Right winning by going Left
It is seldom that I concur with enunciations of psephologist-turned-politician Yogendra Yadav. However, his comments on the completion of three years in office of Narendra Modi government deserve a partial consideration. He wrote on twitter, "Public mood of Modi@3. Modi critics must accept: he is popular; Modi bhakts must accept: he is yet to deliver."
In fact, even his pocket organisation Lokniti, under the aegis of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, has in its latest findings failed to pinpoint the reasons for "Narendra Modi being on the roll" despite not having allegedly delivered on his promises. There has to be logic behind the conclusion and Yadav cannot let the expression of opinion hide behind the veil of the word limit set by the micro-blogging site.
To be fair, the Lokniti-CSDS does also mention that among 11,373 randomly sampled voters in 19 states nearly seven in every ten voters (69 per cent) were satisfied with the performance of Modi as Prime Minister. This satisfaction rating was found to be higher than the satisfaction ratings recorded for Modi's predecessor Manmohan Singh at the end of the first two years of the UPA I and II governments. When Lokniti-CSDS had conducted similar nationwide Surveys in 2006 and 2011, satisfaction levels with Singh's performance had been lower at 61 per cent and 56 per cent, respectively.
If the findings about the satisfaction with the performance of the Prime Minister were so high, then why is Yadav questioning on delivery. The answer for that is better given by him. However, it would be worthwhile to mention here findings of a survey on the performance of the Ministers in the Modi government piloted by Dr Subodh Kumar for Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice (CRD&J). Kumar like Yadav too is a political scientist teaching at Delhi University.
According to Kumar's findings, check on inflation, crackdown on corruption, and toughening of stand vis-à-vis terrorism and Pakistan have been major factors contributing towards the popularity of the Narendra Modi government. On the inflation front retail inflation was down to 3 per cent in April while wholesale was at 3.85per cent. The people also seem to be lapping up crackdown on black money including the demonetisation move.
Crackdown by enforcement agencies on 'benami' properties and disproportionate assets of public servants has won much applause. But the failure to bring back cash stashed abroad has continued to give the Opposition a handle to beat the ruling party with. The hard-nosed policy on cross-border terrorism may have faced criticism in intelligentsia but has enjoyed support of people.
The surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 2016 and cross-border raids in Myanmar a year earlier to target militant groups helped the ruling party reap rich political harvest in the state elections. The surgical strikes also carried a clear message for the global community on the issue of terrorism.
But more than these factors, the Narendra Modi-led BJP continues to grow because it has created new political sentiments. A few weeks back, in these very columns, your reporter had mentioned that present BJP rightly perceives that people want a better life, but also realises that it has a core Hindu constituency to address. Thus, Modi-BJP offers Hindutva with the right dilution.
He never apologises for Gujarat, doesn't throw Iftaar parties, doesn't wear an Islamic prayer cap, but at the same time, takes corrective measures to navigate out of his Hindu hardliner image by propping up issues of economic and social developments. When opponents try to grill him, he navigates from one issue to another.
One of the biggest charges brought against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he took office was that he would perpetuate the rule of the corporates. The functioning of his government at the Centre and handing over leadership in states, where the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has deep roots, to such people as Manohar Lal Khattar in Haryana, Trivendra Singh Rawat in Uttarakhand, Raghubar Das in Jharkhand, and Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh,
clearly show that the Prime Minister is working towards creating a club of powerful politicians consisting of political non-elite within his own organisation, a kind of a Left wing within the BJP but hued in the deepest shade of saffron.
This has also been reflected in the course correction which his party and government adopted vis-à-vis the economic policies after electoral defeats in the Assembly polls in Bihar and Delhi. The remark made by the Opposition in the first year that Narendra Modi government was a "suit-boot ki sarkar" acted as the mean, median, and mode for the Annual Financial Statement 2016-17, which was presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Lok Sabha on 29 February 2016. This proved to be a turning point for change in policy perspectives.
Just in case the Finance Minister's nearly two-hour speech did not carry the point deep enough that it was a pro-poor Budget, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised detailed reaction soon after had said, "The Budget has focused on development of agriculture, farmers, women, and rural areas." To give Modi government a pro-farmer image, the Budget has sought to even resuscitate UPA's MGNREGA programme.
But more importantly, it underlined the focus of attention of government programmes -- agriculture, farmers, women, and rural areas. While Opposition kept ferreting out bogus figures on economic upheaval in rural areas following demonetisation, the Modi-BJP laid firm foundation for its victory in politically significant Uttar Pradesh in these very rural areas.