Last year, around this time, I was deep in the forest of Dalma in a village named Selaghati in the Chota Nagpur plateau of Jharkhand. We went there to attend a tribal wedding and to reach the wedding house we were required to travel long, kutcha and dilapidated roads for around 8-10 km.
Amid all the wedding vehicles there was one Tata Ace, which was as beautifully dressed as our bride-to-be. But there was a twist, the truck was painted saffron with posters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi hanging from all three sides and a loudspeaker at the top blaring out party slogans in full swing.
BJP’s impressive reach
This was the campaign of the BJP for the assembly election in Jharkhand. A place where basic amenities like roads, electricity, network and water are scarce. But the BJP left no stone unturned even to impress the 60-odd voters of this isolated village.
There was hardly a hint of any other political party during my time in that village. A concurrent reflection was observed during Bihar elections, television sets were installed in villages, amid scarce electricity, for the rallies of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister.
Be it the Lok Sabha elections, Vidhan Sabha elections or even a municipal election, the BJP milks all the charisma of Prime Minister Modi. With campaigns, slogans, denouncing oppositions, advertisements, and establishing affable terms with swing and regional parties, the process starts well in advance.
While most political parties have been accused of a dissociation with the proletariat, BJP has cracked the code and knows exactly where to hit the nails. It enjoys popularity unlike any other political party in recent times.
All this has come as a reward for maintaining a party open to dynamic reforms and one that knows the pulse of the populace. It has been six years since the rise of the BJP, they won the Lok Sabha elections twice, and also formed governments in major states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
But is winning enough to form a good government?
Too much centralisation?
Before assuming office, Prime Minister Modi had divulged his mantra of “less intrusion” and “good governance”. However, the resignations of prominent economic intellectuals, nationwide protests against certain laws, witch-hunting of numerous activists, and capturing control of prominent institutions convey a different message, not just to the citizens of the nation but also to the world outside.
It becomes difficult for investors to invest in a politically anxious state, discourages them from entering into a complex tax regime with deterrent infrastructures and it becomes even more onerous for domestic entrepreneurs and business people to work under coercive government control and laws. Most successful nations tend to trade most with their neighbours but we are miles behind in that practice.
The government seems oblivious about the purpose of policies — demonetisation was first proclaimed as the purging of black money, a few months later as an attempt to make a cashless society, and finally, a policy to encourage digital payments.
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens fall in the same mosaic.
Certain laws like the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act and Article 370, even though well-intentioned, seem to find no consensus among its beneficiaries as they were passed through coercive government measures without any acquiesce.
Politics prowess does not equal good governance
Almost all the far-reaching policies of the Modi government have been carried out under secrecy. There is hardly any transparency over the policies, no place for consensus and debate, barely any step to take responsibility for ill actions and a distinct lack of accountability. These are all signs of an unhealthy democracy especially in an age-old democratic nation like ours. The government has probably missed the point that the government is not intended to be the ‘centre,’ but rather a ‘union’.
Public policy and governance in any democracy need to be followed with a procedure where arguments, discussions, criticism, and negotiation are given the highest place above any political ideology, identity, or party. Governance in real terms should be strenuous rather than just commanding orders, the reason why democracy works better than any other political system is because it allows every individual to have a say in the decision-making process.
The BJP may have figured out the “magic potion” of winning elections, however, they are like that kid who wants the possession of the new shining bicycle and will do anything to win it, but doesn’t know how to ride it, ergo, have no idea what to do after they have earned it.
We can, therefore, state that the BJP is still at a nascent stage before becoming a competent governing political body.
Kamal Shashwat is a student of Hindu College, Delhi.