Development drive can save India’s global image 

People committed to development and preserving the country’s Constitution must become proactive with a resolve to defeat any force that tries to dilute the significance of economic growth

The Aam Aadmi Party’s celebrations following its victory in the prestigious Delhi Assembly elections are not wholly unjustified though its principal challenger, the BJP, has suffered defeat very narrowly in many constituencies. Only small victory margins — ranging from 100 to 2,000 votes — in at least 44 constituencies have enabled AAP to retain power for the third time in the national capital.

It could have been the other way round had the lady luck smiled on the saffron brigade a little more. After all, the BJP’s percentage of the total votes polled has gone up to 38.46 from 32.7 per cent during the 2015 elections. It’s a different matter that the difference of the vote percentage between that of the AAP (53.6 per cent) and the BJP (38.46) remains huge.

A close analysis of the votes polled by the three main parties in the 2020 Delhi elections shows that AAP has got the people’s mandate to form its government again in the national capital also because the Congress drew a blank with most of its nominees losing their deposit.

The grand old party of India got just 4.4 per cent votes. Thus, the AAP success primarily lies in its ability to grab almost all anti-BJP votes. This happened in 2015 too when the Congress could get only 9.7 per cent votes against AAP’s 54.3 per cent votes.

This goes to prove that a little better performance by the Congress could have indirectly helped the BJP turn the tables on AAP. Today the AAP leadership could be licking its wounds. The loud talk of the people having preferred Arvind Kerjiwal’s development-based agenda over the BJP’s divisive agenda is not based on solid foundations.

Therefore, it is an occasion to give a serious thought to the hard reality that almost 38.5 per cent Delhi voters are not bothered about what they have gained as a result of people-friendly schemes of the AAP government. The appeal of development is not as much as is being highlighted. A little more tactful handling of the elections by the BJP could have enabled it to capture power.

But the people’s interest lies in ensuring that negative and emotional issues have little relevance when it comes to taking a decision about electing their representatives in Parliament or a legislative assembly. In 2012, India had as much as 22 per cent of its population living in poverty. Today the situation may have improved a little, but poverty remains widespread in the country even now. According to a Brookings Institution report, 5.5 per cent Indians still live in extreme poverty.

Leave aside these figures which can hardly tell the actual story. Make a round of India’s villages, particularly in BIMARU states, the picture will be crystal clear. A majority of the rural Indians still find it difficult to have two square meals a day. Those who lead a better life have either their sons and daughters working in big cities or abroad.

India needs to ensure that emotional issues like mandir-masjid, communal ill-will, promotion of hatred against any section of society and divisive schemes camouflaged as “nationalist projects” are not the guiding factors for people to decide to cast their votes in an election.

In the 2017 UP assembly elections, the SP-Congress combine could win only 55 seats despite SP chief Akhilesh Yadav enjoying the image of having provided a massive road network and initiated different kinds of development projects throughout the state. Compared to this, the BJP’s score was 324 of the total 410 seats in the assembly though it had little to offer as development. The elections in India’s most populous and politically most significant state was fought without Yogi Adityanath having been projected as the party’s chief ministerial candidate.

Of course, it was the Modi magic which was at play in the UP polls and worked wonders for the BJP, enabling the party to stage a comeback after a big gap of 14 years. But why has Prime Minister Narendra Modi become what he is today — India’s most popular leader, way ahead of everybody in the Opposition? He has acquired two hats to wear, depending on the situation. Certainly, the hat associated with his image as a “Vikas Purush” or a man committed to development had little to do in UP, one of the most poverty-stricken states of India.

In the 2019 parliamentary elections, too, it was Modi’s image as a leader who easily fitted in with the scheme of things of ultra-nationalists in the country which helped the saffron party come to power at the Centre with a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha.

However, anyone who believes that Modi as a “Vikas Purush” has acquired a very powerful appeal among the voters, who favoured the BJP to defeat the opposition parties in a majority of the parliamentary constituencies is sadly mistaken. It is his image as a tough politician who intils a sense of pride among the ultranationalists that proved to be the most effective factor to capture power.

Behind this image of Modi are factors like Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, the law on “triple talaq” for Muslims, taking Jammu and Kashmir out of the purview of the Constitution’s Article 370 which provided it a special status and getting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) enacted before the beginning of the feared process of preparing the National Population Register (NPR) and the controversial National Register of Citizens.

For the first time in his political career, Modi is faced with a major challenge put up by the secular forces in the country over the CAA-NPR-NRC issue. The way he has been handling this challenge has exposed him as really not being a man who has economic issues dear to his heart. He has been proved to be anybody other than a “Vikas Purush”.

Had he really been a committed “Vikas Purush” he would not have allowed his colleagues in the BJP to create a condition in development appears to have been replaced by an agenda to change the basic and secular character of the Constitution with a view to ultimately declaring India as a theocratic state. This means taking the country on the road to ruin.

Time is running out. People committed to development and preserving the country’s Constitution in its pristine purity, as given by the Founding Fathers, must become proactive with a resolve to defeat any political force which tries to dilute the significance of economic growth which alone can ensure that the country remains one of the two (China and India) engines of the 21st century, poised to be known as the Asian century.