UP, Bihar By-Election Results: BJP’s Credibility is Wilting Away
The BJP cannot take people’s goodwill for granted and must deliver on promises to win back confidence.
Nations lose face in the eyes of the world. Political parties lose face in the eyes of the voters. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath thinks that 14 March 2018’s electoral verdict was the result of the Bharatiya Janata Party's "overconfidence." But the BJP's recent decisions have been making it difficult for voters to support it.
In the eyes of the people, the BJP appears to be a party of double standards, no longer a party with a difference, and certainly not an inclusive party. Not even a pro-growth party.
Too caught up to read the story? Listen to it, instead.
BJP Can’t Take People’s Goodwill for Granted
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when Narendra Modi won, the then British prime minister David Cameron congratulated him, "(you) just got more votes than any other politician anywhere in the universe."
Modi had harvested a political capital that empowered him to reshape the nation's course. But just in his fourth year as PM, Modi appears afraid of using his own slogans of ‘Achhe Din’ and ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.’
These slogans are orphans now.
Just as a pro-Maoist student from JNU labelled it a “washing machine,” BJP embraced former Congress leader Narayan Rane and Naresh Agarwal, who were formerly with the Samajwadi Party. The BJP's double standards – or opportunism to grab power at every cost – were evident.
BJP has enraged supporters for giving membership to leaders it had attacked: Swami Prasad Maurya in Uttar Pradesh, Vijay Bahuguna in Uttarakhand, Himanta Biswa Sarma in Assam, Mukual Roy in West Bengal, and ND Tiwari.
Parties also lose power when they assault the goodness of people. One of the reasons AB Vajpayee lost the 2004 elections was because the people’s idea of decency came under attack due to the 2002 riots in Gujarat. The current BJP leaders appeared to be approving lynch mobs and cow vigilante attacks in which primarily Muslims were targets.
Rajasthan's Home Minister GC Kataria even sought to justify the killing of a Muslim man by cow vigilantes. Modi, who never tires of tweeting birthday greetings, adopted silence here.
Instead, the government tried to introduce a law on cattle transportation to please the cow vigilantes. The message conveyed by the BJP was: it is justified to be communal. Senior journalist Tavleen Singh pointed out that the prime minister never used his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio programme to condemn the cow vigilantes when the victims were Muslims. The only times he condemned them was when the victims were Dalits. The casualty was Modi's own credibility and his slogan of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.’
Thus, the BJP no longer appears to be an inclusive party.
Communalism Will Not Help BJP
Commenting on this, executive director of Amnesty India Aakar Patel wrote:
In states that the Bharatiya Janata Party is ruling, the number of its Muslim MLAs is: in Gujarat: zero, in Uttar Pradesh: zero, in Maharashtra: zero, in Madhya Pradesh: zero, in Chhattisgarh: zero, in Jharkhand: zero.
The BJP chose not to field a single Muslim candidate in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections of 2017, seeking a consolidation of Hindus. It topped it up by appointing the polarising leader Yogi Adityanath as chief minister. The mask had come off. The term for ‘mask’ (those who can remember) was mukhota, in case of the AB Vajpayee government.
The BJP has also been utilising hot-button Muslim issues to mobilise Hindu voters. Its leaders rejoiced when the Haj subsidy was eliminated, ignoring that Yogi doubled the subsidy for Hindus going for Kailash-Mansarovar.
Even on the issue of triple talaq, the government had promised the Supreme Court to bring about "a marriage and divorce law" to introduce reforms among Muslims, but the Bill it presented in Parliament was just meant to punish the Muslim husband. Further, because Modi shares a good relationship with the leader of Bohra Muslims, the government told the Supreme Court it has no view on female genital mutilation in India due to absence of data.
Disregard for Science, History, Facts
A political party, which had won the hearts of voters from Goa to Nagaland in the 2014 elections, had started to send out a message that it was a Hindutva party. This is the message conveyed to voters in large parts of northern, western and central India. BJP's Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde was crude when he said: “We are here to change the Constitution.”
Union Minister Satyapal Singh claimed that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution of man was "scientifically wrong."
The BJP leaders showed complete disregard for the universal political mandate. “Go to Pakistan” and “erase the Taj Mahal” appear to be the language of ruffians, not political leaders.
Even when the Modi government tried to introduce new ideas, it undermined its integrity. For example, in the Budget last year, the government introduced electoral bonds but refused to necessitate that the purchaser's name would be either on the bond, or his identity linked to such political donations.
This left a loophole for black money to be injected into political parties. In this year's Finance Bill, the Modi government proposed a clause that would "white-wash illegal donations made by foreign sources to political parties, that too retrospectively from 1976 onward."
A Crippling Budget, Leeway to Tax Defaulters
Memories returned when the pre-Modi BJP had joined hands with the Congress when the latter was set to clear an ordinance that would have quashed a Supreme Court order against the criminal-politician nexus. That ordinance was publicly torn apart by Rahul Gandhi.
On large purchases such as Rafale, the government is hiding behind the national security argument, reminding the people of the Bofors scandal. If you are not a counterfeit nationalist, it becomes difficult to support such a party in power, which has more to hide from the people than to reveal to them.
Each year, the Modi government presented the Budget, foreign investors and Indian industrialists looked for clues of growth. Each Budget was cautious, devoid of bold reforms. Each Budget was a lost opportunity.
In a country where vast numbers of people don’t have clothes to wear or food to eat, it took three years for the ‘chaiwala’ to think that Air India, which has accumulated losses of Rs 50,000 crore and a debt beyond that, must be divested. Nirav Modi is not the only looter of taxpayers’ money.
Instead of planting seeds of growth, this year’s Budget fell on the head of the middle-class. The government forgot a key lesson that the middle-class – which pays taxes and invests in economic activity – is the engine of growth.
No tax relief was given. In present times, any tax on income up to Rs 12 lakh a year is anti-growth.
The government thinks it – not investors, not the middle class – will guide India's rise. It has embarked on industrial expansion of socialist welfare programmes and virtually every economic policy it follows today has the stamp of the Congress party. At this point, the BJP government sounds like UPA-III – so much for a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat.’
(The writer, a former BBC journalist, is a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC. He tweets @tufailelif. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them)
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