India is currently undergoing the largest election process of the world in seven phases, involving about 900 million citizens. The results of the long-drawn election process will be known by May 23. Unless the Opposition comes out in a more concerted manner and with a clear policy-based agenda, Narendra Modi may still remain a favorite for a second term as the Prime Minister.
By J.V. Lakshmana Rao
India has successfully completed two of the seven voting phases of the 17th Lok Sabha elections. It means that the voters have already elected 91 parliament members in the first phase and 97 parliament members in the second phase. That makes 188 members of a total strength of 543 members have been already elected. With the third phase is in the process for electing 115 members, that makes 303 members, which is more than half of the total strength of parliament has been chosen, but the party-wise details are unknown as the results are lying in the sealed electronic voting machines. In the remaining four phases, the voters will elect 240 members and the final results will be known only after counting of votes on May 23.
Wild guesses have already begun, and claims and counter claims by alliance partners in main groups in the fray – BJP-led NDA and the Congress-led UPA – and other groups are emerging. For BJP-led NDA the Prime Ministerial candidate is incumbent Narendra Modi and for Congress-led UPA the Prime Ministerial candidate is Rahul Gandhi. The former is anexperienced politician and the latter is a relatively novice for the post. But there is Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) formed in Uttar Pradesh by SP-BSP-RLD, which is waiting in the wings to occupy the Delhi throne. Then the confusion comes who could be the Prime Ministerial candidate – Akhilesh Yadav or Mayawati or anybody else? Yet another strong and aspiring contestant for the coveted position is Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee whose eyes are set on the support she would have from Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu. But as of now, according to some surveys, Chandrababu Naidu’s position of coming back to power is doubted.
Among the regional political equations is that even Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao is also speaking about consolidating regional parties into an alliance to keep the BJP and Congress Party away from heading the Center. Since the idea is his, he is naturally an aspiring Prime Ministerial candidate. That will become a reality only when the rest of all options fail.
After the second phase of voting or even before the first phase, Narendra Modi seems to be the favored Prime Minister for the second term. After the completion of the second phase of voting, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar has confidently pronounced that the BJP would cross the 300-mark on its own in the Lok Sabha,
Despite Narendra Modi’s much criticized demonetization (which caused hardships to all) and the implementation of GST, a favorable atmosphere is seen in many states – even in southern states, Modi seems to have gained some popularity for his clean administration and anti-corruption actions.
The general feeling among common people now is that demonetization has created scare among affluent people to hoard hard currency. Higher value transactions in hard cash have become minimum. Similarly, the GST, which was initially opposed by trading community, is now welcomed for its simplification and transparency.The youth of the country agree that handling of money through banks has created openness in businesses, and tax collection has vastly increased.
The youth disagree with the Opposition claim that the unemployment rate has increased. They say the problem is only with those who seek government jobs. But employment rate in the private sector has gone up and more youngsters are seeking self-employment. Otherwise how can one explain the increased migration of the educated as well as uneducated youth from rural areas to urban cities?
There is a boom in construction industry in the country. That has opened up employment with good income to the rural uneducated people. The youth are migrating to urban areas.The hindsight of it has been that it has created shortage of farm workers in villages. Even rural women are finding jobs as domestic help,factory workers or other well-paying jobs in urban areas.
Most cabdrivers in the cities are the educated youth, who prefer this well-paying occupation as the self-employed. With the financial aid and relief offered by the government, the farming in rural areas is gaining activity providing employment to rural folks. Migration of workers from northern states like Bihar, Orissa, and Assam to the southern and other affluent states is evident that the youth are accepting relocation. All these changes are more pronounced during the past five years than before. But unfortunately not much data is available because the surveys are very few.
Despite the Opposition parties’ concerted propaganda against Narendra Modi, his charisma is still growing, and even it has gone up in the past two months, following India’s fitting reply to the Pak border violations, the defense forces’ surgical strike on Balakot, firm action against terrorist elements and separatist forces in Kashmir, and ISRO’s and DRDO’s “make-in-India” successful mid-air missile and space missions. Never before has India attained such an international recognition in successfully conducting space experimentations. Special steps have been taken by the Narendra Modi government to attend to the woes of farmers. Along with India’s successful foreign policy, India’s international trade has been growing and rupee is gradually making gains against world currencies.
But Rahul Gandhi does not see these positive achievements by the BJP-led NDA government. Like other Opposition parties, Rahul Gandhi and his party are targeting their tirade against Narendra Modi. To strengthen the dwindling popularity of the Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi has inducted Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. The single agenda of the Congress Partyand the Opposition parties is to dislodge Narendra Modi and defeat BJP from coming back to power. Rahul Gandhi unsuccessfully raises corruption charges against the government in the Rafale aircraft deal, Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya bank fraud cases, forgetting that the Congress Party government has the history of Bofors scandal, Agusta Westland helicopter scandal, Indian Herald corruption case, Indian coal allocation scam, and 2G Spectrum Ghotala. The biggest joke of the campaign claim of the Congress Party is ending poverty promise, something akin to “Garibi Hatao” slogan. Now Rahul Gandhi promises Rs. 72,000 annual sop to each poor person of the country.
Just a couple days before the start of elections, political parties came up with their manifestoes. They make promises – practical and imaginary. Among many other sops, the Congress Party offers cash support to the poor. Sixty years have not been enough for the Congress Party to alleviate poverty in the country; Rahul Gandhi now offers to transfer Rs. 72,000 to the bank account of every poor person in the country, which is another form of hallow “Garibi Hatao” gimmick. With no experience in running a government, he does not explain how he would be able to raise such huge amount to pay the poor. The Congress Party claims to be a great supporter of secularism, but indulges in creating vote-bank politics through its appeasement policy.
India is currently undergoing the largest election process of the world in seven phases, extending to more than a month and a half and involving about 900 million citizens. The results of the long-drawn election process will be known by May 23, and the country will hopefully have a new stable government.Unless the Opposition comes out in a more concerted manner and with a clear policy-based agenda, Narendra Modi may still remain a favorite for a second term as the Prime Minister.