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PM Modi still holds the upper hand, seniors on backfoot in BJP

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By promising, in response to a query in London, that the law will not spare those disturbing social harmony in the land of the Buddha and Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken much of the sting out of the complaints of those protesting against the supposedly prevailing “intolerance”.

The heightened prospects of economic cooperation with Britain are also likely to dispel some of the doom and gloom enveloping the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the Bihar debacle.

On both these counts, which have been worrying a section of the intelligentsia as well as Modi’s pro-development supporters inside and outside the saffron camp, the PM Modi and his party can be said to have retrieved some of the lost ground after Bihar.

But whether these latest developments will take the wind out of the sails of the party elders who have suddenly raised the banner of revolt is unclear since there is some substance in their accusation that the party is run by a Gang of Two, comprising PM Modi and his Man Friday, Amit Shah, the BJP president.

The veterans, or the old fogeys, as they might be called behind their backs, are also unlikely to give up their quest for seeking accountability for the Bihar defeat, which is another way to nail the Gang of Two for treating the party as their personal fiefdom.

It is too early to say, therefore, that Modi’s troubles are over if only because the BJP’s present-day leaders at the helm cannot afford to dismiss the grouses of the party’s senior citizens as a “manufactured” rebellion, as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley described the decision of a section of the writers, historians, scientists, film-makers and others to return their awards in protest against the climate of “intolerance”.

The voluble disdain which the party felt for the “Nehruvian” and “Leftist” intellectuals, to quote the finance minister again, was accompanied by silent disapproval of the “brain dead” golden oldies, as Yashwant Sinha said was the Modi-Shah duo’s attitude towards those in the 70-plus age group.

Following a brief promise to listen to the complaints of the elders, the duo took a step backwards and deputed Union minister Nitin Gadkari to tell the critics that they are embarrassing the party.

The battle, therefore, has been joined between those below and above 70. Which side will emerge victorious will depend, first, on whether Modi and Co. can win a major election, say, in Uttar Pradesh in 2017 – next year’s elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are in states where the BJP doesn’t have much influence – and, secondly, on whether there is a perceptive improvement in the economic situation.

It is with the latter objective in mind that the government has gone in for what can be called small bang reforms on foreign investment. But these take the time to bear fruit.

Of greater urgency for the government is to keep the Prime Minister’s London promise to crack down on the wild-eyed saffron militants who have been killing rationalists and beef-eaters.

The result has been that regional leaders promising to eradicate corruption and pursuing their own model of growth in an atmosphere of communal harmony have won two assembly elections in a row.

The reason why Jaitley earlier and Gadkari later have been erecting a protective ring around the Nos.1 and 2 in the BJP is easy to see. As in any other party, interwoven links of patronage and privilege tie the denizens of the corridors of power with those just outside.

To be fair, the BJP is not the only party which tends to be impervious to criticism. The Congress, for instance, enacted the farce of its Nos.1 and 2 offering to resign after the party was humbled in the 2014 parliamentary polls and were urged to stay on by their loyal courtiers.

That there is an element of jealousy in the revolt of the sidelined elders is undeniable. While L.K. Advani had resolutely opposed Modi’s elevation till he realized that he was fighting a losing battle, others like Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha were disappointed at not being accommodated in the cabinet. There is little doubt that they were waiting for an opportunity to strike back.

It is not clear, however, whether the veterans are as distressed by the antics of the Hindu Right as, say, the secular camp. After all, as home minister, Advani had casually brushed aside any suggestions about the Bajrang Dal being involved in the arson attack on the Christian missionary, Graham Staines, and his two sons in an Odisha village in 1999 while the then human resource development minister Joshi, and defence minister George Fernandes, described the grisly deaths as the result of an “international conspiracy”. The views of Arun Shourie, now a regular critic of the government, were similar.

Joshi’s other claim to fame is that he was Smriti Irani’s predecessor in the task of saffronizing education and in proclaiming that foreign investment was tantamount to “looting”.

Since personal pique rather than any ideological difference is behind the stirrings among the mothballed elders, who do not seem to have anything substantial in the way of policies to offer, PM Modi still holds the upper hand. He now needs a few victories to maintain his lead.

(Amulya Ganguli, IANS)

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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 .