New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has begun preparing for the two-year anniversary of its second term in office next month, even though celebrations are likely to be toned down due to the sudden surge in coronavirus cases, ThePrint has learnt.
Senior government officials said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked ministries and departments to share their success stories from the last two years, which could be projected as part of a promotional exercise to highlight the government’s achievements since the BJP returned to power on 30 May 2019 with a second full majority.
“(The promotional exercise) could include critical announcements made in the Budget, the farm laws and push for self-reliance, among other measures,” a senior government official said on the condition of anonymity.
Sources in the BJP too emphasised that it will hold a low-key celebration, the thrust of which is likely to be the service rendered during the pandemic (‘Covid seva’) and the “success story” of the vaccination rollout across India. The campaign will most likely be digital, the sources said.
ThePrint had reported that in May last year too, the second Modi government held low-profile anniversary celebrations as the country was in the Covid-induced lockdown. In the first term, the BJP and the government had marked anniversaries with big-ticket publicity campaigns.
ThePrint reached the PMO spokesperson through an email for a comment on the second anniversary celebrations, but did not receive a response till the time of publication of this report.
The official quoted above said one of the achievements likely to be highlighted as part of the celebrations is a list of steps taken by ministries to reduce wasteful expenditure by 30 per cent. The target was for ministries to reduce their wasteful expenditure, such as on food and conferences, by 20 per cent, but it has been revised upwards.
Ministries are currently compiling this list.
“The steps taken have to be corroborated with data and other details. Detailed plans of the steps to be taken to implement in future also have to be listed,” the official told ThePrint.
Several ministries are also tracking the implementation of various “mini-Budgets” announced last year.
In 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had presented packages such as Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package, worth Rs 1,92,800 crore; plus three different packages of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, worth Rs 11,02,650 crore, Rs 73,000 crore and Rs 2,65,080 crore respectively. The Reserve Bank of India also announced various measures, amounting to over Rs 12.71 lakh crore.
A second senior government official said ministries are also working on preparing a list of which of the BJP’s promises from 2014 and 2019 have already been delivered, and what can be completed by May 2021.
This, the second official added, would include measures such as the scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, among others.
The official said ministries are also collating the progress made on framing of rules and policies announced in the last two years.
Sources said apart from providing adequate material for publicity, the exercise by the various ministries will also help in the periodic review of progress that the PMO takes on various projects and schemes from time to time.
‘Back to Covid service’
The BJP, meanwhile, is set to build its low-key celebrations around the theme of ‘seva’, with an eye on the exponential increase in Covid-19 cases.
Sources said a “pompous” large-scale celebration is not an option, and with the election campaign in West Bengal set to come to an end in a couple of weeks, party workers will be deployed to contain the outbreak, like last year. ‘Seva’ work will start to facilitate Covid patients’ hospital admission and the provision of extra beds, oxygen, medicines, and early vaccination.
A senior BJP leader who didn’t want to be named told ThePrint: “Right now, the whole organisation is involved in the Bengal election, but as soon as campaigning ends, our focus will shift to pandemic management.”
He added: “‘Seva Divas’ will be the theme for the anniversary celebrations, as cases are rising not only in BJP-ruled states, but all over the country, and the government cannot take the risk of celebrating its second anniversary as a pompous affair because of the second outbreak and the curfew.”
The BJP leader emphasised that it will be a digital campaign.
A second BJP leader said this new outbreak has restricted the government and the party’s “narrative outreach”, because the development of vaccines in India and the start of the vaccination process was a major success, especially compared to other nations’ track record on managing the first wave of the pandemic. The second wave, he said, has undone the government’s effort.
“Public sentiments are not favourable due to electioneering in Bengal; we can’t take the risk of celebrating and antagonising people when they are in long queues for hospital beds. However, we are hopeful of containing the situation in two-three weeks, so the celebrations will be held in a responsible manner, and there will be confidence-building measures to assure people that the government is ramping up infrastructure to help them,” the second leader said.
“So, Covid seva and the India vaccination rollout success story will be the thrust of the campaign,” he added.
The second leader pointed out that PM Modi, in the last few episodes of his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio programme, has emphasised on early vaccination, and the recent Tika Utsav was one of the initiatives to motivate people for this.
“More such programmes will be seen in the first week of May to increase confidence among people regarding vaccination, and ramping up Covid infrastructure in states. These efforts will convey the message that the government is responsible and is fighting on a war footing to defeat the second wave of the pandemic in the coming days,” he stressed.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)