Why 2019 Will Not Be a Cakewalk For Narendra Modi has been edited by Aashna Kanuga.
After winning a historic mandate in 2014, the BJP has been winning state and municipal elections all over the country. Over time, their hunger for power has only increased. That hunger was evident when Nitish Kumar abandoned the Mahagathbandhan and joined hands with the NDA again. Not only did he give up his own Prime Ministerial ambitions, he also went on to say that Narendra Modi has no competition left for 2019. The same Narendra Modi whose appointment as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the BJP forced Nitish Kumar’s exodus from the NDA.
Modi continues to enjoy popular support across the country. The BJP juggernaut, led by a ruthless Amit Shah refuses to back down. Moreover, the opposition lacks unity and vision. They are devoid of a challenging face. But it would be extremely unwise of the ruling party to take things for granted and be overconfident. Two years is a very long time in Indian politics. Elections can, and have turned around in much shorter durations. Modi has every reason to be confident, but here are a few reasons why it wouldn’t be as easy as it looks.
Firstly, Narendra Modi’s silence on the many widespread incidents of intolerance is deafening. Gauri Lankesh, a prominent journalist, was brutally assassinated right outside her house. An incident as gruesome as this did not invite any condemnation from the Prime Minister. Not only that, but an official statement from the Information and Broadcasting ministry came out after fourteen long hours of this tragedy. This only adds to the conviction that since Modi took over, the climate of intolerance is certainly on the rise. Not saying a word about the cold-blooded murder of a journalist just made things worse.
This is just one of the many instances of silence on such a critical issue by our Prime Minister. For instance, it was only after a long spell of silence that he finally condemned the killings in the name of cow protection. If he claims to be a promoter of inclusive growth, everyone residing in the country must feel so. Censorship and intolerance should not be common in a healthy democracy.
As if all of this was not enough, senior Union Minister Ravi Shankar explicitly institutionalised whataboutery. He talked about how there was not enough outrage by the liberals when Sangh men were killed in Kerala. Every murder should be equally condemnable. I do not believe that this should be the official stand of the government.
Secondly, the economy of our country has slowed down. Demonetization turned out to be a path-breaking move, but only for the worse. Taking away 86% cash from an economy that depends on it is more a theatrical move than an economic one.
Many said that the stunning victory in Uttar Pradesh was a mandate on the success of demonetization. However, its failure became more apparent when RBI released the numbers behind this rather pointless exercise.
Demonetization wasn’t the only painful step that the government took. They also rolled out the Goods and Services Tax (GST)—arguably the biggest tax reform in independent India—eight months later. While in principle, GST is a much needed and a very good reform, in implementation, the government has failed miserably. It has created a lot of confusion, and has everything but increased “ease of doing business”.
But the biggest failure of the Modi government so far is the lack of jobs for the youth. Since the government assumed power, unemployment has increased to from 4.9% to 5%. If the BJP seriously aims at getting back to power, it needs to consider how it intends to increase jobs. Over 133 million voters will be voting for the first time in 2019. This number forms a huge chunk of the enfranchised. They could easily sway from Modi if they don’t see the rewards.
The government should realise that the common man does not care about narratives or mere words. They care about tangible results. The common man wants to spend less and save more. They want their child to have a job. If you do not give them what they want, the speeches you give from the Red Fort or the radio will not matter. The common man will vote you out.
As a BJP supporter myself, it is very difficult to see Modi wasting such a historic mandate. Ministers like Sushma Swaraj and Piyush Goyal are doing exemplary jobs in their respective portfolios. The fact that Nirmala Sitharaman became defence minister is not merely of symbolic importance. It is a step towards women empowerment. It would be a shame if these ministers do not get another chance and see through what they started.
The BJP needs to stop being a mere election-winning machine and get to work. Winning streaks do not last forever. And no one wants to lose to a divided opposition, do they?
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