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High-Voltage campaign in UP :BJP’s desperation, Confident Mayawati

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UP polls

The high decibel campaign by political parties in Uttar Pradesh has come to an end. All the leaders of the key parties BSP, Samajwadi Party, BJP and Congress were seen engaged in luring the Nishads, backwards affiliated to Peace party and Muslims which could turn the outcome of at least 40 seats in the region. With prime minister Narendra Modi playing a religious card  by offering prayers in Temple,taking blessings from seers, doing roadshows for consecutive three days in Varanasi , his parliamentary constituency  and the third day ended with door to door campaigning on foot also shows the inner anxiety and desperation of Modi.

The issues such as effect of demonetisation on people’s livelihood , unemployment, waiving off loans of farmers, aspirations of the people  dominated the Poorvanchal campaign .Modi even addressed a rally of farmers in Rohaniya ,about 200 km from Varanasi to consolidate his vote bank and secure a victory in eastern UP.

The last phase of Uttar Pradesh assembly elections is very crucial for BJP  and it is visible with the entire cabinet  of Modi government being busy in campaigning in Poorvanchal as 17 percent of voters belonged to Nishad community comprising the Mallah, Majhi, Gond, Kewat ,Rajbhar, Kahar and Kashyap. This community along with voters affiliated with the peace party will upset the calculations of any of the key parties contesting the elections because they feel threatened by water taxis and the impact of demonetisation of their livelihood.

Congress vice President Rahul Gandhi showed the direction of his party in solving unemployment stating that Congress-SP alliance will make UP “the factory of the world” which signifies that youth will find employment  on a major scale .He also addressed 80 rallies in UP elections to highlight his alliance agenda against Modi’s communal approach.

While Union Minister Giriraj Singh’s pronouncements that there will be rollback of  minority status to Muslims in India will  drive away Muslim voters who favoured BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha Polls  . Thus Modi’s slogan of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas  stands meaningless.

The campaigning on such a massive scale by Modi in eastern UP has been done on the realisation that BJP has lost western UP due to Jats  observing black days and demanding reservation in government jobs which has not so far being met  .

Uttar Pradesh has never seen such a high voltage campaigning where BJP deployed all its resources and time with even filthy and derogatory language of Shamshaan and Kabristan  and power distribution  during Diwali and Ramzan.

Meanwhile BSP chief Mayawati appears to be emerging as the single largest party by focusing on the Dalit-Muslim formula  and Congress may ally with it after the March 11 outcome. There are chances that BJP may not end up losing the UP elections.

arti bali

By : Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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Four years of Modi: an era of all round disaster

Modi Govt has made it necessary for all those who cherish secular democracy, economic development and the parliamentary democratic set-up to unite urgently to resist the fascistic onslaught which may restrain the present regime from further damaging our country.

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Narendra Modi

The last four years of Modi government was a disaster in all spheres because we saw a Govt which only represented corporate capital and the worst right-wing ideology. Modi government has unabashedly pushed through its agenda of economic neo-liberalism, hastening the process of communal and caste polarisation for narrow electoral gains and missed no opportunity to diminish the established secular democratic norms. It went as far as trying to subvert the Constitution of India and its basic ethos which by any yardstick is unpardonable.

The corporate houses have been flagrantly favoured with various financial moves that benefited them to the extent of Rs 65 lakh crores and under the garb of promoting its flagship scheme ‘Make in India”, all sorts of concessions have been granted to foreign investors. The economy has been on a perennial declining mode since Modi became Prime Minister and almost every sector is in shambles because of his ill-conceived decisions in last 4 years.

Modi’s most disastrous move was demonetisation of the currency on 8th November 2016 when he abruptly decided to withdraw Rs 500 and 1000 notes which wiped off almost 87% of total currencies in circulation. This one decision cost heavily as it inflicted pain and misery to 133 crore people of this country which was unheard off.

People were made to stand for hours and hours in serpentine queues outside the bank ATMs to get a paltry 2000 rupees. The lucky ones who stood for hours got their money but there were as many as 167 unfortunate souls who were not so lucky, they perished because of a nonsensical decision by the head of a state who had a wild dream that in demonetisation he got a panacea for everything which is bad about the Indian economy. He proved wrong, terribly wrong. He was no Nobel laureate in economics and because of one bad decision, everyone suffered. In the next one year GDP lost a monumental 300,000 crore giving a hit of 5% to India’s GDP.

Banks continue to be on the verge of bankruptcy. More than 70 lakh jobs were lost at the altar of demonetisation in the Manufacturing, IT, Automobile and MSME sector. There was a virtual blood bath in the unorganised sector and those who were dependent on daily wages were destroyed by this tornado of note ban. This one decision will easily go into the annals of world economy as one of the most stupid and ill thought decisions by the head of a state.

Agriculture sector continues to be in the grip of worst ever crisis after independence. There isn’t a single day when we don’t hear the news about farmer’s suicide. As for common people, they are under lot of distress because of the high Prices of essential commodities and the skyrocketing fuel prices. Even essential services like education and public health have gone out of their reach.

