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Bihar Elections: Tough battle-ground for BJP as it shies away from development plank

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

In the hour of Narendra Modi’s electoral triumph last year, he could not have imagined that only a year-and-a-half later, he would face a situation where he and his party would have to devote all their energies to maintain their prime position in the political field.

Unless Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are able to overcome the challenge of their opponents in the Bihar assembly elections this coming winter, their grip on the throne in Delhi will become shaky.

The first sign that all was not well for Modi in Bihar was available last August when the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress overcame the setbacks they had suffered in the general elections a few months earlier to win six of the 10 assembly by-elections in the state.

The BJP’s tally of four, pointed to a waning of the Modi wave that had enabled the party to win 22 of the 40 parliamentary seats in Bihar in May, 2014. With the BJP’s allies, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) winning six and the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) three, the BJP-plus group’s total went up to 31.

To the BJP’s satisfaction, the worst show was by its former ally, Nitish Kumar’s JD-U, which could win only two seats while the latter’s one-time arch-enemy and now an ally, Lalu Prasad’s RJD won seven, showing that its victory by over 136,000 votes over the JD-U in the Maharajganj by-election in June, 2013, was not a fluke.

Clearly, Nitish Kumar’s contention that Lalu Prasad had presided over a “jungle raj” in Bihar when the RJD was in power between 1990 and 2005 had not significantly eroded the latter’s base of support.

But, now, political exigencies have compelled Nitish Kumar to push Lalu Prasad to the background. The JD-U chief is now the chief ministerial candidate of the Janata “parivar” led by Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP).

The BJP, however, is unlikely to be too perturbed by these developments. For one, the “parivar” has been saved in the nick of time because only a few weeks ago, it was being said by the SP leaders that the group would not be formed before the Bihar elections. Even now, its “unity” is apparently confined only to Bihar.

For another, Lalu Prasad’s observation that he was ready to consume poison – accept humiliation for the sake of fighting the “cobra of communalism” – has been seen to reflect his unhappiness over Nitish Kumar’s elevation.

The RJD chief’s distress is understandable because his conviction in the fodder scam has undone his gradual political gains as was evident from his party winning of seven parliamentary seats and three assembly by-election seats in Bihar in 2014.

Although the Manmohan Singh government tried to save him with Sonia Gandhi’s blessings by enacting an ordinance seeking to overturn the judicial diktat disqualifying convicted legislators, the document was torn up in front of television cameras by Rahul Gandhi. It was this act that has now led to the anointment of Nitish Kumar at Lalu Prasad’s expense.

But, the fraught relations between the two OBC leaders could not have been eased by the outward show of bonhomie because the RJD leader, as a Yadav chieftain, can claim to have the support of the largest group of the backward castes in Bihar since the Yadavs comprise 16 per cent of the population.

Lalu Prasad, therefore, undoubtedly saw himself as the obvious chief ministerial candidate of the Janata parivar, till he was unceremoniously dumped in favour of Nitish Kumar, who is a Kurmi, a backward caste which makes up a mere 3.7 per cent of the state’s population.

The preponderance of the caste factor may seem odd and even laughable to people outside the Bihar-Uttar Pradesh “cow belt”. But, it is a matter which is at the heart of electoral calculations in the region.

Although Modi regretted the continued dominance of casteism in Bihar during a recent visit to the state, it is precisely these caste-based animosities that the BJP will try to exploit during the poll campaign.

To show that it is not lagging behind in playing the caste card itself, the party has claimed that the Mauryan emperors, Chandragupta (324-300 BC) and Ashoka (272-232 BC), who ruled from Patalipura, the ancient name of Patna, were of backward caste origin – Kushwaha or Koeri.

What may be considered unfortunate, however, is why the BJP should have fallen back on these regressive tactics when its USP is supposed to be the prime minister’s development mantra. It was this agenda which won the BJP its famous victory in the general election.

If it is now resorting to the familiar divisive means of the Hindi heartland to edge ahead of its opponents, the reason probably is the party’s realization that it hasn’t been able to push the economic reforms vigorously enough to fulfil its last year’s promises.

Given this failure, the most that the BJP can expect is a narrow victory, which will be nearly as much damaging to its reputation as a defeat.

