Nationwide Unrest, Economy In A Tailspin, Is Brand Modi Finally Losing Its Sheen?

In 2014, the people of India voted PM Narendra Modi to power with an unprecedented majority to enable him to fulfill his promise of “acche din”. Five years later, the prophesied “acche din” are still eluding them, and in fact, things have taken a turn for the worse on the economic front. Despite this, the people saw PM Modi as their best bet to change their lives for the better and blessed him with an even greater majority in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

With the 2019 general elections establishing BJP as the dominant force in the Indian polity, it was widely held that in the second term of the Modi government, the development will now take the driving seat and Hindutva majoritarianism, which had cast its dark shadow on his first term, will finally be relegated to the back seat.

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah celebrate the party’s 2019 win at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. (Photo: Amit Shah/Facebook)

Fast forward to a few months, and on the very day on which Mahatma Gandhi lost his life in 1948, a 17-year-old, inspired by the ideology of his killer opened fire on a procession carried out by the students of Jamia Millia Islamia against a law which for the first time, makes religion a basis for Indian citizenship.

But no one is taken aback by this incident as this happened in the immediate aftermath of a minister denouncing all the protestors as gaddars (traitors) and egging the crowd in his rally to shoot them. It took the BJP only a few months to descend from “sab ka sath, sab ka vikas aur sabka vishwas” to “Desh k gaddaro ko goli maaro.”

To everyone’s dismay, from the beginning of Modi 2.0, it is the divisive socio-cultural agenda of the BJP and its ideological mentor RSS that has dominated much of the discourse in the last few months—as the economy continues to languish under the cruel apathy displayed by the government. As the growth of the country continues to hit historic lows, the polarising agenda of the government is showing no signs of slowing down, and in the aftermath of the nationwide protests against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act, the levels of communal vitriol being spewed by the leaders of the ruling establishment have now reached a new peak.

The wounds that the bloody partition left on the collective psyche of the country have still not healed completely, and by constantly scratching those wounds for their petty political motives, the BJP is playing with fire—a fire that can quickly set the whole country ablaze. And with it as collateral damage, the dreams and aspirations of millions of Indians would also get reduced to ashes.

The reality is that India has already lost a whole decade of growth to the policy paralysis in the second half of the UPA government and inept handling of the economy in the first term of the Modi government. Ever since the 1991 reforms, which opened the doors for tremendous progress and growth, India was being viewed as a bright spot in the global economy and a democratic alternative to China by the international community. But now, India is proving to be a drag for global growth, and our democratic credentials are also under question.

The section most affected by the non-performance of the Modi government on the economic front is the youth who are also the largest support group of the PM and played a pivotal role in bringing him back to power. The country is reeling under a massive unemployment crisis and to generate jobs, we need investment. But the most basic prerequisite for investment is peace and tranquillity as no one would like to invest in a country torn by religious hate and bigotry. By trying to create a wedge in the society based on religion, they may reap short term political dividends but long term instability in the country.

A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against India’s new citizenship law in Mumbai on December 27, 2019. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

The PM should realize that you cannot keep the people of this country in a constant state of adrenaline rush by serving high doses of communal and nationalistic rhetoric, and sooner or later, the reality will catch up. This euphoria will give way to a sense of disillusionment—as the economic downturn starts to hurt everyone.

If the recent setbacks for the BJP in the state elections have shown anything than it is the fact that PM Modi’s ability to pull the state elections in favor of his party has dwindled in the face of non-performance of its state units. It is a message for the PM that constant failures to deliver on the promises he made to the people may soon start putting a dent on his credibility and the trust that people repose in him.

The Prime Minister and Home Minister Amit Shah may take heart in the fact that the large part of the opposition, which failed to adapt to the changing dynamics in politics, is in a comatose state and poses no serious threat to the BJP. But one thing that BJP’s chariot coming to a halt at the state level in the last couple of years has taught us is the fact that one factor which always remains a constant in Indian politics is the unpredictable behavior of the voters.

The ruling establishment should set aside its hubris and recognize the fact that even a day is a long time in Indian politics and here we have more than four years left for the next general elections.

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