Elections

All posts in the Elections category

Modi Sarkar and The Farmer : The Achilles Heel

Published May 2, 2015 by vishalvkale

MODI SARKAR : THE ACHILLES HEEL

It has taken a long time to manifest itself, but at long last, we see a developing Achilles Heel in our famed Modi Sarkar; a sad development indeed, given that this is the best government we have had in the past several decades. The only good thing is that the Achilles Heel has manifested itself from a totally unexpected direction; not only that, it also holds serious potential of rekindling a genuine opposition on a national scale, which is a needed and vital component of a functioning democracy.

It has taken twin developments in two connected areas for the weakness to manifest itself : Farmers’ Suicides, and The Land Bill. Taken together, this has created a situation in which, if properly strategized, the opposition can rebuild itself, while simultaneously undermining the central government.

THE CONGRESS : AWAKENING
The sad part is that once again,  it is the Congress that has the opportunity to rise from the ashes. This is sad because it has yet again failed to democratize, and has placed its faith on Dynasty. I have nothing against Rahul Gandhi; he may be an excellent potential leader for all I know; then again, he might not. That is not relevant; what is relevant is the fact that The Congress does not have any leader it feels can connect with the people, despite having some good people on its roster.

Be that as it may, the  Congress has taken what seems to be the right step; change track from the all-too-familiar “communal politics” track to a far more sensible and development oriented focus : that of the farmer and their issues. This bodes well for our democracy, for our economy and for our society, as now there is a chance the real issues might get a much needed attention and focus.

The best way to tackle communalism is not to fan it; all the while building solid relationships within communities. A politically charged message has a polarizing impact, and if the community specific plank is being abandoned by all parties, this is a development worth celebrating. If all parties can abandon a community specific focus, the only way India can go is up and forward. Aag ko jitnaa tool doge, jitni hawaa doge, utni failegi.

And harping on the communal message, which was not making a connect with any definable voter base was always a suspect strategy. Besides, there has to be a provable base for such a strategy that can be directly traced back to your opposition; and this is clearly absent in the BJP.


THE BJP : SLEEPING!
The BJP, meanwhile, is basking in the glory of its rise to power, and ignoring these undercurrents, which might yet turn into a deluge. While it is doing excellent work in any number of areas, its approach and presentation to the people on these two issues is strange and more than a little disturbing, given the party’s admirable understanding of the pulse of India and the Indian people.

Please note my choice of words : in this article, I am taking no position on the Central Government’s Agricultural and Land Policies – that is the subject of another, research based and supported article/s that I shall take up a little later on the Agricultural challenges being faced by India. I am only analyzing the potential impact of the presentation in front of the people, and the angst among them.

It adheres to a top-down development ideology, counting on investment in infrastructure, amenities to drive rural upliftment and employment, while attempting to ensure good governance at all levels of Government. It has also taken a few good steps in the Agriculture sector {Analysed on my blog here : Union Budget Analysis}; these will require time to properly strategise and implement.

What is more pertinent that it has done little to meet head-on the anti-farmer label that is being leveled against it by some, beyond messages to the farming community by the PM. More and more parties and  groups are now coming into the open, calling its policies as pro-Urban India and anti-farmer. The most important aspect that the BJP seems to have forgotten is the population of India – the top 200 Urban Agglomerations account for only around 15.46% of population as per Census 2011

Thus, any message targeted at the rural community that is focused not on ideology, religion, regionalism but rather on their bread and butter is certain to get the attention of the people. That is a foregone conclusion; the needs of the stomach will take primacy; that is a primordial fear. The BJP is giving a message of development : how is this message being received by the population? Is it making a connect with the people?

THE HISTORY
For Urban India, it means investments, growth and jobs. What does it mean for Rural India? What have the prior experiences of Rural India been in this regard? It should mean the same for them : but is this the way it is being perceived in Rural India? Farmers stand to lose their lands; what will they get in return? Each piece of land further supports landless labourers, input vendors etc – we are talking of snatching an entire ecosystem.

What is the history, the prior experiences of the farming community in India? As This Article : Why Farmers Have Every Right to Feel Gypped explores in painful detail – there is a sad, almost terrifying history of governmental failure of monumental  proportions behind this rising tide of protests against the BJP Government with regard to the Agricultural Sector;  what is sad is that this Government has actually started a series of steps that drive some hope into the refurbishment of this sector in the budget, which makes this image of anti-farmer a real tragedy in itself.

And look at the third and recent case reported this month in The Times of India which makes you want to cry and laugh – both at the same time!
The gist of the case is: in 1998, the Railways acquired land from Mela Ram and Madan Lal to lay the Una-Amb track in Himachal Pradesh. As usual, the Railways adopted delaying tactics when it came to paying up. The farmers filed a case for enhanced compensation. After a fair amount of legal to-ing and fro-ing,  in 2013, the HP High Court directed the railways to pay the money within six weeks. “But the railways hasn’t deposited the amount until now”, the farmers’ advocate AK Saini said a few weeks ago. Typical.
So, on April 9, 2015, Mukesh Bansal, the additional district and sessions judge of Una ordered the attachment of the train if the railways failed to pay compensation to the two farmers!! The court said if Mela Ram and Madan Lal did not get Rs. 8.91 lakh and Rs. 26.53 lakh respectively, the train would be stopped at Una station at 5 am on April 16 and attached by it. The farmers were asked to select one out of four trains – and they selected The Delhi-Una Janshatabdi Express!


