The Narendra Modi government 2.0 completes one year on May 30. During its previous tenure, the BJP had celebrated the first anniversary of the Modi government as five-day Jan Kalyan Parv.
The first anniversary of Modi 2.0 is all set to be comparatively muted, thanks to Covid-19 pandemic. However, the BJP has planned virtual rallies and outreach programmes to publicise the achievements of Modi 2.0.
The BJP, the Union ministers and some of the central agencies engaged in dealing with Covid-19 crisis have claimed that coronavirus lockdown saved thousands of lives in India.
The lockdown enforced by the Modi government, though created problems for daily wage earners and migrants labourers, was praised for being the strictest in the world.
This is in sharp contrast to what the principal opposition party Congress believes. On May 25, the Congress put out a survey saying 76 per cent people were unhappy with the Narendra Modi government’s handling of Covid-19 situation, as of May 21. The corresponding figure for May 1 was 54 per cent.
The point that the Congress tried to make is that the Modi government was losing popularity with each passing day in the shadow of continued surge in coronavirus cases across the country.
The Congress may be interested in the results of an online survey conducted by citizen engagement platform, LocalCircles. The survey says 62 per cent citizens feel that the Modi 2.0 has met or exceeded their expectations.
Only 10 per cent people participating in this online survey said the Modi government handled Covid-19 outbreak in India “not effectively” or “quite poorly”.
A resounding 59 per cent gave “very effective” grade to Modi government’s response to Covid-19 pandemic. Another 31 per cent called it “somewhat effectively” handled.
These broad results are bound to make the BJP happy. But in the fine print, the Congress may claim vindication for its suggestion that the Modi government is losing popularity. In a different reading of the survey, 40 per cent did not think that the Modi government’s response was very effective against Covid-19.
The survey shows people’s opinion till May 14 only, when the third phase of lockdown was in place and rules were beginning to be relaxed. The migrants were an issue of debate but they became a hot political debate in the second half of May.
This was when the Congress turned aggressive, its leader Rahul Gandhi meeting migrants on the streets of Delhi, and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra offering 1,000 buses to ferry them.
Rahul Gandhi sought to know Plan-B from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Congress president Sonia Gandhi backs Rahul Gandhi’s demand of direct cash support to migrants in her latest letter to the government.
This is a shift from Congress’s stand taken in the initial weeks of lockdown. The Congress had said it would not criticise the government during Covid-19 crisis even if it does not fully agree with the measures being taken by the ruling dispensation.
However, as the Narendra Modi government is headed to complete one year in power in its second term, the principal Opposition party Congress changed tone over Covid-19. Clearly, the Congress is not willing to let the Modi government 2.0 celebrate its first anniversary claiming glory.
With the Rs 21 lakh crore package, the Modi government has tried to address the issues emerging from economic slowdown and coronavirus lockdown. Economic slowdown is a lingering problem for the Modi government 2.0.
Before Covid-19 outbreak happened in India, rising unemployment, the Citizenship Amendment Act and Delhi riots were the issues haunting the government. Some leaders like Mamata Banerjee initially said coronavirus was nothing but an attempt to divert public attention from communal agenda of the Modi government.
The second term of the Modi government has been fast-paced and eventful. During this period, the Modi government fulfilled some of the core Hindutva promises the BJP had made in the past and the RSS had been championing for long: the triple talaq law, revocation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation into two Union Territories, and the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Another core agenda of the RSS-BJP fructified through a Supreme Court judgment that paved way for construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya at the site where Babri Masjid stood till December 1992. A separate site was to be allotted, in the Supreme Court ruling, for a new mosque.
As Modi 2.0 turns 1 this weekend, lack of job creation- highlighted in the migrants’ issue – remains at the core of the economic and governance problem. This is at the bottom of declining demand or private consumption, which is plaguing India’s economy.
About 56 per cent of the participants in the survey said India has not been able to address the issue of unemployment in the last one year. This is a political fodder that the Congress would like to feed on, and the BJP to eliminate from post-Covid-19 India.