The result of the 2019 general election was truly a surprise. The economy was suffering, small and medium scale businesses were still recovering from demo and GST, employment opportunities were not created and many other promises went unfulfilled. Based on these assumptions it was difficult for the BJP win the elections.
But the voters have a mindset of their own, they may not vote according to promises but vote according to the development outreach of the government. BJP achieved success through their grassroot level schemes such as Ujjwala yojana, pradhan mantri gram sadak yojana, insurance schemes for farmers, electrification of villages, Jan-dhan yojana and many others. Although these schemes were not entirely successful but they did create a perception that someone at the centre was working for them. If one saw a road being constructed, their relatives from the neighbouring village getting a gas connection, and streetlights being built they would realise that this is a government that is genuinely concerned about the people. The delivery of schemes at the household level appealed the masses. Therefore, people decided to vote for the party at the centre.
However, this vote has not really translated into development.
BJP post 2019 has been different. BJP has been practising what I like to call Hindutva 3.0 which is a belligerent, aggressive and unabashed form of Hindutva. Hindutva 1.0 was during Vajpayee’s time where core issues of the RSS were kept at the back burner while the government focused on development, BJP during 2014–19 practised Hindutva 2.0 where the Hindutva agenda and development were at par with each other. Hindutva 3.0 is where we saw development take a backseat. Agendas like triple talaq, Article 370, CAA-NRC and UCC are taking the centre stage.
Today the BJP is not talking about acche din (good days), it does talk about India being a $5 trillion economy by 2024 but achieving that looks difficult the way the economy is growing.
The anti-CAA protest have caught the BJP by surprise they didn’t realise that a youth movement could have had such an effect over the entire country. The anti-CAA protests have created a hindrance to Hindutva 3.0, BJP seems to be on the back foot with the NRC and UCC. At the same time BJP is firm on the CAA and said that there is no way the party is going back on this act. Perhap, BJP is testing the waters. It wants to see how long can the protests go on. If and when the protests die BJP will be back on track with it hindutva agenda, this time learning how to deal with protests.
However, all this talks of Ram mandir, Article 370, CAA-NRC is putting India somewhere backwards. Hindutva 3.0 is diverting BJP from the path of multiple reforms. Reforms that are much needed in the country.
It is no doubt that Amit Shah and Modi are, perhaps, the most powerful leaders in the world. They enjoy the support of the majority. No other leader in the world enjoys as much democratic support as these two leaders. One expects Shah and Modi to take on challenges that the previous regimes were afraid of taking. This is the period where both the leaders could have worked on electoral reforms, bureaucratic reforms, banking reforms, business reforms and other kinds of reforms that required majority from both houses, which the BJP enjoys (some through its allies). Instead, we saw the BJP furthering its own agenda.
There was a great deal of expectation from Amit Shah and Modi. Both are seen as self made leaders who come from a not so privileged background and have truly faced the brunt of poverty. Amit Shah has also faced jail charges as he was harassed by the CBI. Therefore, when Amit Shah, the home minister, did the same with the former home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram all that hope was shattered. One did not expect Shah to come down to the level of petty revenge politics, this was the difference that the BJP was supposed to offer. Modi’s inability to answer press conferences and him giving only scripted interviews give a sense that he is unable to face criticism. A look at his cabinets indicates that Modi has surrounded himself with people who cannot disagree with him in anyway. Ramachandra Guha gives the example of denying Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje a seat in the cabinet, despite being excellent administrators, as them being in the cabinet would lead to power dynamics between them and Modi.
It seems that Modi and Shah are looking forward to consolidate a lot of power amongst themselves. It is clear that the next set of leaders are Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath, one has to just look at how much space these two people are getting in election rallies.
Modi’s first term was an underperformance in terms of economy, employment, defense etc.
His second term has started off as a disaster with a terrible economy, student protests, brute force by the police and a stain in the global image.
It is still time for BJP’s leaders to look at what is going wrong and focus on delivering acche din, something that many voters expect from them.