See More on Facebook

Opinion, Politics

Pre-poll angst in India

Unlike even a couple of years ago when the BJP was full of self-confidence about its electoral prospects, the present is anything but certain.

Written by

Updated: January 29, 2019

Unlike even a couple of years ago when the BJP was full of self-confidence about its electoral prospects and was preparing plans for celebrating the 75th year of the country’s independence in 2022, the party’s mood is somewhat subdued at the moment. The reason is the series of electoral reverses which it has suffered in the recent past, losing six assembly elections in a row in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram.

If these setbacks are considered along with the by-election defeats in Karnataka and Jharkhand, then it becomes clear that the wave, which took the BJP to power in 2014, has dissipated. Not surprisingly, the party and virtually the entire Hintutva brigade can be said to be currently in a nervous state of mind.

Evidence of their angst was apparent in the calls for immediately starting the construction of the Ram temple given by the RSS and its affiliates like the VHP even though the Supreme Court was considering the matter. These demands indicated that the BJP’s fear of faring poorly in the next general election had seeped through to the other units of the saffron brotherhood who may have also received their own field reports which confirmed that the BJP’s apprehensions were not baseless. Since these outfits depended on the BJP’s continuous political success for their power and pelf, the prospect of once again being cast into the wilderness terrified the RSS and others.

The responsibility of being in power prevented the BIP from acceding to the demands of the RSS. But instead of building the temple to woo the Hindus, the BJP decided to play the caste card which it thought would be as useful as the temple card in winning over voters.

Its latest ploy, therefore, was to push a constitutional amendment through Parliament by enacing a law which earmarked a 10 per cent quota in government jobs and educational institutions (including the private ones) for the economically backward groups of all communities. Since this percentage is over and above the quotas meant for the Dalits (Scheduled Castes ~ 15 per cent), the Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes ~ 7.5 per cent) and the backward castes (27 per cent), the new beneficiaries will obviously be from the upper castes and the relatively well-off members of the other communities.

An amendment was needed because the Constitution lays down that the reservations are to be provided only to the socially and educationally disadvantaged and not to those who are economically deprived. Moreover, the new quotas cross the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court although this restriction isn’t observed by several states via various ruses. It is quite possible that the amendment will not pass judicial scrutiny because it sets up a new criterion for reservations, viz. poverty, and also because it crosses the 50 per cent limit. But the BJP’s purpose of persuading its targeted vote-banks about its concern for the upper castes will have been served. Reports suggest that the party’s defeat in Madhya Pradesh alerted it to the growing resentment among the upper castes against the BJP, especially after the so called dilution of the law relating to atrocities against the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by the Supreme Court although the government did bring a constitutional amendment to nullify the judgment.

As the day of the general election draws near, there are likely to be more sops in store for all sections of people, including the middle class who will be delighted by the raising of the income- tax exemption limit, which has been necessitated by the fixing of an annual income of Rs 800,000 for those who will be eligible for the upper caste quota. As this reasonably comfortable level of the earnings of a beneficiary along with other factors like the ownership of a 1,000 sq feet flat or of five acres of land show, the government stretched the definition of the “poor” while favouring the reservations. In the 100 rallies which Narendra Modi is scheduled to address before the polling takes place ~ in itself an indication of the huge effort which his party is making by fielding its star orator ~ the BJP’s attention may turn to those who are really in distress, viz. the farmers. To outdo the Congress’s loan waivers for the suicide-prone farmers, the BJP is planning direct benefit transfers of Rs 4,000 per acre per season for the farmers and zero per cent interest loan at the rate of Rs 50,000 per hectare.

However, if the government goes on a spending spree to win votes, it will find it increasingly difficult to keep its promise of reducing the fiscal deficit to 3.3 per cent of the GDP. Economists inside and outside the Reserve Bank are bristling at what they regard as the government’s intention to “raid” the central bank’s treasury to contain the fiscal deficit. It has been estimated that the government may spend up to $ 14 billion as pre-poll sops The Reserve Bank’s deputy governor, Viral Acharya, had warned of the country facing the “wrath of the markets” in such an eventuality as Argentina did when the government made the central banks transfer $ 6.6 billion to ease the country’s fiscal deficit. Populism, sometimes called good politics but bad economics, has been a feature of nearly all the governments across the political spectrum. Reckless profligacy marked the fag end of their tenures. The Modi government is no exception.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

