Tough, bumpy road ahead
Another year bites the dust. And what a tumultuous year it has been, replete with victory and violence, agony and ecstasy. Yet, hope smiles from the threshold of the year gone by, whispering, it will be happier. Will it?
Questionably, will 2020 be Prime Minister Modi’s break year? Undeniably, he continues to be the toast of India, sans opponent and remains the tallest leader with people rooting for him as decisive and strong determined to build a prosperous future for them.
But, despite him and less than seven months after storming back to power at the Centre with its highest tally, the BJP has lost five States: Odisha, Andhra, Telangana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand and scrambled a coalition Government in Haryana with JLL. Earlier, it ceded Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to Congress December last, reducing its hold from over 70% of the country to 40%. Worse, the outlook for Delhi and Bihar which go to polls soon do not appear bright.
True, on can put it down to fatigue of Modi’s magic not working as it used to along-with BJP’s usual achievement slogans and strategies lacking the novelty factor which failed to enthuse voters. Indeed, its failure to translate its pan India victory at the States level underscores the BJP’s limitations and indicates the electorate’s splitting its choices between national and local issues.
The Saffron Sangh has only itself to blame as arrogance and insensitivity is beginning to set in. Perceived as a “fundamentalist Party”, it has started walking and staring down anyone and everyone with its ‘my way or the highway’ approach. Complicating matters, by anointing non-dominant communities Chief Ministers in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand who failed to win over the majority community added to the Party’s angst.
More. Its goodwill has slowly dissipated as its Government falls short on promises: Economy performed below expectations, there is a plunge in domestic consumption, manufacturing, construction, real estate, weakening of industrial production, slump in exports and imports and a mess in the banking and financial sectors, dissatisfaction in rural belt, urban apathy and angry youth for Government’s inability to generate jobs alongside communal polarization and erosion in its vote-share which has not paid electoral dividends.
However, don’t get me wrong. Despite the Party’s string of losses and economic slump it is not down or out. In fact, the Party continue to be popular, people might be disappointed in its governance but are not overtly disillusioned with it. Primarily, because of Modi’s personal popularity and numero uno status thanks to the TINA (there is no alternative) factor and a disparate Opposition pulling in different directions. An appendage, the moment NaMo’s popularity flounders, the BJP’s popularity could diminish.
Besides, the Party and its Government can derive comfort from having achieved most of its core agenda during its second term, favourable judgment on Ayodhya temple, abrogation of Article 370, triple talaq and dealing with illegal immigrants through the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as ideological successes and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Only the Uniform Civil Code is left of the BJP-RSS nucleus agenda and a Bill to regulate population is on the anvil.
Startlingly, for reasons best known to him, Modi has still to address the economy which has shrunk from a projected growth of 7% to just 4.5% and a nationwide ferment over the CAA and the NRC. Alongside tackle key developmental issues which continue to exercise people: roti, kapada, sadak and paani. He has yet to adopt out-of-the-box measures in running his Administration, invigorate the system and fortify democratic institutions. His task on reforms has become more arduous due to sustained political opposition to his reform agenda.
Undeniably, post demonitisation, NaMo and Co seem to have lost the way and appear directionless and at wits end. They have failed to address the central problems of inflation, agrarian crisis (agriculture production has dropped) and rising unemployment. The Government’s aam aadmi plank appears to be coming unstuck, bringing ‘onion’ tears to the leadership, as prices of food, oil, sugar, wheat and rice along-with water and electricity rise continuing to give a tough time to the common man. Will ending the financial year with GDP growth of 4% alleviate the misery of the people, crippled by the onslaught of rising prices?
Certainly, the blame rest on the Opposition too as Parties continue to pull in different directions with disparate aims and agendas. They continue to be scattered and weak. The Congress’ prospects are looking up a bit having beaten the BJP in straight fights and governs the destiny of some 15% people. However, it is yet to emerge as an alternative.
Given Mamata, Pawar, Nitish, Stalin all are vying for the same top slot. They would do well to learn from their recent victories that local-level unity can defeat the BJP. The Congress tie-up with JMM in Jharkhand and pragmatic alliance with erstwhile BJP ally Shiv Sena-NCP in Maharashtra outwitted the Sangh. For the Congress it is imperative to dent Modi’s popular appeal for its political sustenance.
Pertinently, winning the political battle is not the end of the road as it brings with it many foreseen and unforeseen challenges. And so does losing. Therefore, the outcome of the coming Assembly elections will have an immense bearing on the electoral strategizing of the BJP and Opposition Parties for their 2020 roadmap. With the parting of ways with the Shiv Sena and sulking allies like SAD and JD(U), the BJP might have to look for new friends in the coming year.
Politically, the BJP is also facing severe challenges within hence the central leadership should prepare its plan carefully, keeping in view the weaknesses of Opposition ranks and chalk out the right strategies. Simultaneously, it has to address the difficulties it faces in building a new regional leadership who enjoy support, can complement Modi and pull in votes.
Besides, with everything beginning and ending with our polity, a distraught India continues to search for her soul under the increasing onslaught of intolerance and criminalization. Amidst the political aakrosh over the CAA and NRC, an increasingly angry and restive janata demands answers and yearns for change in the New Year.
Tragically, nobody has time for the aam aadmi’s growing disillusionment with the system which explodes in rage with people taking law into their hands borne out by the increasing rioting, looting and burning of buses. The country is replete with gory tales of violence. Sporadically converting the country into andher nagri. Even as it lauds Telangana police for killing four rapists.
Clearly, the Hindutva Brigade has set the agenda for a new India whereby the Opposition will have to play by the new rules set by the BJP. Our netagan need to stop getting their shorts in knots over excessive trivia, get their act together, take responsibility, amend their ways and address real serious issues of governance.
It remains to be seen if 2020 will be defined by Modi’s accomplishments. Will he be able to ensure speedy development at the grassroots through a decentralized administration responsive to the rising expectations and aspirations of its people in accordance with a mature and meaningful democracy? Does he have the will to rise above the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva agenda even as he touts growth as India’s panacea? Will he be able to restrain the restlessness in the air? Time will tell.