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Analysis

Curtains on a long, close, caustic election in Uttar Pradesh

The last round brought the curtains down on one of the most closely contested, and staggered poll process in recent times. All parties tried to give their best to win over the electorate.

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UP Polls

Lucknow, March 8 : Marked by caustic, high decibel campaigning, which saw the political discourse plumbing to low levels at times, the long-drawn polling process in the most populous and politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh came to an end on Wednesday.

With an overall voting percentage of 61 per cent across its seven phases for the 403 assembly seats, slightly higher than the 59.5 per cent registered in the 2012 assembly elections, the last phase saw heavy balloting in all the 40 seats spread across seven districts in the Poorvanchal region.

The last round brought the curtains down on one of the most closely contested, and staggered poll process in recent times. All parties tried to give their best to win over the electorate.

Caught in a bitter family feud and power struggle in the ruling Samajwadi Party, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav took over the party’s reins by knocking out his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle Shivpal Yadav and later aligning with Congress.

The party contested on 298 seats. Akhilesh’s wife Dimple, who is a lawmaker from Kannauj, actively campaigned while Mulayam Singh chose to campaign only for friend Parasnath Yadav, brother Shivpal Yadav and daughter-in-law Aparna.

Akhilesh Yadav claims that they will form the next government with even a better mandate than last time, when it won 224 seats.

The Congress, which took out a long ‘kisan yatra’ from Deoria to Delhi, which became infamous for locals taking away the cots during the ‘khaat sabhaas’, had slammed the SP, BSP and BJP government by saying “27 saal, UP behaal”. The party came down from the high pedestal to enter into an alliance with the SP and they got 105 seats to contest after a hard bargain.

Many feel the Congress, with a non-existent organisational structure, got a good deal. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi addressed many rallies during the polls and even held four roadshows with Akhilesh Yadav. He addressed two pressers with the UP Chief Minister but the last one, two days before the final phase, was called off without any explanation offered.

Though Congress put the name of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in its star campaigner list, she campaigned only in Rae Bareli. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, due to ill health, did not campaign and just sent a letter and later a video urging voters in the Gandhi pocketborough of Amethi and Rae Bareli to vote for the party.

The BJP put up its might into the elections with Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding two roadshows, taking the rounds of various temples and ashrams and addressing 23 rallies – his highest so far for any state assembly elections.

BJP president Amit Shah also addressed 200 big and small rallies with the state functionaries also chipping in with hundreds of rallies, churning the entire state. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, was active too and its cadres were pitching in for a BJP victory.

In the run up, several thousand km were traversed by state leaders through ‘parivartan yatras’ which covered the entire state and many ‘MBC and OBC conventions’.

Handed a duck in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati too fought the assembly elections with elan, addressing more than 50 rallies and appealing to the Dalit voter base to ensure that she romped home to power this time.

Aware that the colossal monuments and parks she made in her 2007-2012 regime had cost her a big loss, Mayawati promised not to make these anymore and her campaign revolved around the poor law and order in the state. The Dalit leader promised the return of the rule of law in Uttar Pradesh and also slammed Prime Minister Modi for what she claimed was “fooling people through speeches”.

While there is no dearth of issues for a large state like Uttar Pradesh, by the end of the second phase, the polity and the electorate appeared largely split on community lines as polarisation crept in. The statement on ‘shamshaan-kabristaan’ and ‘Holi-Ramzaan’ by Modi added fuel to the fire. Sustained barbs from the likes of senior SP leader and state cabinet minister Azam Khan, Lok Sabha members of the BJP Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj vitiated the atmosphere even further.

Akhilesh Yadav added to the verbal exchanges with his ‘gadha’ (ass) jibe and RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who campaigned for SP-Congress candidates at some places, called the Prime Minister a ‘hijra’ (eunuch) and Amit Shah a ‘genda’ (rhinoceros). Shah returned the fire by exhorting people to get rid of KaSaB (Congress, SP and BSP).

