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Can Rahul Gandhi turn tables on Modi?

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By Tarun Pratap

New Delhi: The Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Monday began his ‘kisan Padyatra’ in Uttar Pradesh, saying that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was busy flying abroad, he and his party Congress would stand by the farmers through thick and thin.

Taking a jibe at the PM, he said, “Modi had promised that during his rule, the country would witness ‘Acche Din’. But we are yet to come across a single ‘good day’ under his regime. Ache Din will come when farmers, laborers and poor are happy.”

This campaign to highlight the plight of sugarcane farmers is apparently planned in the view of 2017 assembly elections.

Meanwhile, the BJP hit back at the Gandhi scion, saying that he would have to prove his innocence with regard to the allegations that his party was involved in “anti-national activities” in Punjab.

Congress Vice President also criticized the UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and urged him to work for the farmers for the rest of his remaining tenure.

Gandhi has been aggressive in his approach in of late. He did not miss a single opportunity where he could target the government, be it on the issue of Dadri lynching, Bihar polls, and Modi’s foreign visits.

It is being believed in Congress circles that a victory in Bihar has proved that Modi is not invincible and with the right approach and strategy flaws in his government can be brought out.

Though Congress is not the actual winner in Bihar, any loss to BJP paves the way for Congress to gain further strength.

BJP had criticized Rahul a lot for his 58-day absence earlier this year, but it seems that they also have given him a reason to hit back.

This government has been in power for hardly 18 months and still there are jitters. NDA has a clear majority and yet they have looked to be defensive in recent past. They have only themselves to blame for their predicament. More than Rahul or the Opposition, it is the BJP themselves that invited trouble on them with all the controversial comments and issues like beef, Pakistan etcetera. BJP has pushed itself on the back foot, giving an opening to the Congress and all of its opposition.

BJP won the 2014 elections on the basis of issue of development but since then the public has heard more of other things than the word they voted for.

The mention of phrase ‘Modi Wave’ in media has but disappeared. Maybe the wave is over or there never was a wave. Either way it is not an ideal situation to be in for the BJP. Bihar election is one big setback where BJP has lost a lot of ground.

Rahul Gandhi has been considered many a things since his arrival in politics. He has been ridiculed, laughed at, but he never has been feared. Neither the opposition nor public gave him a chance. On the other hand, Modi was always feared by his political opponents and he proved them right by winning the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. However, the Gandhi scion seems to be slowly turning the tables on Modi.

With the Winter Session of the Parliament approaching, it is important for BJP to get things right otherwise like the Monsoon Session, the opposition won’t let them work, wasting yet again precious time and public money.

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)