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

Modi defends citizenship decision

PM Modi says it has nothing to do with Indian Muslims. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, that unity in diversity is integral to India while addressing ‘Aabhar Rally’ at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan today to kick start Bharatiya Janata Party’s Delhi Assembly Elections campaign slated for early next year, amid protests in Delhi and all over the country against the contentious Citizenship Act and the National Register of Citizenship(NRC). Modi raised slogan of ‘vividhta me ekta, Bharat ki visheshta’ (Unity in diversity is India’s speciality). PM Modi while giving his party and government’s view on CAA and NRC said, “Muslims being misled, I have always ensured that documents will never come in way of development schemes and their beneficiaries.” Citizenship law and NRC have nothing to do with Indian Muslims or with Indian citizens, he clarified. “We have never asked

By The Statesman
December 23, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Rallies rage on in India over citizenship law

Thousands of students flood streets of Delhi; Assam state sees five protesters shot dead. Thousands of university students flooded the streets of India’s capital yesterday, while a southern state government led a march and demonstrators held a silent protest in the north-east, to protest against a new law giving citizenship to non-Muslims who entered India illegally to flee religious persecution in several neighbouring countries. The protests in New Delhi followed a night of violent clashes between the police and demonstrators at Jamia Millia Islamia University. People who student organisers said were not students set three buses on fire and the police stormed the university library, firing tear gas at students crouched under desks. Members of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party said opposition parties were using th

By The Straits Times
December 17, 2019

Opinion, Politics

The Chinese version

Muhammad Amir Rana asks what is the Chinese version of Islam.  TENSIONS between China and the US have escalated after the House of Representative’s Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, 2019. The move is of a piece with the allegations of many international media and human rights organisations that China is persecuting the Uighur community and violating their rights — allegations that Beijing has denied. Calling the US action a political move aimed at damaging its international image, China says it is running a deradicalisation programme to mainstream its communities. Read: Amid global outcry, China defends internment camps of minorities in Xinjiang The Chinese claim has not been verified by independent sources and mystery shrouds its deradicalisation or re-education programme. China needs to demonstra

By Asia News Network
December 16, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Japan: Koizumi offers no concrete plan on coal

The new environment minister needs to offer better ways to tackle climate change.  During a ministerial meeting of the U.N. climate summit in Madrid on Wednesday, Shinjiro Koizumi, the Environment Minister did not express concrete steps for reducing coal-fired thermal power generation. Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi did not express concrete steps for reducing coal-fired thermal power generation, for which construction of new plants is currently underway in Japan, during a ministerial meeting of the U.N. climate summit in Madrid on Wednesday. “I am afraid I cannot share new development on our coal policy today,” Koizumi said at the ongoing 25th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate

By The Japan News
December 13, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Power transition after Apec summit

Mahathir open to stepping down after APEC summit. Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the world’s oldest prime minister, has promised to hand over power to anointed successor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in spite of new sexual assault allegations against him. Dr Mahathir, 94, said he would not hand over before a summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) countries that Malaysia is to host in November 2020, but could be ready after that. “I made a promise to hand over and I will, accepting that I thought that a change immediately before the Apec summit would be disruptive. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m stepping down and I’m handing the baton to him (Anwar). If people don’t want him, that is their business, but I will do my part of the promise… irrespective of whatever allegation. I made my promise, I keep my promise, ” he said in an interview w

By The Star
December 11, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Communist Party of China calls for efforts to deepen reform and expand opening-up

Political Bureau stresses importance of winning three critical battles in 2020. The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee called on Friday for solid efforts to deepen reform and expand opening-up, amid tensions in the external environment, to ensure that the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects will be attained next year. The general trend of China’s economy in maintaining stable and long-term positive operation remains unchanged, according to a statement released after the bureau’s meeting, presided over by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. China will keep its economic growth within a reasonable range in 2020, with more “forwarding-looking, targeted and effective” policies, the statement said. The nation will pursue a policy framework that allows macro policies to be stable, micro policies

By Esther Ng
December 9, 2019