Tuesday February 25, 2020
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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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Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia
  • 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

Next Story

U.S. President Donald Trump Announces Military Deal With India

Trump Announces Military Deal With India, Expresses Optimism For Trade Pact

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Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands during a "Namaste Trump," event at Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium. VOA

By Steve Heman

President Donald Trump said Monday the United States will sign an agreement to sell $3 billion worth of U.S. helicopters and other equipment to India’s military.

The announcement came as Trump spoke at a welcome rally in the city of Ahmedabad, where a crowd of more than 100,000 people had gathered to hear from him and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ahead of the visit, Trump had said a new major trade deal between the two countries would not be part of this trip.  But in his address he promised the two countries will be making “among the biggest ever trade deals,” and said he is optimistic that he and Modi can reach “a good, even great deal” for both sides.

Modi also struck an optimistic note about a potential trade agreement, saying ties were expanding in spheres ranging from defense, the energy sector and information technology, and that a resurgent India would present new opportunities for the U.S.

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, pause as they tour the Taj Mahal. VOA

Calling the two countries “natural partners,” Modi said they can help bring peace, progress and security not just in the Indo Pacific region, but in the entire world.

“We are inspired by a long-term vision, not just short term considerations,” Modi said.

Modi hailed President Trump’s visit saying it marks a new chapter between the two countries. “India-U.S. relations are no longer just another partnership. It is a far greater and closer relationship,” the Indian leader said.

“There is so much that we share, shared values and ideas, shared spirit of enterprise and innovation, shared opportunities and challenges, shared hopes and aspirations,” according to Modi.

Trump began his address by uttering the Indian greeting “Namaste,” and said that India “will always hold a special place in our hearts.”

“America loves India.  America respects India.  And America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people,” Trump said.

He celebrated India as a successful democracy, and said both countries are committed to working together to fight terrorism.

“Our borders will always be closed to terrorists and terrorism and all forms of extremism,” Trump said.

Trump’s visit began with a red carpet-welcome at the airport in Ahmedabad, in Modi’s home state of Gujarat.  Thousands of people then cheered along a motorcade route as Trump and Modi traveled a short distance to a stop at Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram.

Pre-trip beautification effort

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive at the new Motera cricket stadium. VOA

A small army of workers was deployed ahead of Trump’s visit to Ahmedabad to build a 400-meter-long wall along the motorcade route to block the view of where poor people live. The hurried beautification project also includes the placement of about 150,000 flowerpots.

After the stadium event in Ahmedabad and before heading to New Delhi, the president and first lady Melania Trump made a visit to the country’s most famous tourist attraction – the Taj Mahal – where they were given a tour of the site.

Indian media reported Agra will be on lockdown for the visit, although there is concern about controlling the menacing monkeys roaming the grounds of the 17th-century Mughal marble mausoleum.

“The forest department has been requested to ensure that the monkeys stay away from the Taj during Donald Trump’s visit,” Archaeological Survey of India Superintending Archaeologist Vasant Kumar Swarnkar was quoted telling India Today.

While Trump expressed his optimism for a trade deal, he said last week he was “saving the big deal for later on.”

There is mutual agreement on dozens of elements for the pact, but several contentious sectors are unresolved, including medical devices, according to sources close to the talks.

“Whether or not there will be an announcement on a trade package is, really, wholly dependent upon what the Indians are prepared to do,” a senior administration official told reporters on Friday. “That said, we have a number of significant commercial deals, which are of great significance that we’re very pleased to announce in a number of key sectors.”

Indian officials are said to be perplexed that U.S. officials halted trade negotiations just prior to the Trump visit, expressing a view that Washington pursued brinkmanship that failed in the face of a more patient India, which is the world’s fifth biggest economy.

“There’s no great hurry here” to finalize a trade pact, retired veteran senior Indian diplomat T.P. Sreenivasan in India told VOA.

“I was personally a little bit surprised that the two sides weren’t able to get this deal done,” Jeff Smith, South Asia research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said.

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wave as they depart after a “Namaste Trump,” event. VOA

Bilateral talks

In India’s capital, bilateral talks are to focus on contemporary concerns.

Indian officials could raise Trump’s hard line on immigration.

“They view the immigration issue — whether it is offering visas to students or the H-1B highly skilled visas or the green card issue — as becoming worse in the last four years,” Pande told VOA.

It is uncertain whether Trump will discuss the issue of Kashmir.

Six months after Modi ended Kashmir’s special status under India’s constitution, local politicians there remain detained and internet service is restricted.

Trump “is not always very thoughtful when he talks about such issues, particularly Kashmir. So that’s a bee in his bonnet and it’s going to come up in some form,” Sreenivasan, a former Indian ambassador to the United Nations, predicted.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for Trump to help resolve the dispute between the two nuclear-armed neighbors over Kashmir, something the U.S. president has previously indicated he is willing to do. But Modi has strongly rebuffed offers from third parties to mediate.

Indian officials are apprehensive about Trump commenting on the Kashmir issue during the visit.

“He might say that ‘I’m a great deal-maker and I can resolve Kashmir.’ But let’s hope he doesn’t,” Pande, of the Hudson Institute, said.

Some members of the U.S. Congress are also expressing concern about Modi’s controversial move to give Indian citizenship to immigrants from three neighboring countries — unless they are Muslims.

Trump, during the India visit, will raise such matters, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration,” according to a senior administration official.

“Attempts to lecture, coerce, punish, intervene in India’s affairs have traditionally not been particularly effective,” Smith, of the Heritage Foundation, said.

Trump will be the fourth consecutive U.S. president to travel to India, continuing the shift in allegiance by Washington to Delhi from India’s arch-rival and neighbor.

Khan, after a recent meeting with Trump during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, said the U.S. president also promised to visit Pakistan soon.

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If “there is no complementary visit to Pakistan or no side agreement on some other way to assuage concerns there, then I think Pakistan will take it as a slight,” said Richard Russow, senior adviser for U.S.-India policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (VOA)