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Will Rahul’s ‘Chowkidar’ Jibe To Modi Boomerang To Congress? – OpEd


While slamming Narendra Modi’s Rafale deal as the biggest scam by Indian Prime Minister and accusing him with a jibe “Chowkidar Chor Hai” (Security Guard is Thief) against his mandate for corruption free nation, Rahul’s election campaign is bogged down by a paradox. Instead of sullying his image as a deserter of corruption, Rahul’s jeer upturned his image as a nationalist after the airstrike. He is rechristened as the Chowkidar for the nation to protect the country. This unleashed heyday for the people, who were sullen after the BJP’s defeat in three northern state elections.

Votary of corruption –free governance and development was the catalysis for Modi charismatic leadership. He won state elections one after another, wresting out from Congress, during his five years’ stint. In 2014, BJP was ruling in four states. In 2018, it jumped to nine states and two with BJP support. In contrast , Congress political outreach reached at nadir. Its presence declined to four states in 2018. It is the first time that Congress faced a political debacle at the state level.

In the global image of economic development, BJP – ruled India made a big upturn. In GDP, the country reached highest growth in the world, outpacing China. As an investment destination, the country challenges China and ASEAN countries. For doing business, it made a strong platform for the investors. Red tape was tapered and India’s rank in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business spurred to 77 rank in 2019 from 133 in 2014. This impacted foreign investment in India. Foreign Direct Investment increased by over 51 percent during the three years period in between 2014 to 2017.

Corruption is the yardstick of red tape. During Modi’s regime, it was annihilated drastically. Its rank among the least corrupt countries went up to 78 in 2018 from 85 in 2014, according to Transparency International. To dismantle corruption, Modi regime took several measures. It provided direct transfer of subsidy to end users of cooking gas and opening bank accounts to over 350 million for direct cash transfer to the poor farmers, which hitherto were siphoned away by middlemen. To reduce industrial red tape and eventually corruption, regular filing of information by factory managers were greatly simplified and approval procedures were made mostly on on-line.

Notwithstanding, eyebrows were raised on BJP’ popularity after it lost in recent three state elections, viz, Madhya Pradesh (MP) , Rajasthan and Chattishgarh. Media focused that BJP’s lackluster address to farmers distress was the main cause. Nevertheless, the insight of the defeats tell different stories. The structure and the causes of the defeat suggest that they are not mainly due to aberration of Modi’s popularity. It was the farmers dole which outsmarted his charisma for corruption free and development work. Hence, it is unlikely to tarnish his image for the forthcoming general election, which is to be held after four months.

Congress committed debt relief for distressed farmers in these elections , where over sixty percent voters are farmers. It is the replication of UPA winning general election in 2008, by unleashing famers’ dole. In MP, vote percentage – the true indicator for people representation – was more for BJP ( 41.0 percentage) than Congress ( 40.9 percent)- and in Rajasthan , it was slender less than UPA – BJP ( 38.8 percent) and Congress ( 39.3 percent). These figures do not advocate the loss of trust on Modi’s governance. Indeed, it is the number of seats which ultimately work for winning the election in a democratic pattern of society.

Vote percentage is the bottom line of the popularity of the contesting parties. Given these, BJP was de-facto winner in MP and a marginal loser in Rajasthan. These suggest that Congress farmers’ dole failed to tarnish BJP’s image for a longer period, which committed corruption free nation and development works.

Farmers dole is not a long term solution to win a political outreach. Had this been a pragmatic solution to address farmers’ distress, UPA would not have lost the 2014 general election.

No doubt, his mandate for job creation and Make in India lost the steam . But, after the airstrike his popularity retrieved as a true nationalist. His failure in the economic front was overshadowed by his tit-for-tit retaliation.

The memory of the people is short. It is argued that upswing in Modi’s popularity after airstrike will fade when the nation goes for polling.

Against this, there is a counter thought. It is unlikely that the upswing will fade if Rahul continues his wild jibe as the election campaign against the Prime Minister of the country. There are chances that even the anti-Modi section will fall prey to his nationalist image.

Even China , the second biggest economy in the world, is no way different from India in terms of creation of employment. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang deplored the set back of Chinese economy in his annual deliverance of the economy. He forecasted a 30 years downswing in the GDP growth in between 6 to 6.5 percent in 2019 from 6.6 percent in 2018 and would make effort to sustain the unemployment rate at 5.5 percent. Seen in this context, India’s unemployment rate of 6.5 percent , though hyped in media and become a cudgel for drubbing by Congress , does not decode a major backlash of Modi’s failure in job creation.

Given these pre-poll situations, where a slender dent to Modi popularity in the three state elections was overshadowed by a nationalist movement with an airstrike, Rahul’s indulgence in wild jibe to Modi’s nationalist image may make a somersault in Congress image, which saw a ray of hope after the state elections.

Views expressed are personal

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Subrata Majumder

Subrata Majumder is an adviser to Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), New Delhi, and the author of “Exporting to Japan,” as well as various articles in Indian media, including Business Line, Echo of India, Indian Press Agency, and foreign media, such as Asia Times online and Eurasia Review .

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