In the last few legs of polling, UP’s powerful and tainted Minister Gayatri Prajapati became the centre point of politics after the Supreme Court ordered the state police to lodge an FIR against him in a gang rape case.

The Minister who is contesting from Amethi on a SP ticket was riled by opposition as a “glaring example of kaam bolta hai of the Akhilesh government”. He has yet not been arrested despite a non bailable warrant against him for the last many days.

A large section of the 14.05 crore voters in Uttar Pradesh cast their votes during polling on February 11, 15, 19, 23, 27 and March 4 and 8. The results are just two days away now.

By : Mohit Dubey

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at [email protected])

Analysis

Modi’s momentum under attack as opposition gears up for offensive

Congress President Rahul Gandhi is also now a more formidable opponent of Modi than he was in 2014 and his attacks are sharper and unrelenting.

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Vishwashghaat

New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) With his party ‘stopped’ in Karnataka and bracing to face crucial Assembly elections in three major states in the north this year end, Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes his government into the last year in office with the political momentum slightly shaken against the mounting burden of fulfilling expectations on numerous election promises.

Political analysts say that many of the promises of the Modi government have been rhetoric and it needs course correction by being more accommodative over the next year if BJP’s prospects are to improve.

They said the outcome of 2019 elections will largely depend on opposition parties coming together to pose a common challenge to the BJP.

Kumaraswamy's swearing-in ceremony

The BJP’s inability to form the government in Karnataka, despite being the single largest party, has come as a damper to the party. It had suffered jolts earlier this year in defeats in prestigious parliamentary by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur as also Ajmer and Alwar.

“Intolerance has been a major drawback in the last four years,” says political analyst and senior journalist H.K. Dua adding that the idea of India as a plural polity had suffered due to incidents like ‘love jihad’ and lynchings.

“Every incident fouls the atmosphere. India is a composite society and Prime Minister himself said ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’ which did not happen. That’s why Dalits have been very angry, tribals have been very angry, farmers have been very angry. Caste divisions are sharper than before. That does not speak well,” he said.

Dua said constitutional institutions “have not been shown the respect they deserve.” He said consensus between the ruling and opposition parties for running parliamentary democracy has been ignored. “The initiative had to come from Prime Minister but that has not come,” he said, adding there is doubt how deep is the faith of government in democratic practices.

“I don’t think in 2019 there will be Modi wave. Opposition will be able to present a formidable challenge if they unite. So the unity is very, very important.

Kumaraswamy swearing-in ceremony

But even as efforts to forge understanding among opposition parties continue at various levels, Modi continues to have a cross-country appeal as the prime vote-catcher of the BJP.

As Prime Minister, he has sought to bring speed to decision-making by cutting red tape, set ambitious targets, launched some imaginative schemes, focused on delivery, simplified norms and shaken off lethargy in the official machinery.

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government is seen to be more focused and target-oriented but there is little visible impact of some of its initiatives such as the Swachh Bharat Campaign.

Subrata Mukherjee, a political analyst who taught at Delhi University, said there have been more promises than delivery in the past four years and projects like Start Up India and Make in India have not progressed the way they were made out to.

“The economic record of the government is not very good and they are now postponing everything to 2022. That is beyond their mandate. So it is politics of postponement,” he said.

He said most of the schemes are a rehash of Congress schemes.

Mukherjee said Modi government needs to practice a more “accommodative politics.”

“They will have to work out accommodative politics, bring new segments. The scheduled castes, Muslims are angry. If they want to retain power, they will have to go for drastic course correction,” he said.

He said opposition unity was important for good politics and the proposed federal front cannot do without congress. “BJP will also have to understand that 2019 will be coalition government whether led by it or the Congress,” he said.

Unlike the 2014 elections, when he was the challenger, Modi will be the incumbent in 2019 and the opposition has a plethora of issues to queer the pitch including jobs, price rise, problems of farmers, multi-crore banking frauds, non-performing assets of banks, “write-offs” of corporate houses, and “atrocities” against weaker sections including Dalits.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi is also now a more formidable opponent of Modi than he was in 2014 and his attacks are sharper and unrelenting.

