Narendra Modi has created history by becoming the third prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, to return to power for a second term, with his party, the BJP, securing a majority on its own, again.
A section of analysts are viewing the results as a consequence of the rise of Hindu majoritarianism and nationalism, pitched by Modi and the BJP. While they aren’t completely wrong, they aren't exactly right either. I believe that even if the Balakot air strikes hadn’t taken place, the NDA would have still returned to power, but BJP would have perhaps struggled to secure a majority on its own.
Modi: The ‘Messiah’ Of The Poor?
What explains Modi’s return to power, beating not just ‘anti-incumbency’ but coming back with a historic mandate?
One big reason according to me, is that Modi has been successful in reaching out to the poorer sections of the country through his welfare schemes.
Not to forget that around 21.9 percent (as of 2011-2012) of the country’s population live below the poverty line, and there is a section too who live just above the poverty level — the lower middle-class. The truth is, Modi has been successful in projecting himself among these sections as the ‘messiah of the poor’ — like Indira Gandhi — who won the 1971 elections based on her slogan of ‘Garibi Hatao’. If you look at this election campaigning, Modi heavily projected himself as someone from a common, poor family — someone who has seen poverty unlike the “namdaar” — his reference to Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
Ujjwala Scheme & Women Voters
One of the most successful welfare schemes of the Modi government is the Ujjwala scheme launched in 2016, which has provided gas connections to the below-poverty-line households in the country.
Already, according to latest reports, more than 7 crore gas connections have been given under this scheme.
In the financial year of 2018-19, India witnessed a 6.9 percent surge in LPG consumption, which has been attributed to the government promoting cleaner fuel. Women are the biggest beneficiaries of this scheme. This election, reports suggest that women voted in much higher numbers than before. So, perhaps, the women who benefited from this scheme, voted for Modi.
Impact of Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme
This scheme, launched by the UPA-II government, aimed to provide the subsidised amount directly to the accounts of the people, hoping that crediting subsidies into bank accounts would reduce leakages, delays etc. However, this scheme was popularised by the Modi government. Before Modi's coming to power, a large section of the country's population was out of the banking sector — making it difficult to implement the DBT scheme. The Modi government opened around 30 crore bank accounts under the Jan Dhan Yojna for this section of the population. The total deposits in the Jan Dhan accounts are set to cross Rs 1 lakh crore — over 50 percent of the account holders are women.
The ‘Success’ of Ayushman Bharat
Another significant scheme is the Ayushman Bharat which aims to provides free medical care to 50 crore people with health insurance up to Rs 5 lakh per family, per year, for secondary and tertiary medical care. According to The Guardian, more than 10 lakh people have already received free treatment. Although challenges remain, this is becoming a game changer, and is a “godsend” for many poor people who otherwise would have had to succumb to their fates.
How Do We Define ‘Electrification’? Have We Truly Achieved ‘100% Electrification’?
Other schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana also seem to have worked for the BJP-led government, as far as securing votes is concerned.
Plus, Narendra Modi claimed in the latter half of 2018 that, under the NDA, 12.5 million homes for the poor in four years had been built, as “compared to” 2.5 million houses being built in the same time, that is, four years, under the UPA government.
However, activist Ramesh Prabhu told The Hindustan Times, “This Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) is a good scheme but the implementation is very poor”.
Plus the claims of ‘100% electrification of villages’ and that of having built 9 crore toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan scheme, seem to have convinced the masses to vote back Modi. No doubt, there are loopholes in both the government’s claims and the schemes themselves. Contrary to the government’s claims on electrification, the World Bank figures show that 200 million people in India are yet to gain access to electricity. Plus it is worth looking at how India defines ‘electrification’.
BJP’s Economically ‘Left Tilt’
There have been complaints of insufficient government financial assistance (of only Rs 12,000) per household to build a proper toilet. Nevertheless, a sizeable chunk of the rural population were satisfied because at least the government schemes had reached them. That’s the reason they have voted for Modi — for continuation of these schemes — as their economic condition was not any better under the previous regime, so, they chose to give another 5 years to Modi. Actually, Modi re-launched the Bharatiya Janata Party as being culturally Right and economically tilting towards the Left. It is this economically Left tilt which has boosted Modi’s image before the poor.
(Sagarneel Sinha is a freelance writer from Tripura who writes on politics, foreign affairs and Indian mythology. He tweets @SagarneelSinha. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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