SUMMARY
My point is simple : the steps taken by the BJP Government have exposed a chink in their armoury, one that is now being exploited by the opposition. This is the Achilles Heel; their weakness. And there is nothing they can do about it; not over the short term. I have purposely taken an isolated case history above : the point is that there is a feeling of inadequacy and helplessness that is rooted in genuine truth and a terrifying history of crass incompetence on the part of successive central governments over the years.

And this atmosphere is giving rise to an opposition movement that is, for the first time in my memory {correct me if I am wrong}, focused on real issues that make a powerful connect with the target audience in Rural India as on solid whole. For the first time, we now have an issue-based discussion in Indian Politics, which is bringing this issue mainstream.

All it really requires to bring the BJP juggernaut to a grinding halt is a solid loss in a few upcoming state elections; were that to happen, coming on top of the shock in Delhi, things will get interesting, as the BJP will be forced to recalibrate and reassess its approach and its communication. Unless the BJP can get its house in order and connect with Rural India and its real issues in light of the historical experience and the on-ground realities and challenges in Rural India, they stand to lose ground…

Advertisements

New Delhi’s Astounding 67: Why The BJP Should Not Panic

Published February 11, 2015 by vishalvkale

The astounding 67… a major victory of the Aam Aadmi Party, and an almost seminal event in Indian Politics. Any election that returns 95% successful candidates is an astonishing event, deserving of accolades as well as hopes of genuine change. But let us not go overboard and read too much into this, for a deeper look at the ground realities and figures reveals a slightly different picture.

This cuts both ways and has major positives as well as negatives. The positives have been exceedingly well documented and commented upon, including the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party as a significant player in the consideration set of voters. Once can be a fluke, or euphoria; twice cannot. The AAP now has emerged as an acceptable alternative in front of the people.

It is being said that this is a setback for the BJP, and a comment on Narendra Modi and the current Government. That it is – but only up to a point. On this, I agree with the BJP Government, but the reasons are different. And that reason is not connected to this being a state election, or limited to one city-state alone.

Firstly, this election does not represent an rejection of the BJP government by the electorate : their vote share remains intact at 32.2% vis-à-vis the last state election in New Delhi. What this essentially means is that those voted for the BJP and Narendra Modi, elected to do so again, by and large. Thus, prima facie, there hasn’t yet been a major shift either way for the BJP, neither is there any discernible dissatisfaction with their performance among its supporters. To know more, we shall have to wait for more detailed figures and psephological analysis to emerge, as well as more data from other coming state elections this year. As of now, it is too early to comment.

The biggest, and indeed only, defeat of the BJP has been its inability to expand  its voteshare, and appeal to a broader cross-section of the society. It has apparently not been able to appeal to a larger cross-section, which should be the cause of deep introspection within its ranks. If they think they have nothing to worry about in other areas, they may just be right. A few days ago, Indore returned the BJP in a majority in the municipal elections. The BJP remains limited to its core set of followers, and this is both a strong point as well as an Achilles heel.

In a straight one-on-one contest between two parties, the BJP was decimated. Nowhere else in India can this be a reality, thus making the chances of BJP victories elsewhere as well as in 2019 almost certain, or at least making it the only strong contendor. The learning for the BJP is that the moment the fragmented vote consolidates; it will get decimated by the electorate.

It needs to take a deep look at its own failures and tone down the fundamentalist aspects of some of its people to grow beyond this share. It also needs to take a deep look at its economic policies, as well as how it markets and sells them to the people. There is a good chance that the recent episodes of fundamentalist proponents, and the attendant silence of the officialdom at the top, has ensured that its appeal has not grown despite a good performance in the central government till date. This is combined with the other economic issues, creating a lack of growth.

This is a worry because you are performing well {excellent, in fact}  in the government, and are yet unable to win the electorate. This also places at risk your existing vote share, in that they may get swayed by the negative coverage of some of the policies and aspects. If you are doing a great job, you should grow : this is a clear basic aspect of life itself. And this election shows that despite an excellent performance, it has not been able to grow.

In other states, the electorate gets divided, with other strong contenders who have their own set of followers, which ensures a division of the non-BJP vote bank; with the BJP maintaining its appeal, their victory becomes easy, as recent history has proven. Thus, there is no reason to hit the panic button – but there is reason to worry for the BJP.
In one way, this represents a clear rejection of at least some aspects of the BJP’s agenda; what precise aspects of the agenda have been rejected is not yet fully clear, and will require more data. But, as I observe above, they have completely failed to convert non-voters into their agenda, who remain unconvinced regarding the BJP. That is why, in the presence of a credible single alternative, with a pedigreed track-record of the past year when the AAP did ground-work, the BJP was decimated.


And that is also why this election has thrown many questions for us as a people, as well as clarified once and for all the full scenario. Furthermore, as we shall see in the next article in this mini-series, this election has also actually relegated the AAP to the level of a regional small outfit, with very little chance of growing into a national player as things currently stand. Thus, this election represents in a small way a major electoral triumph of the BJP. For the nation, this election is a cause to celebrate as well as worry, as I look at in the next part of this series, which will deal with the Aam Aadmi Party…