana, Goa and other BJP ruled states. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is an RSS nominee.
Modi enters his fourth year with increased strength despite not fulfilling some important promises. There are still two more years for the opposition to strategise and if it does not unite, the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor will help Modi.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)