In 2014, the Indian voter gave Narendra Modi exactly (maybe more) what he wanted. A majority on its own for his BJP in the Lok Sabha, and 330+ seats for his NDA. Results this good hadn’t been seen in decades. For any party.
The decision had been made. The voter was fed up of coalition governments formed by constantly bickering partners. India would now have a strong and stable government for the next five years.
Come 2019, this is the same sentiment Prime Minister Modi is appealing to by giving the voters a choice between his “Majboot” (Strong) vs “Majboor” (Helpless) government made up of a united opposition. Yet, going into elections season after a full term in power, the list of Modi government’s campaign pitches is making it sound more “Majboor” than “Majboot.” And it’s not short. Made up of some questionable and desperate moves by the government so far. Ram Temple issue is maybe the clearest example of this. Though the construction of the temple is a long-standing demand, the sudden movement on this front after mere murmurs in the last five years shows a sudden need for urgency. As expected, Modi is trying to ensure that the unprecedented consolidation of the Hindu vote that he achieved last time around stays intact. Something considered under threat from the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh with its caste arithmetic. Another is the sudden taking up and passing in just a couple of days the constitution amendment bill guaranteeing 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections in the General category. A move, out of the blue, clearly meant to help him win over the middle-class. Plus a continuous targeting of a member of the Gandhi family with some over the top personal attacks along with Modi’s decision to keep on blaming the Congress for all that ails India, even after serving a full-term, has started to sound odd. Making over-the-top claims about the government’s achievement, especially in the agriculture sector and in job creation (both facing real problems) doesn’t help break the perception of desperation.
Particularly, given that the government chose not to compile data related to farmer suicides over the last couple of years and has till now refused to release numbers on job creation put together by the National Sample Survey Organisation. These are just adding to the sense that the Modi government is trying to hide its failings before elections.
These can be joined by BJP’s possible attempts to pass the Citizen Amendment Bill in the Budget session even though it is causing huge unrest in the north-east part of the country and it trying to break the convention of presenting an interim budget just before a general election in order to be able to dole out election sops. And the list can go on. Though long, it does seem understandable given that Modi is heading into the general elections on the back of defeats in three state assembly elections held in BJP strongholds of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.