This election the political discourse is revolving around the BJP versus the Congress and Modi versus Nehru. Instead, the comparison should be between the NDA and the UPA so as to assess the merits of each government. In earlier days, the discourse was about ideologies of political parties. But the present catchwords are ‘Congress hatao’, ‘BJP hatao’ or ‘Congress and BJP hatao’ — a kind of three-column polarisation.
The slogan ‘garibihatao’ won the Congress a few elections. The present NDA government’s slogan is ‘kaladhanmitao’, but it did not work, despite its intent. So the BJP had to fall back on the Congress baiting and make it the main theme of its campaign. Its chief campaigners Modi and Shah use it with gay abandon.
It is understandable if they confine to the UPA II or I, but they go all the way back to 1947 and call the Congress as the root cause of all the evils in the nation. Nehru is the chief target of their campaign.
Stable Congress’ Rule
Since independence, apart from the Congress, other parties or a conglomeration of them also ruled the country. The Congress alone or in alliance ruled for 54 years, other parties/fronts for 7 years and the BJP and its alliance for 10 years. If there is development or the lack of it, it should be shared by them proportionately or specifically by each.
But the BJP just targeting the Congress is not right. In the long rule of the Congress, there has been some omissions and commissions. But there is no denying the fact that stable Congress governments, during their long rule, implemented durable nation-building plans. A lot of development took place in the country and the credit for a majority of it rightly belongs to the Congress. The longevity gave them perspective, time and strength to do some permanent good work, which has stood in good stead for the progress of the nation. It includes schools, universities, national institutions, science and technology institutes, irrigation and power projects.
The burgeoning population, inability to control the ever-increasing corruption, mushrooming of political parties and their unstable coalitions have contributed to the slowdown and shifting the focus away from real development. The attention now has changed to GDP growth and distribution of government revenue to the electorate. Instead of building revenue-earning infrastructure and development of skills to enable employment and entrepreneurial ability, the emphasis is shifting to corporate business and manifesto politics.
Though GDP is growing (7th), the GDP per capita is growing very niggardly (119th). The institutions that are built to serve the nation are neglected or used for political needs. Corruption — both political and administrative — is growing fast. The reforms, which though advertised heavily, are not being implemented properly. Confusion is growing between what is needed for the country and what the governments want to do.
The Modi government, which came to power in 2014 with a big majority, was expected to implement far-reaching reforms. Programmes like Swachh Bharat, Make in India and Smart City have come and gone without much impact. The GST is only partially good. There is a lot of publicity about foreign policy, international terrorism, Kashmir and relations with Pakistan. The government is claiming a great deal of credit though there are no definitive results in these areas.
In the 2019 elections, the agenda of 2014 is conveniently bypassed. They are deemed to have been started and assumed that it would be completed in the next term. The new agenda is Congress-bashing and masochism against Pakistan.
Biggest Surgical Strike
The masochism against Pakistan has become a rallying cry. Modi is asking for votes in the name of Pulwama martyrs. The Balakot airstrike is termed as a surgical strike and the Modi government claims it as its own patent. Modi even went to the extent of saying ‘ghar me ghuskemaraa’. But the others claim that there were many such trans-border Army operations earlier too.
There cannot be a bigger surgical strike than Bangladesh war of 1971, in which the Indian Army crossed the border and seized Dhaka in 13 days. Anyway, the reason for the surgical strikes is Pakistani terrorists attacking our Army camps and the CRPF convoy and killing soldiers and police personnel inside our country. Does it also not mean ‘ghar me ghuskemaarnaa’ and whose failure is it?
Even if we undertook a counter strike, it cannot be termed a victory simply because its effectiveness is not known. And a PM talking about it in such an obstreperous manner for electoral gains is not right.
Modi’s phobia of the Congress and Nehru-Gandhi family is apocryphal. He simply believes that for all the ills in the country, the Congress is responsible and Nehru is the biggest culprit. He claims he has taken over to correct all the wrongs of the Congress. Development simply gets drowned in this discourse and this is not right.
In fact, his followers’ penchant of comparing him with Nehru is ridiculous. Nehru was in the service of the nation for decades, even before Independence. He was PM for about 17 years. He was the leader of the stalwarts who laid the foundation for building our nation and was instrumental in creating institutions and infrastructure for it.
Modi came into national service just five years ago. His followers may believe he is extraordinary but he has not done anything so far to prove it. His first term as PM has been lackadaisical despite the massive mandate. So his comparison with Nehru is unequal and fatuous. Modi needs to do a lot more useful work to come anywhere close to Nehru. His rants on the greats of this nation are now actually working against the BJP.
(The author is a freelance journalist)