The Indian economy under the Narendra Modi government seems to have taken a beating. Reports of consumption and exports slowing down have recently emerged. This comes months after the leaked NSSO data revealed that unemployment in India was at a 45-year high.
Instead, PM Modi and BJP leaders have repeatedly stressed on national security and nationalism in election speeches.
ThePrint asks: Are 2019 polls proving that Modi’s political jingoism can overshadow bad news on economy?
People of India have chosen national security as No. 1 issue, not BJP
Contrary to what some would like the public to believe, the reality is that India’s economy is doing extremely well. We are today the third-largest economy in the world based on purchasing power parity (PPP). We are also rated as the fastest-growing economy in the world.
The Congress left a shattered economy behind for us in 2014. People were sick of the policy paralysis, policy inaction, scams and scandals. The capital was flowing out of India. Nobody wanted to come and invest in India.
In a short span of just five years, India has been transformed into a nearly $3 trillion economy. The higher growth in GDP, FDI and Foreign Exchange Reserves, surplus power production, toilets for all, LPG connections, Mudra loans, the end of banking apartheid by opening bank account for 67 per cent Indians who were denied this right by the Congress is proof of a new and strong India.
However, India is still a developing economy, along with all the challenges faced by any high-growth developing economy. But we are working on our vision to make India a developed country as soon as possible.
The transformative work we have done is our greatest ambassador.
The people of India want national security to be the country’s top priority, probably due to the fact that India has historically experienced hundreds of foreign attacks. It is the people of India who have identified the national security as the ‘narrative number one’, not the BJP. The people can never be wrong.
Even on the national security front, Modi govt’s performance has been dismal
The one question on everyone’s mind after five years of Modi government is – where is the Achhe Din of Economy? Why is it that unemployment is at a 45-year high? Why is it that export as a percentage of GDP is at a 14-year low?
If PM Modi thinks that demonetisation was actually a success, then why is it that the BJP doesn’t take demonetisation as a pitch to the electorate to get re-elected? How come none of the BJP leaders ever talk about demonetisation in their rallies?
Unemployment and crippled MSME is a reality of India. So is the humongous agrarian crisis. If one steps outside the TV studios of Delhi, they will realise that these are real issues that people vote on.
Of course, PM Modi and his party have tried their level best to deflect from the real issues, when in fact, they should have come out and issued an apology for destroying the economy. Even when they are trying to make the entire election about national security, they have failed to do anything on that end as well. Why is it that 68 per cent of the equipment of the Indian Army is still under the vintage category? Why is it that One Rank One Pension promises have still not been fulfilled? Why is it that there are record number of ceasefire violations?
So, even on national security, the BJP has had a dismal performance.
Opposition’s utter failure to make economy an election issue has allowed Modi to be silent about it
Management Consultant and author, “A Never-before World: Tracking the evolution of Consumer India”
The economy has been slowing down for a while now and the deceleration in consumer spends are more visible this quarter because of the added uncertainty of election results dampening consumer sentiment.
The shrill bickering between a strong bully and a whining set of victims countering him rather than setting their own agenda makes consumers feel insecure about what lies ahead and lowers their confidence in the future – a nation of self-employed people is particularly susceptible to this.
It’s not that the BJP’s jingoism has made voters believe that the economy is in a good shape – wage increases are slow, rural distress is apparent, finding work is not easy for many. Low inflation, for now, is the only saving grace. And voters know it and feel it acutely, they are not stupid.
But no opposition party is focusing on the ailing economy and its ill effects on citizens in any sustained, coherent way. ALL SIDES are focusing on vilifying each other, interspersed with how they eat mangoes and practice vipassana. Where is the talk about the voter’s economic well-being?
So no, Modi’s rhetoric has not taken the focus away from the poor economy. But the opposition’s utter failure to make this a central election issue has allowed him to be silent about it. It is their needless, thoughtless focus on the competitor (Modi), and their baffling lack of focus on the customer (voter) that has allowed the BJP to get away with making nationalism, religious identity, terror and corruption the basis of this battle, not the economy.
Not true that economic issues have ceased to be a poll issue in India
Former Chairman, National Statistical Commission
If I were the current government, I too wouldn’t have talked about the economy given its sad state of affairs. Then, what can the Modi government go to the polls with? An easy and convenient way of bypassing the problem is to simply change the narrative. This is why jingoism and national security has taken centre stage.
Whether the bad news on economy has captured people’s imaginations or not, is tough to say. We cannot dismiss these reports as something that ordinary people fail to understand simply because it is macroeconomics. These are lived experiences of ordinary citizens of the country. Unemployment is real and felt. There might not be a price hike of vegetables for the consumer, but there is real, palatable anguish of those who are selling the vegetables.
It is also not true that economic issues have ceased to be a poll issue in the country. We must remember, the last Lok Sabha election was fought entirely on economy.
The Modi government, of course, doesn’t want to make these elections about economy, and so is trying to divert attention to other things. Whether or not that will stick, only time will tell.
Modi & BJP have successfully tapped on low self-esteem of Indians & given them pride
Editor (Media) and Editorial Skill Development, ThePrint
The Balakot airstrike is the reason most commonly given for Prime Minister Modi’s continuing popularity despite widespread economic distress.
However, Balakot is the culmination of a process that has been in the making ever since Modi became the prime minister in 2014.
A well-executed public relations and media strategy over the last five years has created a personality cult around Modi, one that overrides caste, class and communal identities.
This narrative has elevated Modi above all other politicians and parties, while simultaneously discrediting the Congress rule of 70 years on all counts, courted hyper nationalism through the ‘martyrdom’ of the armed forces while simultaneously ignoring substantive issues of governance.
Social media and TV news, in particular, have systematically projected Modi as a strong and decisive administrator, an incorruptible leader, a self-made man of humble origins and contrasted him with the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi.
Modi has played these parts to perfection, with self-referential speeches identifying him with ‘1.25 crore desh vaasi’, his Mann Ki Baat personalised interactions with the public and his global ‘hug’ with international leaders.
He and the BJP have successfully tapped – or preyed upon— a deeply entrenched sense of low self-esteem among Indians and given them a sense of pride. In four years, Modi had won the peace, with Balakot he won the war.
By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint.