Tuesday September 25, 2018
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For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

Perhaps the BJP's only solace at the moment is that its opponents haven't been able to get their act together

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia
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  • Many believe that Modi and BJP are now no longer is a favourable place
  • The new policies are not getting public approval
  • If situation isn’t handled carefully, 2019 elections will be steeper for BJP

For the Bharatiya Janata Party’s supporters, the growing belief that the party is no longer as favourably placed as before must be both bewildering and disheartening.

They must be wondering what could have gone wrong when the BJP was looking forward to not only a comfortable victory in 2019 but was also planning to celebrate the 75th year of India’s independence in 2022.

Is the Modi-magic vanishing?  Wikimedia Commons
Is the Modi-magic vanishing? Wikimedia Commons

The talk of a “New India” under the BJP’s near-permanent control was in the air with both Nitish Kumar and Omar Abdullah from two opposite sides of the political spectrum saying that Narendra Modi faced no challenge.

Yet, the scene has changed. What is more, it has happened so over a rather short period of time. Among the reasons for it may be the BJP’s electoral setbacks in, first, the Chitrakoot assembly byelection in Madhya Pradesh in November last year, the near-defeat it faced in the Gujarat assembly polls in the following month and finally the huge margins by which it recently lost three byelections in Rajasthan.

Before these contests, the successes of the Congress’s student wing in the Delhi University and of a leftist union in the Jawaharlal Nehru University student union elections over the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the saffron brotherhood’s student wing, were significant pointers to the emerging trends.

BJP will definitely see a tough time in 2019 elections. Wikimedia commons
BJP will definitely see a tough time in 2019 elections. Wikimedia Commons

The new scenario has now led to conjectures about a fall in the BJP’s number of Lok Sabha seats to 200/220 from the present 282 in a House of 545. Since these figures have been mentioned by a saffron scribe, it is obvious that assessments on these lines are currently on in the BJP. Another scribe has identified the absence of effective speakers other than Modi as one of the factors behind the BJP’s slide in popularity.

Perhaps one of the first to say openly that the Modi magic was fading was a Shiv Sena spokesperson, who also noted the change in Rahul Gandhi’s “body language” and his transformation into a credible leader. Not long after, the Sena decided not to align with the BJP in 2019.

Also Read: Editorial Freedom Should be used Wisely in Public Interest says PM Narendra Modi to Media

The BJP’s old ally is not the only party to begin thinking of greener pastures. The Telugu Desam Party, too, has expressed its displeasure over the “neglect” of Andhra Pradesh in the Union budget. To forestall a rupture, the BJP has offered the Shiv Sena 144 seats in Maharashtra in an assembly of 288 seats, but the generous gesture is more indicative of the BJP’s nervousness than of magnanimity.

So, what went wrong for a party which was riding high during the first three years of its tenure?

First and foremost reason is its failure to usher in the promised “achhe din” or better days because of a sluggish economy. The scene might have been better but for the twin blows of demonetisation, which dealt a blow to small businesses, and the shambolic rolling out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which also unsettled the traders and businessmen.

It seems unlikely BJP will be able recreate its historic win in 2019 elections. Wikimedia Commons
It seems unlikely BJP will be able recreate its historic win in 2019 elections. Wikimedia Commons

The second reason is the widespread rural distress which eroded the BJP’s influence in Gujarat. As a party essentially of urban lower middle class areas, the BJP’s connection with the countryside has never been very strong. In its Jan Sangh days, the party once even forgot to adopt a resolution on agriculture till the lapse was noticed at the last minute.

Modi is now said to have sought the advice of farming experts to reach out to the cultivators. But the move is unlikely to pay immediate political dividends.

To compound the BJP’s problems, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the Sangh Parivar’s labour wing, has raised the red flag over the “disappointing” Union budget.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi: Government bringing Stringent Consumer Protection Law

Another explanation for the BJP’s woes is undoubtedly the inability to control the saffron goons, who have been running amok to impose their diktats on diet, inter-faith romance and film scripts, among other things.

The rampages of the cow vigilantes have hit the meat and leather industries and resulted in ageing cows being let loose by their owners to roam the countryside and city streets to forage on their own. Hence the proposal to impose a fine on the “guilty” owners.

