From Chai to Chowkidaar: Journey from 2014 to 2019
By  Shimon Chadha | Updated:  Apr 11, 2019, 12:16 PM
The 2014 Lok Sabha elections were historic in every sense of the word- Not only was the Congress party defeated, which had ruled for two consecutive terms, but also the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party returned to power with a landslide majority of an astonishing 282 seats, an unprecedented number since the 1984 elections, when Rajiv Gandhi, leading the Congress after his mother’s assassination, had secured 404 seats.
Narendra Modi, who was the three-time Chief Minister of Gujarat, was projected as the BJP candidate for the 16th Lok Sabha elections, after 10 years of “dynasty rule” of the oldest political party, marked by corruption scandals and scams by top Cabinet Ministers.
Modi, with his charismatic persona, won the heart of the nation, who were swayed away by his promises of developing the economy of the debt-ridden country, increasing the employment rate, and overall social and economic growth and development. His perfectly drafted words, honey-coated with tall promises and catchy slogans such as “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas”, and the most popular being “Ab ki Baar, Modi Sarkaar”, touched the cords of citizens pan-India and led them to believe that this 56-inch wide-chested man might just replicate the development model of Gujarat onto the country.
His promises of developing the economy did not exactly work out the way they were projected to. As per reports by the Finance Ministry, the debt of the country increased by a steep 54 percent from 2014 to 2019.
One of the biggest setbacks to the Indian economy, which had a dreadful impact on each and every citizen, was the demonetisation move by the government (or rather, the Prime Minister and a few close-knit Ministers) in 2016. This strategic move, which aimed at curbing inflation and sweeping out all the black money from the market, banned high-denomination rupee notes, thereby drastically reducing the GDP of the country from 7.3% to 6.1% in the final quarter of the year. Being a cash-driven economy, the unavailability of liquid cash in the market affected banks and small-scale industries and resulted in 1.5 million workers of the informal sector losing their jobs. The two primary aims of the act were not fulfilled- most of the black money was in terms of frozen assets, such as land and gold, which could not be accounted for or seized by the government. With regards to inflation, though there was a definite curb in the the first two months following demonetisation, the sudden availability of cash 3 months later, led people to spend a lot more than they usually would have, thus causing a 1% growth in inflation. Though supporters of the move believe that there are many long-term benefits such as a boost to the GDP over the years, critics claim that the short-term costs outweigh the long-term benefits.
However, not every economic reform backfired. The introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, which integrated all the taxes into one slab, is believed to have great benefits such as reduction in the overall tax payment by the citizens, reduction in inflation, and a possible growth in Foreign Direct Investment. All of this can be achieved only by an able government, who implements the reform well, with the concerns of both, the citizens and the state, in consideration.
The promise of social development in the country, was blemished by an increase in the number of farmers’ deaths in the country, symbolised by the farmers’ protest march in Delhi in November last year.
The casual and frequent lynchings of suspected cow smugglers in the recent years, by extremist right-wing organisations has not been effectively curbed by the government, nor has the government formulated any policies to sentence the offenders. Though Modi himself has not propagated injustice against the minority religious communities such as the Muslims, and has played safe by attempting to appease them with bills such as the Triple Talaq Bill, he has not tried to stop other right-wing fringe members, who belong to his parent organisation, the RSS, from doing the same. Adding to this is the Godhra riot incident of 2002 in Gujarat when he was the state’s CM, which was the key point of attack by the Congress and other parties in the 2014 election campaign. This incident’s memories, aggravated by the recent demands by RSS members to build the Ram Mandir in place of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, are expected to continue to haunt his prospects in the 2019 elections too.
Another aspect is the apparent dissatisfaction of the bureaucrats with the Modi government and his working methodology. Top bureaucrats have complained of being overworked, and not being included in administrative policy decisions due to being sidelined by the PM and his small group of trusted Ministers (an example of which is the demonetisation act, which was apparently not discussed with even the then RBI governor, Raghuram Rajan).
One of the PM’s strengths, grudgingly accepted by even opposition leaders, is his ability to communicate effectively with the common people directly. This is one characteristic, which has developed and grown through the five years, signified by the growing popularity of his talk show ‘Mann Ki Baat’, and his 46.8 million twitter followers, the highest in India.
The promise of transforming the foreign policy seems to have delivered, with efforts taken by Modi and his ministry to travel to countries and hold strategic discussions. Some classic examples of this might be the exemplary diplomacy by which IAF pilot Abhinandan was returned back to India in a safe and sound condition after being held captive by Pakistan, and the invitation of the Organisation of the Islamic Countries to India, for the first time.
In the 16th general elections, the Prime Minister, his party’s star campaigned at all levels, was considered invincible, accelerated by his win in the 2017 Assembly Elections of the largest state in the country, Uttar Pradesh, securing 325/404 seats, However, Modi seems to have been pushed off this high horse by a series of embarrassing defeats in three states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. BJP had won an astounding 62/65 parliamentary seats in these three states combined, and the decline from then showed that all was not rose-tinted between the ruling party and its citizens. These elections were expected to reflect the upcoming general elections, an established trend since many elections in the past.
Moreover, not all seems well within the party. LK Advani, BJP veteran, who was the Prime Ministerial Candidate of the NDA in 2009, has not been given a seat this time. Another maestro, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was the former BJP President, is being benched in these elections. Added to the list is incumbent Lok Sabha speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, who is the longest-serving female member in the House, and has not been given a ticket by the party.
With these changes and growths and declines in the saffron party, and consequently the nation, it is now our responsibility to form a decision. Elections have begun in zest today, and people across the country are contemplating over whom they wish to hand over the responsibility of changing their lives.
With the Mahagathbandhan in place, and revolutionary promises made by both sides, General Elections 2019 might be an actual contest, and not as one-sided as 2014.
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