Colombo Telegraph

What Will the Voters’ Response To Modi’s Governance Be In 2019?

By S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

Quite a fruitful six more months lie between now and April-May 2019. A judicious verdict on Modi’s performance from May 2014 will then be delivered. An electorate of 600 million voting strength – the largest in the world – will discharge its duty and decide on the next custodians of power. These voters are not a mass of numbers but a body of discriminate beings who have experienced the beneficial presence of a performing government. 

Widening Disparity

A people who previously were frustrated with a lack lustre term of the Congress administration have now in contrast, an India on fast forward mode. Will 31.3% of votes for BJP, translating to 282 seats in the Lok Sabha in 2014, shift camp to lose the growth momentum? Can Congress with 19.5% votes and 44 seats magnetize splinters into coherence and compactness? There was a vote gap of 65 million and seat swings of +166 for BJP and –162 for Congress. In a race of differently abled contestants, is there a chance for the poorly endowed? Decidedly not is a percipient reply. Why? The disparity has grown from 2014 and is growing still. The tilting of the balance will be spectacular after dissolution, the campaigning and the Manifesto.

Lok Sabha Elections 2014 and 2019

By mid-2013, when Modi was elected to head the BJP, it came to be known that victory was his. Within six months he blazoned forth as the leader of the nation. This writer wrote in Colombo Telegraph, in the first week of February 2014, that the “BJP and Modi have approached 280 seats or more. The Congress has hit 100 or less”. Actuality was 282 seats for BJP and 44 for Congress. Consistently from that date to this, it has been maintained that BJP and Modi will go beyond 300. What made for a correct early forecast? Modi has had the advantage of an unimpeachable record of achievement as Chief Minister of Gujarat. Graduating from state to nation, he more than measured up to the demands of a national leader. He responded to the international challenges, made his impact felt and has become a world figure. After Nehru and Indira Gandhi, he has elevated India to great power status. Discounting all explanations, one may hold with Field Marshall Montgomery who wrote a book on Leadership, that “It is the MAN”. With such credentials Modi seeks approval of the first term and endorsement for the second.

On the threshold of 2019 

A General Election is always for the choice of the Prime Minister. The Charisma of Modi, kinetic power of BJP and the organizational caliber of Amit Shah make for a rare amalgam. A cabinet of talent presides successfully over the destinies of the country. They have dissipated inertia and infused purpose. Revolutionary changes have come about in the financial sector, with Arun Jaitley being the shining star and Modi as the able helmsman. At a phase in development when infrastructure calls for high speed delivery, Nitin Gadkari as Minister of Road Transport and Highways, has shown his mettle. High visibility roads and highways have made their mark with a 73% increase in the last four years compared to the previous four. Impressions apart is clog freed arterial lifeline for seamless flow of economic life. The Defense portfolio at this critical time is in the hands of the no-nonsense Minister, Nirmala Sitaraman. In just one year she has imparted a visible dynamism to ‘Make in India’ credo. In the Defense Corridors, investment magnitudes will be known next year and physical progress seen thereafter. India’s enemies see today, a Minister of Defense, deadlier than most previous ones. Armed Forces have developed a fresh confidence and the people a higher sense of security. 

Advantage of a One Term Incumbency

Besides the above and the unmentioned many, stands out the Health Insurance Programme to benefit 500 million citizens per year and that too to the tune of Rs.500,000/- per family. This marvel even to the world, inaugurated on 20th September 2018 is now under implementation. A catalogue of achievements of the past in the media and a narration from platforms apart, is perception in the mass mind. Ten days ago was a political meeting in Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh which recorded a million plus turnout. With such numbers the Convention got into ‘World Book of Records’. This is a mind battering augury to blow the confidence of the contenders arraigned against the BJP. To take Modi and BJP forward, a unique asset is the untainted, successful, one term INCUMBENCY FACTOR. As is well known, only a mediocre, impotent, motion less, non-performing, corrupt caucus miscalled government is rejected at a general election. Never a brief span of a dazzling spark. The Bhopal meeting, was a mammoth endorsement on benign governance for over four years. The call now is for a REPEAT of more of the same.

Modi’s Strategies 

“If you aim at the stars, you hit at the trees”. This home truth learnt at school, is not unknown to Modi and his talented lieutenants. When challenges created the need, the hour produced the man. He conceptualized and led, the party organized and mature public and private sectors delivered.  In every sector, material to better living, Modi government prescribed ambitious norms and envious targets. His achievement was in blasting the cast iron mould of timid, modest targets suited to a lumbering economy. The approach of placing it on  vaulting heights, he energized all segments in development, to pull together and grow in tandem. 

Demonetization, black money probes, GST, comprehensive digitalization programmes, High Speed Rail, clean India, smart cities, toilets for the poor, houses for the homeless, availability of electricity to all, ‘Make in India’ agenda and above all Health Insurance for half a billion citizens are among the stunning ongoing programmes. Two years ago he posed the question, “where do I get the money from” and answered “by stopping corruption”.

The Lodestar is the Economy

As earth shattering as the above are many an achievement realized by meticulous work. Development is all embracing, yet GDP and Growth rates are key indicators. In year 2014, GDP was$ 2.039 trillion and in 2018. it was $ 2.848 trillion. Annual growth rate of India in 2018 was 8.20% and for China 6.70%. India had world’s highest rate. These statistics signifying a huge range of goods and services are increasingly available to the masses. They take them closer to the government that delivered them, not to the opposition.

India has emerged as the world’s 6th largest economy. World Bank forecasts 7.3% growth rate for India in 2018/19, making it the fastest growing economy. Growth forecast by IMF is 7.8% for 2019, while Global Economic Rate is to go down to 3% in 2019. All this at a time when India faces 1.325 billion problems. The allusion is to Nehru’s quip that he had 600 million problems – “every Indian is a problem to me”. China had 700 million at that time. Deng Xiao Ping once asked the Governor of Hong Kong, ‘Shall we exchange places?”. Now Rahul is asking Modi! The country knows better as to who is best.

Promise and Fulfillment

What the Manifesto promised the tenure fulfilled. The BJP in its Manifesto of 2014, had this powerful message. “BJP believes a resurgent India must get its rightful place in the comity of nations and international institutions”. The nation placed its trust and stands vindicated. Bertrand Russel wrote decades ago that anyone reading German philosophical writings of the nineteenth century, will come to know their feeling that Germans were a great people denied their place under the sun. A similar discernment Modi had of Indian aspirations and he set out to realize it. To the Indian mind he infused a fresh confidence and imparted the need for self-reliance. ‘Make in India’   exhortation resonating well with the Indian mind is the outcome. 

Lok Sabha 2019

The general election looked forward to by India and the world is looming on the horizon. The ruling BJP brims with confidence from a commendable record, while the opposition remains a disparate group of discordant formations.  When the Communists were decimated in the Tripura state election of 2018, wind direction became clear. Parties that feared an eclipse, got into a huddle for at least an amorphous grouping. But particularist ambitions are keeping them apart. The 2014 Lok Sabha election was preceded by 5 state elections. The same way 5 elections are scheduled now. Electioneering has thus commenced in earnest together with articles, debates, discussions and pre-poll predictions. An optimistic 300+ for BJP is an assessment for the moment. The picture will be clear by February 2019.

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