The Statesman
About the Author: The Statesman is one of India’s oldest English newspapers and a founding member of Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Opinion, Politics

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam condemn Sunday violence by protesters

Protesters were also attacked by a mob in a department store. Saying that violence would only breed more violence, with everyone suffering as a result, a grim-faced Carrie Lam and her cabinet members on Monday (July 22) publicly condemned the separate acts of violence that shook Hong Kong on Sunday night, the vandalism committed by anti-extradition protesters on a Chinese liaison office, and the brutal attack on protesters and train passengers by an armed mob at Yuen Long Station. At a press conference on Monday afternoon, the Chief Executive blasted the group of radical protesters who had vandalised the exterior of Beijing’s liaison office in Sai Ying Pun, calling it a blatant challenge to national sovereignty. Mrs Lam, who was flanked by key members of her admin

By The Straits Times
July 23, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Abe aims to revise Constitution following election victory

Revising Japan’s pacifist constitution was one of Abe’s campaign promises. Following the results of the upper house election on Sunday in which the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito won more than a majority of the contested seats, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also president of the LDP, will focus on the implementation of his campaign promises. Abe aims to hold a national referendum on constitutional revision by September 2021, when his tenure as LDP president expires. The government will also start full-fledged discussions on how to deal with a U.S.-proposed coalition of the willing to guard the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East. Abe held talks with Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi at the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday afternoon to confirm that the ruling coalition will take all possible measures to manage t

By The Japan News
July 23, 2019

Opinion, Politics

The Afghan prism in Pakistan – US relations

Despite their best efforts, the Afghan question still clouds US – Pakistan relations. Despite the Indian media’s assumptions of a US strategic volte-face, Islamabad would do well to acknowledge that the Trump administration still views its relations with Pakistan largely through the prism of Afghanistan. President Donald Trump’s desire for an early end to America’s longest war is the principal reason for his invitation to Prime Minister Imran Khan. Pakistan has played a key role in facilitating the Afghan peace process and the US-Taliban talks. These have reportedly made encouraging progress over the past few months. An agreement on the withdrawal of US-Nato troops has evidently been reached between the US and the Afghan Taliban, although no timetable for the withdrawal has been finalised and it is not clear if the troop withdrawal would be commenced before, during or after a political settlement i

By Dawn
July 21, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Ruling bloc set to keep majority in Japan

The move has significant impact on any attempts to rewrite Japan’s pacifist constitution. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito are set to win the majority of the 124 seats up for grabs in the House of Councillors election, according to tallies by The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sunday night after polls closed at 8 p.m. The ruling bloc is expected to maintain its majority in the 245-member upper house, taking into account the 70 seats it holds that were not up for election this year. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is on the verge of securing his sixth successive national election victory, is expected to move forward on issues concerning the consumption tax rate hike and the amending of the Constitution. Abe’s current term as LDP president expires in September 2021. Some LDP members were concerned that the Abe administration wo

By The Japan News
July 21, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Pro-independence group forms political party in Taiwan

The move will unlikely improve cross strait relations. The pro-independence Formosa Alliance formed a political party on July 20, saying that it hoped to field at least 10 candidates in the legislative election next January and give independence-leaning voters an alternative to the current ruling party. The Formosa Alliance will not compete in the 2020 presidential election, said Lo Jen-kuei, a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, who was elected chairman of the new party. He said the Formosa Alliance was formed not out of dissatisfaction with the performance of President Tsai Ing-wen but rather to give pro-independence voters a choice other than her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In fact, Lo said, it would be a blessing for the Taiwanese people if the DPP won the 2020 presidential election. He said he hoped to see Tsai team up with former Premier William Lai on the DPP pres

By Asia News Network
July 21, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Civilian rule officially restored as King swears in Prayut II govt

The government is made up of many of the same advisors and ministers as the previous military government. The new Prayut Chan-o-cha government was sworn in on Tuesday during a ceremony overseen by His Majesty the King, signalling the return of civilian rule after five years following the military coup in 2014. The ceremony took place at 6pm in the Amphorn Satharn Throne Hall, where all 36 ministers were present. In a break with tradition, however, television cameras were not on hand to record the event. The historic occasion marked the first time that HM the King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua, as head of state, together with Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana, has overseen the advent of a new government – the King’s first event of such kind after his Coronation in May. Also new was the venue for the ceremony, which has previously been held in the

By Cod Satrusayang
July 17, 2019