Congress General Secretary Ashok Gehlot said people had trusted Modi but he “betrayed” them. As a member of the opposition, he sees an all-round failure in the government.

“Farmers, youth, traders, women, everyone now feels betrayed. There is sense of fear and mistrust among people. Fuel prices are sky-rocketing. This is a loot. The situation in the country is such and all sections of society are so unhappy that the people will force every party in the country to come together to defeat Modi and the BJP,” he said.

BJP Spokesperson G.V.L. Narsimha Rao, however, as expected, termed the last four years as “epoch-making.”

“These will be best remembered for ushering in a New India Era with corruption-free governance, inclusive economic growth with special focus on farmers, women and marginalised sections,” Rao told IANS.

He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has fulfilled long neglected basic needs of the common citizens with innovative schemes like Ujjwala.

The Ayushman Bharat scheme, announced in this year’s budget which aims to provide health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh to around 10 crore families is an ambitious move to connect with the poor and, if successful, can help BJP earn goodwill in run up to 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh later this year are expected to set the tempo for the Lok Sabha polls and the BJP is the incumbent in all three states facing tough contests.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])

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Analysis

Four years of Modi failed to deliver crore of jobs: Swaraj India

Prime Minister Modi had promised to deliver one crore jobs every year but the number of jobs have decreased in reality.

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Yogendra Yadav

New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) As the Narendra Modi-led NDA government completed four years on Saturday, Swaraj India alleged although it has provided some evocative slogans like ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, but scored a near zero score in performance, especially in its promise to deliver one crore jobs every year.

“The Modi government only made an onslaught on the Constitution and democracy, and saw jobless growth, increasing communal tension, rural distress and overarching insecurity among Dalits, minorities and women in country. All the key promises of the BJP government have turned out to be hollow.

“Prime Minister Modi had promised to deliver one crore jobs every year but the number of jobs have decreased in reality,” said Swaraj India national spokesperson Anupam.

Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav said that the violence against religious minorities, especially Muslims, is spreading openly.

“The country is unsafe because despite the claims of surgical strike, incidents of encroachment and terror attack from Pakistan have increased. Relations with neighbouring countries and even old friends are seeing a challenging phase and China’s movements have become more aggressive,” he said.

Senior party leader Prashant Bhushan meanwhile decried the rise of corruption, eroding authority of anti-corruption bodies, shielding of corrupt officers are being shielded, the “disaster” of demonetization, no change in the black money situation and putting of the Lokpal issue in cold storage.

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Analysis

After 1,460 days of Modi rule, ‘achhe din’ yet to come

I do not blame this government for not being able to deliver ‘achhe din’. Which government since Independence has?

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Narendra-Modi

New Delhi: There’s only one year more to go for the BJP-led regime before another test at the hustings. But is the country any nearer to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promised ‘acche din‘ (good days)? Four years ago, the country had voted the present regime to power on hopes of better days in all socio-economic-political spheres. But despite some strong structural reforms like GST, and gut-wrenching changes like demonetisation, the jury may still be out on how good it has been, according to economists and others experts.

Despite India’s GDP growth of 7.2 per cent in the third quarter (October-December) of 2017-18, some economists feel that the demonetisation drive, avowedly taken to “cleanse the system” of black money, had ended up damaging the country’s economy instead.

“Demonetisation was a terrible mistake by the government, for which the common people paid the price. It has reduced people’s trust in the banking system, as they were denied their own money during the period of cash crunch. It takes so much time and work to build institutions and policies — it is so much easier and faster to break things,” Jayati Ghosh, Economics Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), told IANS.

The government decided to ban 1,000 rupee and 500-rupee notes on November 8, 2016, taking away 86 per cent of the total currency in circulation. “May be this move had served the government’s purpose politically, but economically it was a bad one,” Ghosh added.

