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Anti-Poor Sarkar

Anti-Poor Sarkar

People, particularly the poor, are thoroughly disappointed with the performance of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. This may get reflected in the 2019 parliamentary election results, according to an internal assessment made by the BJP’s mother organization, the RSS, if no effective measures are taken urgently. The feeling getting strengthened is that the government is less focused on issues which directly affect the life of the common man.

The leadership of the ruling BJP seems to have forgotten what it promised during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when it got overwhelming support of the voters to form its government at the Centre. The BJP-led NDA had declared that it would bring back the entire black money stashed in “50,000 secret bank accounts in foreign countries” within 100 days after the formation of its government and transfer it to every Indian’s bank accounts.

According to Congress leader Ajay Maken, BJP leaders were announcing from rooftops in 2014 that their government would deposit at least Rs 15 lakh in everybody’s bank accounts from the recovered black money kept in foreign bank accounts! This would have definitely transformed the lives of the people. However, so far the government has not disclosed even the names of such account holders. Thus, what the ruling party stated then was nothing but a ploy for garnering votes.

What hurts the common man more than any other section of society is the price rise which does not appear to be on top of the government’s agenda. While the prices of almost all food items have been rising steadily ever since the new government was formed in May 2014, what is more worrying is the uncontrolled increase in the prices of petroleum products like petrol and diesel. And any rise in the prices of petrol and diesel is bound to push up the transportation cost of food items and other things. This process is likely to continue as petroleum prices are now linked to their prices at the global level.

Prime Minister Modi has been busy visiting foreign countries on the pretext of luring foreign investors as part of his programmes like ‘Skill India’, ‘Start-Up India’, ‘Make in India’, etc. This may have led to the creation of a few jobs but the overall demand-supply gap remains worrying. The flow of FDI has not been on the expected lines despite all the efforts made by the government. Unfortunately, after the formation of the BJP government in UP the focus shifted to emotive issues which increased social tensions and disparaged the country’s image in the comity of nations.

The young men and women of the country are mainly interested in the creation of jobs which is not happening to the satisfaction of the people. It has been almost a jobless growth all these years with the problem of unemployment getting more and more complicated. The economy seems to have entered a long-term phase of joblessness. While agriculture and the related sectors have been traditionally providing jobs to over 45 per cent of the population (contributing 15 per cent to the GDP), the rest of the people depended on the service sector, the real estate sector, manufacturing, exports and other areas for jobs. But today every sector is in the grip of sluggishness. Whatever little growth was happening has been stunted first by avoidable demonetization and then by the introduction of the GST system.

While the real estate sector, which had emerged as a major employer, has got paralysed in the wake of demonetization, the IT (information technology) sector has been weakened considerably owing to international factors like the changed US policy on the outsourcing issue. The result of all this is extremely poor availability of jobs and sluggish business activity throughout the country.

One thing that has remained unnoticed during the past few years is the suffering of unskilled workers, who have been the major losers because of the unimaginative policies of the Modi government. A vast majority of them were associated with the construction business which had been booming before the establishment of the BJP-led NDA government. Demonetisation resulted in these unskilled workers losing jobs in lakhs. They reluctantly shifted to their villages when their survival in cities and towns became almost impossible, hoping that they would get at least a few days’ work under schemes like MNREGS. They got some work under these schemes no doubt, but this was no compensation for what they had been earning in cities. The ultimate result was incalculable suffering to their families. At least 100 people lost their lives, some of them having committed suicide, as they could not bear the brunt of the demonetization programme.

The government has been claiming that demonetisation was aimed at unearthing black money, but what has happened is something different. The poor have suffered immensely while there has been very little impact on the moneyed class. One could see only poor people and those belonging to the lower-middle class standing in the queues outside most bank branches or ATMs for money withdrawal during those difficult days.

Even now the business sentiment remains depressed. Ask any businessmen you happen to come across and the chances are that he/she would admit that their business has got affected severely.

In such a depressing scenario, it would not be surprising if people decide to vote against the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as warned by the RSS. Reports indicate that many organizations associated with the RSS are not happy with the Modi government’s policies. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), an affiliate of the RSS, has planned to organize a massive demonstration in Delhi on November 17 against the economic policies of the Central government.  The leaderships of almost all RSS affiliates have no love lost for the government at the Centre. There is a general feeling that those involved in the policy-making process at the Centre are insensitive to the difficulties faced by the poor. Is the government listening?

(The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator.)

(Published on 24th September 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 39)