Hyderabad: The Narendra Modi-led BJP swept the 2019 polls and retained power at the Centre. Six months later, the results of recent Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana and the by-polls in West Bengal indicate serious erosion in the popular vote to the BJP-led NDA. The party may take comfort in the argument that Assembly election results or by-poll results need not necessarily be a referendum on the Union Government.
It is true. But, it is also equally true that the significant fall in the voting pattern as compared to the general elections held a just a few months back certainly indicate the people's discontent on Modi’s administration, at least to an extent, though it is a fact that local factors certainly define and determine the mandate in Assembly polls. It is also worth noting that the BJP sought people's mandate in both the States in the name of Modi.
Then why has the popular support for Modi started declining and that too so early in his second term. In fact, the BJP could reap a massive mandate in 2019 polls despite popular discontent on livelihood issues like the state of the economy. However, the party pinned hopes on Phulwama and Balakot and succeeded to that extent.
The economy registered a further sharp decline forcing even the NITI Ayog to call the five trillion dollar dream a distant reality and one that was not tangible.
The GDP growth rate dropped to mere five percent in the first quarter of this fiscal, only to nosedive to 4.5 percent in the second quarter. Agriculture, industry and almost all other economic indicators saw a declining trend.
The Union Finance Minister still wants to fool us by quoting the figures on foreign exchange reserves and inflation. The Minister seems oblivious that even inflation has started rising in the recent past. The lower inflation in an era of contracting growth need not be a positive trend as fall in consumption leads to demand contraction resulting in lower inflation.
The GST revenues are far from the budget estimates indicating a further tightening of fiscal austerity regime.
In a frantic bid to tackle economic slowdown, the government has implemented a series of pro-corporate measures, including a massive cut in corporate taxes. But, the latest data shows that supply side measures like corporate tax cut neither improve the investment climate nor can it kick-start economic growth. Still the government refuses to learn that the demand contraction cannot be tackled by doling out corporate incentives.
Instead, the Modi government should have put more money in the hands of people. This was precisely what the UPA Government did during the 2008 global financial crisis by implementing rural jobs scheme that transferred massive fiscal resources to rural people increasing their purchasing power. As an off-shoot, this triggered the entire cycle-demand, investment, employment, incomes and again demand. But, the Modi government's fiscal stimulus to corporate dragged economy further into the vicious circle. Thus, the biggest failure of Modi 2.0 is in the economy. The NDA government is still groping under the rubble.
The government sought the reserves of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to meet its fiscal deficit. This not only weakens the autonomy of the central bank but undermines its ability to regulate banking business. Despite strong resistance by top RBI officials, the government was bent on squeezing the reserve funds of India's central bank.
In a bid to compensate for the resources lost due to the growth contraction, the Union Government is resorting to reckless disinvestment to mobilise over a lakh crore rupees. One can understand if a government gives up its stakes in loss-making PSUs. But, surprisingly, the government is giving up its stakes in not only strategic but profit-making PSUs like BPCL.
The NDA government, which professes Swadesh as its ideology, is handing over India's oil market to oversea oil giants from Saudi Arabia, Britain, France, United States and Canada. A government, which wants citizens to surrender their constitutional rights in the name of nationalism, has no hesitation in foreign oil and gas giants appropriating the country’s crucial oil industry.
Selling away profit-making public sector units that too at throwaway prices is like selling family silver to meet daily expenses. Such a fiscal profligacy is certainly unpardonable.
The Centre has decided to allow 100 percent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in coal mining for commercial purposes, which implies that foreign companies will have a hold on the country’s rich mineral wealth. In the long run, this will be detrimental to country's interests.
The government decided to merge 10 public sector banks to create four banks. This decision reduced the number of public sector banks from 27 to 12. Though the government claims that this move will lead to consolidation and solidifying the banking sector to be globally competitive, the reality is that the merger is resulting in closure of bank branches. This will result in exclusion of crores of people from banking and push small savings in rural India into rapacious chit fund operators and other financial mercenaries.
On the political front, the manner in which the constitutional provisions were under attack and constitutional offices were pressed into serving ruling political dispensation is a serious disgrace to constitutionalism that too at a time when India celebrates the Republic’s 70th anniversary.
The Governor of Maharashtra acted as an agent of the ruling party at the Centre. The midnight operation by invoking Rule 12 of Government of India business rules to bypass Cabinet meeting to revoke Presidents' Rule has not only blackened the image of BJP but also impacted the country’s constitutional edifice.
Those apart, sedition cases were slapped against 49 prominent Indians, who have great accomplishments in their respective fields, for writing a letter to Prime Minister opposing the increasing divisive campaigns and hate mongering. One wonders how a mere act of writing a letter can become an act of sedition!
The foreign policy front saw no major breakthroughs except for the Kartarpur Saheb. Despite an unprecedented publicity exercise, the 'Howdy Modi' even ended up as an election eve meeting for Donald Trump rather than bringing anything worthwhile benefits for India. The US-India trade negotiations are in a limbo. India had to walk out of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement as the ASEAN nations refused to yield to India's genuine grievances. Despite the goodwill gesture in the form of Kartarpur Saheb corridor, the pre-election hostilities between the two biggest South Asian neighbours refuse to subside. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka saw unveiling of an anti-India regime.
The government's decision to hold a nationwide NRC and repeating the exercise in Assam and bringing back the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill might serve the BJP's divisive political agenda, but take the nation into a further spell of uncertainty.
Amit Shah's assertion on Hindi raised concerns over BJP's Hindi chauvinism. Though Modi tried to assuage tempers, the ruling dispensations' aversion to linguistic diversity of the country remains.
The most controversial policy move of Modi 2.0 is scrapping of Article 370 and subversion of the Constitution to reduce Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories. The future of the sensitive border state is chaotic with the government's unilateral action. The Centre may claim success in reducing the incidents of terror. But, when the State is witnessing an unprecedented clampdown such claims are superfluous, to say the least.
While Indian MPs were disallowed from entering the State, the European Parliamentary delegation was invited to tour J&K. This not only undermines sovereignty of Indian Parliament but helps our hostile neighbour to internationalize the Kashmir problem, which India has always opposed.