Thursday 19 October 2017 News Updated at 12:10 PM IST
Custom Search
Caution: all's not well with Modi government - Deccan Herald
Caution: all's not well with Modi government
Sanjay Kumar
More... A A
One thing is clear from the various political events that have unfolded in different states during the last few months -- all is not well with the Narendra Modi-led NDA government." If there were a political thermometer, like there's one for the human body, it would have indicated that the political temperature in India has changed somewhat. There is a clear sign of emerging disenchantment and dissatisfaction with the government from amongst multiple sections of people -- the youth, the business community, Dalits, and sections of the middle class -- evident across the country, including in Gujarat, the home state of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. But at this moment, this change in political mood is only to the extent of being a matter of concern for the BJP, not yet something that is giving its leaders sleepless nights. What this changed political mood has done is to open up the debate once again on the possible outcome of the 2019 Lok Sabha election which, till a few months ago, looked like a foregone conclusion. But BJP leaders must realise that this slow wind of change in political mood has the potential to gather into a storm and things just might slip out of the party's hands in 2019.

The results of multiple university elections, assembly by-elections, roadside discussions amongst common people, opinions expressed by a growing number of people on mainstream and social media, opinions expressed by BJP leaders like Subramanian Swamy and Yashwant Sinha, all leave no doubt in the mind that there is a change in the political mood of the people. What is important to note is that Yashwant Sinha went on to say that this feeling is shared by many within the party but are unwilling to express it due to fear. When such fear to express critical views about the government prevails, the ballot remains the only option for the people to express their disapproval against the government. That seems to have begun in some universities in recent months and during state by-elections, especially the Bawana by-poll in Delhi.

True, the electoral verdicts in the student elections of universities may not be a good indicator of the overall national political mood, but they do give some indication of the mood amongst young Indians. The BJP-supported ABVP lost elections in JNU, Delhi University and Hyderabad Central University. The Congress-supported National Students' Union of India (NSUI) also performed badly, except in Delhi University, and the popular choices of the students were varied in different universities. But the trend was clear, these verdicts were certainly against the BJP-supported ABVP. These setbacks should ring alarm bells for the BJP as it is important to note that young voters played an important role in the victory of the BJP in 2014. Findings of a Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) survey indicate, that young voters not only came out in large numbers to vote, but that they also came out to vote for the Modi-led BJP in sizeable numbers. The mishandling of the recent incidents at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has only added fuel to the fire amongst students. What may prove even more dangerous for the BJP is the growing unemployment due to the government's inability to generate more jobs, which Modi promised in numerous election speeches. The latest data indicates that the unemployment rate in September 2017 is at its highest in the last 10 years. The decline in GDP growth rate - from 7% during the last few years to 5.7% last quarter -- has made matters worse for the ruling party.

The unhappiness of farmers with the BJP government is widespread. Farmers are agitating across the country -- in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat. While their main demand is for a minimum support price there are other issues, including loan waivers, that are bothering farmers. Demonetisation, which resulted in shortage of cash, which is the main mode of transaction in the farming sector, has made matters worse for them.

There is a growing disenchantment amongst the urban middle class, too. Traders, who had been the backbone of the BJP's support base, are extremely unhappy with the government as they are facing enormous difficulties in filing tax returns under the GST regime. The government may keep saying that demonetisation was a war of the poor against the rich, which people initially believed, but the reality is that it has adversely affected the lives of the poor and the lower middle class due to a massive slump in the real estate business and small-scale skilled and semi-skilled enterprises.

The list of those who have started to question the government does not stop here. Even government employees, especially those on central payrolls, seem to be unhappy, too, due to the truncated pay commission.

Clearly, the growing dissatisfaction amongst several sections of voters is not a good sign for the government. What is still holding this wind of dissatisfaction from becoming a storm are two factors: one, the absence of a leader amongst the opposition parties who could challenge Modi at the national level; and, two, the personal credibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which is mostly intact.

But the question remains, how long will Narendra Modi be able to hold the wave turning into a tide against his government and party with only his own image and credibility? He must remember that there have been elections when people have voted to boot out a party and not to elect a government. The 2019 election might turn out to be another such election. After all, people want their government to deliver, not just indulge in rhetoric.

(The writer is professor and Director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi)