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

Pro democracy candidate charged by Thailand’s election commission

The EC accuse a pro-democracy leader of holding media shares while running for office. The Election Commission (EC) yesterday unanimously resolved to press a charge against Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit over alleged violation of media shareholding rules. Citing investigations by two EC panels, Sawang Boonmee, the EC deputy secretary-general, told a press conference that Thanathorn had allegedly violated the law by owning or holding 675,000 shares in V-Luck Media Company while registering as a candidate for the general election. “Thanathorn’s share certificate number is from 1350001 to 2025000,” said Sawang, referring to the findings of two panels the EC had set up to investigate the case. Thanathorn was accus


By Cod Satrusayang
April 24, 2019

Opinion, Politics

PM Imran’s statement in Iran comes under intense opposition attack

Khan said in Tehran that Pakistan has been used as a staging area for attacks in Iran. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s public acknowledgement in Tehran that terrorists had in the past misused Pakistani territory to undertake attacks against Iran came under a blistering attack by the opposition in the National Assembly on Tuesday. Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari defended the prime minister, saying his statement was being quoted out of context. In an unprecedented, albeit bold move, Imran, while speaking at a joint press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani after a round of talks on Monday, had said: “I know Iran has suffered from terrorism [perpetrated] by groups operating from Pakistan. …we [need to] have trust in each other that both countries will not allow any terrorist activity fr


By Dawn
April 24, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Japan’s ruling party loses by-elections

LDP loses 2 lower house by-elections. Candidates of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party lost in both of Sunday’s House of Representatives by-elections, in Osaka Constituency No. 12 and Okinawa Constituency No. 3, according to preliminary reports by The Yomiuri Shimbun. The results could serve as a harbinger of the House of Councillors elections this summer and show how the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is being evaluated. In Osaka, the by-election was held following the death of the LDP’s Tomokatsu Kitagawa, who was the former state minister of the environment. Fumitake Fujita, 38, of Nippon Ishin no Kai secured the seat after beating three other competitors, including the LDP’s Shinpei Kitakawa, 32, also supported by junior coalition partner Komeito. Other contenders were Takeshi Miyamoto, 59, an independent and former lower hous


By The Japan News
April 22, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Feud between ruling and opposition bloc deepens in Korea

The opposition party is reorganizing and assembling as pressure builds on Moon Jae-in. The friction between the ruling bloc and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party is showing signs of intensifying following a conservative rally Saturday. On Saturday, estimated 20,000 conservatives gathered in central Seoul in a rally organized by the Liberty Korea Party. The party’s rally, the first major demonstration organized by the party since Hwang Kyo-ahn took office as its leader, was joined by members of smaller conservative groups supporting former President Park Geun-hye. Hwang Kyo-ahn (center), head of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, and members of the conservative


By The Korea Herald
April 22, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Asian press freedom under threat

Some common themes and little optimism as press freedom takes a back seat in Asia. The media advocacy group, Reporters without Borders—also known by its international name Reporters Sans Frontières, or RSF—released its 2019 World Press Freedom Index on Thursday. The report tells a bleak story of the future of news ecosystems around the world, and warns of increasing danger for the men and women who have made reporting the news their jobs. The index’s assessment of Asia-Pacific’s press freedom describes an atmosphere of increasing cyber harassment, physical danger and intimidation for reporters—factors that unsurprisingly have led to growing levels self-censorship across the region. A look at a the state of press freedom in a few countries around the region reveals some recurring patterns: Legal systems have been increasingly wielded as weapons by governments to silence media outlets and indiv


By Quinn Libson
April 21, 2019

Opinion, Politics

A regime change in the Maldives

It remains to be seen how recent elections will change geopolitical realities in the island nation. Earlier this month, a former president of the tiny Indian Ocean island nation of Maldives who was hounded and forced into exile after he lost power came back with a bang. 11 years after multi-party elections were mandated by the 2008 Constitution, ex-president Mohammed Nasheed was exultant as the results of the parliamentary polls came in. His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had won a two-third majority. The MDP, led by his close associate and President of Maldives Ibrahim Mohammed Solih who himself had narrowly won the September 2018 presidential poll, got 65 seats in the 87-member People’s Majlis (Parliament). Nasheed termed the victory “a new, yellow dawn” (the MDP’s party colour is a bright yellow) for the country, speaking in the capital Male after the results. But such


By Ishan Joshi
April 21, 2019