Echoing similar views, Arun Kumar, former professor of economics at the JNU, told IANS that when the NDA government came in, the Indian economy was already on an upward trajectory. The quarter, in which the government took over, the growth climbed to eight per cent. In October 2016, India was the fastest growing economy in the world when China slowed down a bit.

“But then the government administered a shock to the system with demonetisation. It had a negative impact on the unorganised sector that comprise 45 per cent of production and 93 per cent of employment in the country. According to some estimation, 50-80 per cent of that got damaged,” he said.

Kumar, who is now Chair-Professor with the Institute of Social Sciences, added: “Government did no survey at that time and hence no data is available. Even data from International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which rely on government data, do not show any estimates (on impact).”

After demonetisation, credit off-take in the country declined sharply. “Between November-December 2016, it was at historic low of 60 years. Investment into the country also took a big hit,” he said. However, Ranen Banerjee, Partner & Leader, Public Finance and Economics, at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has a different take on some of the benefits flowing from the action.

“Demonetisation had positive impact as far as digital payments were concerned. It shot up sharply during that period but came down subsequently. The level is still higher earlier. But demonetisation as a measure did not deliver all the results that it was supposed to deliver,” Banerjee said.

The government’s other major thrust, though, on Goods and Services Tax (GST) — rolled out on July 1 last year, got better billing. Economists are hopeful that it will bring in beneficial changes once the hiccups are over. Banerjee says GST would change the entire landscape of tax compliance in the country by creating a multiplier effect. “GST was a bold move which is showing positive results,” he added.

Ghosh, though, thinks GST goes against the grain of federalism. “A unified system is not so necessary in a federal structure — for example, the US does not have it and still has a very modern economy. In a federal structure you have to allow states to have some money raising power. Further, GST implementation has been really bad.”

Kumar said: “Introduction of GST has hit the unorganised sector badly. Even in Malaysia where GST was introduced in 2015-16 at 26 per cent, government decided to scrap it. The organised sector is rising at the expense of unorganised sector. Disparity is rising.”

Industry chambers have by and large welcomed government initiatives, especially the decision on GST. “The overall economy is strong with GST having settled down and reforms firmly on the right path,” Chandrajit Banerjee, Director-General of Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), told IANS.

Over the last four years, according to him, the government had systematically addressed major “pain points” for the economy such as ease of doing business, non-performing assets of banks, foreign direct investment rules, infrastructure construction and exit of failing enterprises.

“The government’s mission-mode development campaigns have delivered notable results, adding to overall growth multipliers. The firm level and sectoral level numbers look promising for the next year in terms of orders booked and capacity utilisation,” said CII’s Banerjee.

Former economics professor at Indian Statistical Institute, Dipankar Dasgupta, who holds that the economy was yet to recover from the hit it took because of demonetisation, says that on GST he was hopeful that with time it will stabilise. “In the other countries where it was introduced there were teething problems too,” he said.

The government also took up the job to cleanse bad loans of banks. It is pumping in Rs 2.11 lakh crore as capitalisation, spread over two years. But a number of banking scandals and rising non-performing assets (NPA) may have reduced the faith of people in the bank system, after the shock of demonetisation. “We have declining deposits in the banking system due to people’s rising mistrust,” says Ghosh. Dasgupta says recapitalisation should be followed with caution so that it does not widen the fiscal deficit.

The government, though, has got support in its effort to tackle the issue of NPAs. The bankruptcy law has put everyone on notice. “People are taking the issue of NPAs seriously trying to resolve it. Companies are opting for out of court settlement. Propensity to comply has increased as borrowers know that there will be consequences on not servicing a loan,” Banerjee of PriceWaterhouseCoopers said.

Yet, overall the promise of the golden pot at the end of the five-year rainbow, as promised by Modi in his of speeches — where he had painted the BJP rule in attractive hues — has not materialised in four years. BJP’s best salesman may have oversold the hope. “I do not blame this government for not being able to deliver ‘achhe din’. Which government since Independence has?” asks Dasgupta rhetorically.

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