Three and half years into PM Modi’s term, where does the BJP government find itself? With around a year and half to go for the next Lok Sabha elections, there is very little room for manoeuvring left, especially given that the last six months may be pretty much eliminated in terms of the centre’s ability to deliver. Practically, the centre has only about 12 months remaining to analyse its standing and take any steps.
Needless to say, Modi has given hope to the people. And it has been acknowledged in turn by the country across several elections since 2014, Gujarat and HP being the most recent ones. However, as much as Gujarat results were in favour of BJP, it ought not to let its guard down given a significantly weaker show than its own expectations.
In light of the Modi’s election promises, below are items that his government must carefully consider delivering on, in the build up to 2019.
What should start immediately?
Foremost, correctives on the appeasement motivated wrongdoings by previous governments that Modi had personally promised on must be begun forthwith. The restoration of Kashmiri Pandits, and purge of Bangladeshi infiltration from India should figure on the top of that list. The fact that these have been completely put on the back-burner are troubling, especially since they have figured in his 2014 election speeches.
Secondly, verdicts on 2G and Adarsh scams have been extremely disappointing. Scams during the UPA regime have been conspicuous in Modi’s 2014 campaigns, and rightly so. The verdicts have gone on to hurt the trust reposed on the Prime Minister by his supporters. While it isn’t yet clear what triggered such outcomes in the cases, it does leave a significant dent on the image of the government.
Thirdly, the government must undertake proactive communication. Needless to say, the country has placed trust on Modi. As such, despite challenges, the average Indian stood firmly behind him on both Demonetization and GST. But, it is incumbent on the government to ensure that the impact of the steps are better understood by the nation. This may be done either in terms of whitepapers on the result of major government initiatives.
What needs to stop?
First and foremost, all forms of appeasement and vote-bank politics must stop. It is important for the government to realise the mandate received in 2014 was not an outcome of minority votes. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s recent tweet seeking the minority vote in lieu of India’s vote against US on Jerusalem has surprised and anguished many. Similarly attempts at appeasement by support for Palestine, or praises for J&K youth when the government is still to initiate any support for the Kashmiri Pandits are not in good taste.
Secondly, while Bullet trains and more futuristic developments are okay, but, they do also bring a stark economic divide between the rich and poor into the open. It may possibly do well, to mellow down such initiatives.
Thirdly, it is important for BJP to rid itself of complacency. The fact is that Modi appeared on the center stage of India when she was already treading down a suicidal path. It has taken an immense amount of unified energy and resolve to move together, not just on BJP’s part but, on the part of the entire nation. That resolve is rare and must be valued as such. BJP does not even have the moral right to complacency.
What should continue as is?
No doubt that three and half years into governance has been beset with many challenges. However, the courage, pace and commitment of execution has left a positive impression and must continue. While in the hindsight one could find faults with several decisions, the fact is that the government has pulled up several fantastic achievements within a short time.
Secondly, this government can singularly lay claim to a paradigm shift in handling of media. Something that was unthinkable before 2014, sections of media with questionable motivations have been rendered practically ineffectual and whining. The ability of the government to have largely overcome this massive propaganda machinery has been remarkable and well executed.
Thirdly, PM Modi has personally brought about a refreshing turn in India’s foreign policy, either in setting the course of Indo-Israeli relations correct, handling Doklam specifically, or China generally, moving towards aligning US, Japanese and Indian interests are remarkable feats. Without doubt, India’s impression has started showing signs of changing globally.
Fourthly, pushing societal reforms, unconcerned with political correctness and vote banks is appreciated by all. Triple talaq, or even syllabus modernisation in Madarsas within Uttar Pradesh, speaks volumes on BJP’s intent and helps reinforce faith of the people.
Finally, civilisational issues in terms of Ramjanmabhoomi or Ram Setu are an integral part of Indian expectations. India today wishes to start viewing herself through the civilisational lens enlightened by scientific rationality. Neither one coming at the cost of the other.
BJP must take Gujarat’s electoral verdict as a cautionary signal and make sure that the next twelve months see some of the very significant pending issues getting addressed. The lack of leadership in the opposition is evident. However in 2019, BJP will be faced with an unified opposition of political parties, media, ‘intellectuals’. Additionally the surprise element that PM Modi enjoyed in terms of his campaign style and Amit Shah’s organisational abilities would have largely dissipated by 2019.
It is significantly probable that India would still like to have Modi back for a second term. However, one may hope that BJP displays sensitivity to the very small 12 month window it has to reinforce India’s faith in it.