(With inputs from IANS)

  • bigboss

    bjp will never bihar election this time solo,
    janata pariwar and congress will sweep bihar election with thumping majority
    and bjp and nda wil be reduced to two figure seat only i.e. around 25

Next Story

Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

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VOA
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. Pixabay

For people streaming in from rural areas around New Delhi, the first stop is a collection of busy city intersections where contractors select daily wage labor from the crowds of young and old waiting every morning to get work.

Many standing at these intersections say they get work for barely half the month. “I have the ability to work hard. I never turn down any work. But I would prefer to get a cleaner, permanent job,” says 29-year-old Tek Chand. “The problem is one day I have money to buy rations, the next day I don’t.” Like millions of others, he migrated from his village three years ago to seek work and a better life in the city.

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019. VOA
As India prepares for general elections on April 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being attacked by opposition parties for failing to make good on a promise he made in 2014 to create millions of jobs for India’s huge young population. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rebuts that criticism and says India is generating new opportunities as it becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies.

Job creation is a massive challenge for a nation with one of the world’s youngest populations — half the country’s 1.3 billion people are under the age of 25.

Recent data shows that joblessness has soared to record high levels. Opposition parties have made joblessness one of their principal election planks and have accused the prime minister of failing the estimated 8 to 10 million young people who enter the workforce every year.

The independent Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that unemployment reached 7.2 percent last month and that 11 million jobs were lost in 2018. With a working population of 500 million, that translates into more than 30 million people waiting for jobs. An unpublished official survey that showed unemployment at a 45-year-high has also been widely quoted by Indian media.

India's main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019.
India’s main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019. VOA

On the campaign trail, the head of the main opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as Modi’s principal challenger, talks repeatedly about a “jobs crisis.”

“Our government is refusing to accept that we have a massive crisis and potential disaster in front of us,” Gandhi told a group of university students in New Delhi recently, many who will be first time voters.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. It points to a recent industry report that jobs have been created in the medium and small sectors.

The BJP says millions of people have found work in the transport and infrastructure sectors or as delivery boys in booming online businesses as India becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. They point out that the issue is not jobs but livelihoods, and point to millions of people who are not counted in job data.

They are self-employed people like cab owner Chain Pal Singh. As the app based taxi business boomed, Singh’s friend, who operated a cab, persuaded him to quit his job and take out a loan to buy a car. His decision has paid off — in four years he has earned enough money to invest in two more cabs.

Singh says he is much better off than when he held a job. “I used to earn about $225 dollars a month. Now in some months I can earn almost double that amount. Its beneficial for me.”

Following defeats in key state elections in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told parliament last month, “This truth has to be acknowledged. The unorganized sector has 80 to 85 percent of the employment.” He pointed to millions of commercial vehicles sold in recent years and questioned if they had not generated jobs for drivers.

Economists admit India’s large informal sector has made it difficult to calculate employment, but they say joblessness or underemployment remains the country’s biggest challenge. While scarcity of jobs is not a new problem, two disruptive economic steps in the last two years exacerbated the problem.

In 2016 a sweeping currency ban meant to tackle the problem of illegal cash, dried up jobs as it created huge currency shortages, particularly in small businesses and in the countryside. A poorly-implemented tax reform known as the Goods and Services Tax a few months later was another blow to businesses.

Meanwhile, Modi’s “Made in India” campaign, which aimed at making India a manufacturing hub like China, has made a slow start and sluggish labor-intensive sectors cannot cater to growing numbers of job seekers.

“We can’t keep patting ourselves on the back that we are the fastest growing economy specially if all these other indicators are not growing at a rate that will absorb the growing labor force,” says Santosh Mehrotra, a human development economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

Also Read: The Mental Health ‘Epidemic’: About Six in Ten Teen Say, They Feel A Lot Of Pressure To Get Good Grades

He points out that exports, another sector that created a number of jobs has also not been performing well.

As the campaign heats up, the opposition will try to keep the spotlight on jobs, or lack of them, even as the BJP tries to focus on national security following a recent confrontation with Pakistan. The final verdict on whether to give Prime Minister Modi a second term in office will be delivered by millions of voters when they cast their ballots. (VOA)

One response to “Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?”

  1. If the employment picture is bleak despite the construction of so many more Kilometers of roads, railways, air ports, bridges, toilets and other infrastructures compared to the five or even ten years of UPA government, imagine where we would be if we had UPA III government .