The educational institutions are being blatantly saffronised and are targeted for the ideological reasons and syllabus is being distorted. There is a concerted attempt on re-writing the history from the anti-national and unconstitutional angle of RSS, the chief patron of Modi government. The RSS has usurped the reins of a regime and is busy running its own Hindutva agenda. Attacks are being allowed on minorities, Dalits and other weaker sections of the society in the name of protecting cows.

The Govt is unashamedly violating the constitution and democratic norms. The Governors in BJP ruled states are virtually acting like RSS cadres. It is busy destroying parliamentary democracy to promote its fascistic and authoritarian agenda. The Govt’s Kashmir policy has been disastrous as the crisis in the valley has gone from bad to worse in last three years.

In short, on the eve of its fourth anniversary of being in power, Modi Govt has made it necessary for all those who cherish secular democracy, economic development and the parliamentary democratic set-up to unite urgently to resist the fascistic onslaught which may restrain the present regime from further damaging our country.

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Karnataka shadow on Modi’s 4th anniversary

Considering that three more assembly elections are due in the next few months where the BJP is facing the anti-incumbency factor, it is obvious that Modi’s fourth anniversary is not the happiest of occasions.

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Narendra Modi

If Narendra Modi expected Karnataka to be the icing on the cake on the eve of the completion of his four years in office, he must be disappointed.

Yet, the setback in the southern state is only one of the several reverses which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has suffered in the recent past. These include a series of by-election defeats in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and UP, which have not been adequately compensated by the party’s successes in the northeast. That’s because electoral outcomes in the country’s heartland have a greater salience than those in a region generally regarded as remote.

Considering that three more assembly elections are due in the next few months where the BJP is facing the anti-incumbency factor, it is obvious that Modi’s fourth anniversary is not the happiest of occasions. Several things appear to have gone wrong for the Prime Minister and his party. Foremost among them is the general bleakness of the economic scene because of the paucity of jobs and the continuing agrarian distress.

But even more than the economic woes — which have led to the blanking out of the phrase ‘achhe din’ (good days) from the saffron lexicon — what may have hurt the government even more is an intimidating atmosphere generated by a political project of virtually remoulding Indian society by obliterating all the supposed ignominy which the country is said to have suffered during the 1,200 years of “slavery” under Muslim and British rule. Not surprisingly, the 60-odd years of Congress rule have been included in this period of “alien” governance.

Hence, the rewriting of history textbooks and the packing of autonomous academic institutions with people in tune with the ruling party’s thinking. These have been accompanied by the veneration of the cow and the targeting of “suspected” beef-eaters.

It is this imposition of the saffron writ which made former Vice President Hamid Ansari say that the Muslims were living in fear and led to protests by writers, historians, film makers and others within the first 12 months of Modi’s rule who returned the awards which they had once won.

Instead of analysing why so many distinguished people were expressing their disquiet, the government and the BJP chose to dismiss them as “manufactured protests”, in Arun Jaitley’s words, and the dissatisfaction of a section which has lost the privileges which it had enjoyed under the previous dispensation. Evidently, the BJP believed that it was on the right track — in fact, the protests may have reinforced this self-perception — and that there was no need for a rethink.

Little wonder that the government took no notice of the two open letters written to it by groups of retired civil servants and a third by more than 600 academics, including those in the US, Britain and Australia. While the bureaucrats expressed distress at the decline of “secular, democratic and liberal values”, the educationists regretted that not enough was being done for the vulnerable groups.

There is little doubt that the government has taken a number of initiatives to reach out to these groups. In a way, these “small” measures have mitigated to some extent the effects of the faltering on the macroeconomic front.

Among these measures is the Jan Dhan Yojana relating to small savings by ordinary people via a large number of bank accounts. However, although nearly all the households are now said to have access to banks, the number of people with inactive accounts is embarrassingly high.

It is the same with cooking gas connections, where consumption has not kept pact with the higher number of households with such facilities. There have been similar shortfalls on the cleanliness (Swachh Bharat) and electrification programmes as well.

According to official figures, 72.6 million household toilets have been built since 2014 and there are now 366,000 defecation-free villages. But the absence of independent verification of these claims has led to the World Bank withholding a $1.5 billion loan for these rural programmes.

Similarly, the official assertion about cent per cent electrification of the country has generally been taken with a pinch of salt since government data shows that there are still 31 million households without power and that the percentage reaches 60 in UP, Jharkhand and Assam.

It is on the highways’ front that visible progress has been made with the raising of the construction target to 45 km per day from 27 km. The employment potential of such infrastructure projects is also high. Since 100 per cent foreign investment is allowed in this sector, an estimated $82 billion is expected for it in the next four years.

But all these initiatives should really have been an add-on to an atmosphere of economic buoyancy which is absent. This has been noted by a pro-Modi economist, who has said that the people are yet to see their lives improve materially. Unless this perception changes with, say, an implementation of the Modicare programme of medical insurance in the next few months, the government will not be able to look forward to next year’s general election with high hopes.

By : Amulya Ganguli

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at [email protected])

–IANS

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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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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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