Is the BJP Government losing its plot?

BJP stormed into power in the 2014 General Elections with massive acceptance from India public. With great success come greater expectations – and that is where the true strength of a victory is tested.

There is no question that this Government is far better than the previous one – we have a cohesive government that acts and speaks constructively, there  is a leader at the top supported by strong ministers, no major cases of corruption in 20 months and an improved sense of growth / feel good factor on the economic front. None of these were a reality during UPA-II.

But at the same time, this Government is slowly on the path of failure due to various reasons. I’m not a believer in conspiracy theories and hence can only associate these to incompetency at various levels in the BJP party and Government.

Concern#1 –  BJP is the new Congress

Back in 2010, there was a Congress lead Government at the Center and also Congress lead/partnered governments at the State level (Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, etc). This made it very easy to target the Congress party at various levels – they exposed themselves with their incompetency, ignorance and corruption. BJP was at its best as Opposition party and caught the attention of this nation in a very big way.

Fast forward to 2016 and you will see that the tables have turned. BJP is at the Center and is also in power in most of the States. This has now put them in the same situation that Congress was in 2010. Opposition parties now have nothing to lose and this made them lot more aggressive and anti-Government. The situation is so bad that they do not even blink an eye before supporting people arrested for shouting “death to India”. And these parties think they can get away with it since the issue can easily be deflected as Government’s interference in Education.

Between 2012 and 2014, Congress’s downfall was unraveling right in front of their own eyes and they could do nothing to stop it. BJP is behaving the same way today. They has to get into an overdrive now to counter the opposition forces if they are contemplating a comeback in 2019.

Concern#2- Hollow programs, hollow promises

Indian politics is full of such hollowness. AAP Government promises a Jan Lokpal comprising of 1000s of “honest” officers who will lead the anti-corruption battle, when many states cannot even find a Lokayukta who is blemish free. Andhra and Telangana governments promise all sorts of things like Singapore cities, etc when they should be focus on basic amenities. Bihar Govt wants a Metro rail in Patna by spending 1000s of crores when they could spend a small percentage of that money to improve current infrastructure easily.

BJP Government also has its list of high profile hollow promises – Make In India, Swachh Bharat, Digital India, Startup India. All these programs have 2 key drawbacks:

  1. They all need massive support from State Governments and that is not happening. Starting companies need land, electricity, water and approvals. Almost all of these are State subjects. How will a push simply from Central government help?
  2.  These flashy programs need Governments (at Center and State) to pass Bills, make new/modify laws, release funds, come up with execution strategy and generate awareness among people. Take Swachh Bharat for example – we have been one of the most dirtiest countries for many decades now. How can we fix this mess by simply making people aware of cleanliness issues? What about the rest of pieces required to make a program successful? How is Digital India successful if the Government does not invest in creating digital platforms, data centers and software shared services? How is Digital India different from the flawed approach our civic agencies are already working on? One of the Digital India initiatives could be like this – Enabling municipal corporations in digitization

This Government must realize their strategy is taking them no where. There is a difference between using catchy phrases to capture people’s imagination and translating the same into something that benefits people.

Concern#3 – Failures in Parliament

It will be naive on the part of BJP to expect a helpful Congress party in the Rajya Sabha. Remember the ruckus BJP created during 2G and Coal allocation scams in Parliament? Congress is just paying them back now. What is appalling is the way their leaders responsible for Parliament functioning have failed to bring about any change in the current situation. Not only have they failed to bring other political parties to discussion table, they have also failed to convince the nation that Congress party is simply holding the nation for ransom. Another failure is their inability to come up with credible, alternative strategies (other than the Ordinance fiasco they tried during first 12 months).

BJP must realize they have 2 constraints – their development strategy needs State governments to implement them and they will hardly get any support in Rajya Sabha till 2018. How do you bring about effective policies and change the face of India by working around these constraints is what BJP will be evaluated at. Nothing less.

Concern#4 – Failure to translate challenges into opportunities

During the initial days of their Government, a major power crisis hit Delhi due to snapping of power lines. This Government took some long standing steps and ensured not only the crisis at that time was resolved, Delhi does not run into similar problems in future. That is a good example of converting a challenge into an opportunity.

Sadly, same zest and competency is not shown in handling of various other issues. The minor flare ups in Indian Universities today is a major opportunity to cleanup the system – change laws such that the Vice Chancellors of Universities are not appointed by the Government. UGC, AICTE and other Government agencies responsible for controlling education in this country should be changed. Why is it that major innovations come from Universities in countries like US, UK, France etc while we are unable to translate our academic research into general public good? Governments in general (current, previous, the one before that and so on) like to control education institutes. The current ruckus Opposition parties are creating is a great opportunity for this Government to revamp India’s education system.

Concern#5 – No flagship programs that benefit people in general

Green revolution, White revolution, Telecom revolution, De-regulation of economy, National Highways program, Rural employment guarantee, Rural health mission, Urban rejuvenation program – all these are examples of highly successful programs by various Governments in the past. What they all have in common is the impact they had on general public. Yes, there are criticisms, but the benefits outweigh their flaws and those respective Governments get lot of credit for implementing such flagships programs.

Now think of the past 20 months of this Government and try list down at least 1 program that can be considered as benefiting people directly. Programs like these are what people will remember directly since it impacts their daily lives positives. Jan Dhan, Direct Benefit Transfer etc are very small initiatives whose benefits cannot be easily appreciated by general public. They all have indirect benefits, but hard to see any direct impact.

This Government must realize it is time they start working on programs that reach the last mile; programs that benefit the socially weak, that benefit the urban population, that work in favor of farmers, that create industrial parks and jobs.

Conclusion

It is natural for the current Government to think that they can just brazen out the current attacks by simply ignoring them or giving a knee-jerk reaction. Congress Government made that mistake and paid a heavy price. BJP must realize there is a way to translate these challenges to long term success stories.Without which, 2019 General Elections will produce results similar to 1998 – which is so sad considering all the potential this current Cabinet Ministers have. Please perform well – we cannot take anymore of coalitions with Congress, RJD, SP, BSP, TMC, NCP and AAP.

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