Issues

Modi no longer common man’s choice

By Jawed Akhter

When Narendra Modi came to power, everyone who voted for the BJP, thought that he will bring some magical change in the Indian economy and in the lives of the Indian people. But the recent debacle in Delhi assembly elections, where not long ago, the BJP had swept all the seven seats in the last general elections, and the growing protests from different corners including the RSS is really disappointing for the party.

On 23 and 24 February, farmers from different states under the leadership of Anna Hazare gathered at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to protest against Modi’s land ordinance intended to change the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013 which was passed by the UPA government. Later, on 24 February, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kenjriwal joined Anna Hazare, saying that Narendra Modi-led government was acting as a property dealer for corporates. The left parties on 27 February too led a rally to Jantar Mantar in protest against the land ordinance. Even the RSS’ trade union wing, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, was no different from others in protesting against Modi’s ordinance.

Moreover, as a head of sovereign, secular and socialist country, Modi kept mum for a substantially long time on the issues of “ghar wapsi” and attacks on minorities’ religious places which continued across the country. It was only due to Barack Obama’s indirect reference that Modi issued a statement against religious intolerance. Modi’s silence had encouraged Yogi Adityanath and his ilk to spew venom on Muslims and Christians. “Ghar wapsi” incidents might have invigorated Hindu extremists, but they have instilled a sense of insecurity into minorities which brought far and wide criticism and displeasure for Modi government.

As pre-elections promises, Narendra Modi had pledged sweeping market reforms to revive India’s economy and put the country back on the tracks. But as prime minister, he has disappointed even his admirers who have questioned his policies. The Modi government does seem to be apparently treading the same path of the hapless government he defeated in the last Lok Sabha elections.

“As of now, the momentum is lost. They might still recover it, but we have lost the moment,” said Bibek Debroy, a prominent economist who co-wrote a book laying out a reform agenda that the new Prime Minister himself launched last June. “Many global investors are still somewhat exuberant about India’s prospects after Narendra Modi became the prime minister, but some of them are beginning to worry in the absence of results,” said US investor Jim Rogers.

Even two of Modi’s dream projects-Swachh Bharat Abhyan and Digital India- seem to be futile as they are not meeting the deadlines or yielding resuts. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-hyped plan to build I-ways to digitally empower people is floundering, with the government meeting just about 12% of its target during 2014-15 to connect 50,000 villages through a national optic fibre network by the end of January 2015. The government has, however, delivered some results across the power sector and in the award of new highway and port projects. Construction of toilets under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream project, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, has gained momentum with 7.1 lakh individual household toilets built in January. But, with less than two months left for the fiscal year to close, the government is unlikely to meet this year’s target of constructing 1.2 crore toilets.

Recently, Govindacharya, an RSS ideologue said that the Narendra Modi government’s eagerness to bring amendments to the Land Acquisition Bill shows that it is “anti-people and pro-corporate”. He said, “The government must issue a white paper on the land of the industries it had shut down and furnish details of the land it had allotted to 625 SEZs.” Govindacharya emphasised, “The employment generated through agriculture sector in India is far greater than the opportunities in corporate sectors and the government should make laws keeping in mind the farmers.”

It is obvious that Modi’s win on such a large scale was a result of the engineered polarisation and manufactured communal divide across the country. The communal tension in Assam contributed to secure all the Lok Sabha seats which had never been with BJP before. Besides, rising prices of essential commodities, scam after scam in the Congress government and growing unemployment was a nail in the Congress’ coffin.

Several Western media organisations, led by the Economist and the Guardian, had raised questions over Modi’s secular credentials during the peak of his election campaign in April last year. The Economist had said that India “deserves better” while referring to his candidature for PM.

After facing huge criticism on land ordinance, Modi government tried its best to regain public support, when Mr. Arun Jaitly presented Union Budget in Parliament, by not increasing income tax slab and projecting the growth of 8-8.5% for the year 2015-16. It was also promised that the government would promulgate a law to deal with black money, but we hope that it is not going to be a “kahawat” (proverbial saying) this time. Though the government did not change the income tax slab, it introduced some indirect taxes and raised service tax from 12.36% to 14%. In other words, people will pay taxes indirectly rather than paying them directly. On one side, the government has given 100% tax exemption for contribution to Swachh Bharat and Clean Ganga projects, but at the same time it also lowered the corporate tax from 30% to 25% which provides a happy moment for the corporate sectors which is the real beneficiary of Modi policies.

Now, again, oil companies have increased the rates of petrol and diesel by Rs.3.18 and Rs.9.09 respectively allowing the corporates to make a killing while the international price of crude oil has come down by half. This makes it clear that Modi Sarkar is serving the corporates at the expense of the common man.     

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 May 2015 on page no. 2

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