The result is the prevalence of an atmosphere of intolerance of the kind which made a section of the intelligentsia return the awards which they had once won in protest against the deteriorating state of affairs in the country.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi 's new policies are not being received well by the public.
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi ‘s new policies are not being received well by the public.

Perhaps the BJP’s only solace at the moment is that its opponents haven’t been able to get their act together. Moreover, the fissures in their ranks are palpable with a rift in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) over whether to align with the Congress in an anti-BJP front, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) teaming up with the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka on the eve of the assembly elections.

There are also said to be reservations among the senior opposition leaders about accepting Rahul Gandhi as the leader of an alliance.

Karnataka will be the next big electoral battle for the BJP. If it can dislodge the ruling Congress in the state, it will be able to brush aside the party’s setbacks in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Otherwise, the road to 2019 will seem steeper. IANS

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Fall Of The Currency And Increase In Oil Prices: India ‘s Turmoil

The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars.

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Rajesh Kumar, left, shares a ride to work with another employee, Dilip Swain, right, as higher petrol prices in India begin to be felt in people's pocketbooks.VOA

The fall of the currency of India to record lows and rising global oil prices have raised worries that the world’s fastest growing economy faces headwinds that could hurt the fortunes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in next year’s general elections.

From people filling fuel at gas stations to thousands of students heading out to study overseas, the impact of the slumping rupee is sparking discontent.

Having plunged by about 12 percent against the dollar this year, the rupee is one of Asia’s worst faring currencies, and as in other countries, the slide has accelerated since the crash of the Turkish lira.

“The reasons are global. We must bear in mind that in last few months, dollar has strengthened against almost every currency,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently as he tried to send out reassuring signals that India’s economy is on track.

India
The rupee has plunged by about 12 percent this year raising fears of spiraling inflation. VOA

The rupee’s sharp depreciation comes at a time when the economy had recovered from a slowdown and surged to a two-year high in the quarter that ended in June. Forecasts put growth for this year at 7.5 percent.

Economy will slow

But economists warn this momentum will be difficult to sustain as the tumbling rupee, along with rising crude oil prices, takes a toll on growth. India, the world’s third largest oil importer, gets almost 80 percent of its fuel needs overseas.

“The government needs to mellow down on growth aspirations,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy, economist with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. “The growth needs to come down to a little less than 7 percent.”

Even as the government faces the prospect of a slowing economy, it is under pressure to lower taxes on gas and diesel to bring down the sharp rise in prices. Fuel is one of the most heavily taxed items in India, with rates as high as nearly 50 percent. Prices vary from state to state, but they have gone up by about 14 percent this year.

Hoping to cash in on the growing disaffection over the surge in fuel prices and the sliding rupee, opposition parties led nationwide protests that shutdown offices and schools in several cities this week.

India
Discontent with spiraling fuel prices poses a challenge to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of general elections next year. VOA

The government dismissed the protests, saying that although people faced momentary difficulties, they understood they were because of factors beyond its control.

Political analysts are not so sure, pointing out that fuel prices are a politically sensitive issue in India and usually result in a spike in inflation.

“Anger is rising, there is resentment,” said Satish Misra at the Observer Research Foundation, warning the ruling party will face a backlash “Obviously that is going to have a negative impact on the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party, there is no doubt about that.”

Warnings from economists

Among those who are upset with the high fuel prices is Rajesh Kumar, who commutes 30 kilometers to the advertising agency where he works. Hit by the higher prices that eat into his income, he has started sharing the ride with another employee.

India
Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“I have given up the idea of buying another car,” he said despondently. “I will not be able to afford the cost of running it.”

Economists however have warned the government against giving in to populist pressures ahead of a series of state polls later this year and general elections around April next year. They say lowering taxes on fuel or taking measures to prop up the currency will strain the country’s finances and hurt the economy in the long run.

Also Read: Diverse Gathering To Be Addressed This World BioFuel Day: PM Narendra Modi

“One needs to be more careful and vigilant,” Bhanumurthy said. “It is easy for India to stay with low growth than experiencing the high deficit.”

But there is also some good news for the Indian economy. The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars. (VOA)