It is election season and I realize that claims, counter-claims will be made during the upcoming elections with the agenda of getting people to vote for their party. This is a natural process of electoral campaigning and there is nothing wrong with it. However, I have a problem when academics venture into politics, so much so that they even contest elections, yet they claim to be unbiased while objectively commenting on matters of public relevance. No politician, political worker or an ardent supporter of any political party or leader can ever be unbiased.
This is relevant for Mr Yadav who recently published an article for The Print which had to be given a befitting rebuttal. I have a good test to check if someone is “biased” or not- look at 5 positive and 5 negatives of all governments, if they criticize and appreciate 3 out of both then they’re unbiased. If not, then well, take everything they say with a pinch of salt. Despite the progress of Gujarat under then Chief Minister Modi and the strong track record of India under Prime Minister Modi, I am yet to find Mr Yadav appreciate him for everything that he’s got right- and believe me, he has got a lot of things right (and wrong too, but that’s how it works)!
It is no secret that Mr Yadav has contested elections and has a strong political interest. It is further evidence that his political interest is conflicting with the interest of the incumbent government so clearly, he is well within his right to not appreciate the current government. I am certain that the government too is not looking for his appreciation- the only appreciation they desire is from the people of India and boy- they do appreciate Modi for the toilets, the gas cylinders, electricity and houses that have been provided to them.
There has been a constant discussion amongst many of my peers and seniors about how the government is dismantling the democracy of India- of how it is trying to silence any form of dissent or how it is intolerant. But the fact that we can have such discussions and criticize the Prime Minister for everything- including for working too hard- suggests that India has a very vibrant space for criticism. So, in that sense, I’ve always found such discussions devoid of any substance as we criticize the government for not allowing us to criticize the government.
The article was amusing as it states that Pulwama will allow the BJP to “capture” the elections as it highlighted how Pulwama was benefiting the BJP’s election fortune and it was shifting the focus from “jobs” and “rural” issues.
First, let us highlight that the issue of jobs has been unnecessarily politicized. The assertion that there has been widespread unemployment in the country is devoid of any reliable evidence, most people cite CMIE but CMIE shows too pessimistic a picture of job creation. The CMIE numbers don’t align with any other indicator of job creation and thus, when all other indicators are showing robust jobs growth then clearly there must be some issue with the CMIE data. Problems with the CMIE data have been explored extensively by Dr Surjit S. Bhalla and he, along with Dr Tirthatanmoy Das have explored the issue of jobs in great detail in their paper on the same (The paper can be accessed by clicking here). In fact, CMIE has an irrefutable link to Congress leader P Chidambaram and thus, is probably prone to bias.
Similarly, on the rural issue, one must look at the situation of the farm sector over a period of time to arrive at whether the situation has worsened for the farmer or if it has improved. The farm and rural economy have faced its own set of challenges and the fact that 2014 and 2015 were two consecutive drought years have not benefitted the farmers. However, with the historic income support scheme, the government has made a departure from the price policy and this, in my opinion, is a major change in India’s agricultural policy (A paper that advocated for cash transfers as an alternative to price policy can be accessed by clicking here).
There has indeed been an attempt to create an environment of dissatisfaction with the current government on a wide range of issues and this is to be expected given that 2019 is an election year. In fact, a bulk of this disenchantment was being propagated by certain people who’ve for long been benefactors of the UPA. The important question is if people were disenchanted with the Prime Minister and repeated opinion polls and surveys have indicated that this is not the case- India’s Prime Minister continues to be a popular and the prime choice for the post of Prime Minister in 2019.
Mr Yadav in his article has assumed that the 100-seat slide was to be true for the BJP in 2019 and that, this slide is likely to reduce post-Pulwama. He bases this assertion on his opinion that the BJP is using this issue and is using the pretext of “national security” to silence the opposition. But his opinion is at best an opinion and it finds no basis in facts as several people post Pulwama termed it as a conspiracy theory despite the JeM taking full responsibility for the attack. The bodies of our brave men had not even reached their homes, but a leading spokesperson of the Congress had tweeted attacking the Prime Minister and politicizing the entire issue. This was even before the BJP made any statements about the Pulwama attacks.
If the BJP is politicizing the Air Strikes, then so is the opposition which lacks the maturity and the decency to handle such complex issues with utmost caution. Opposition’s repeated insistence for proof along with frequent equation of the air strikes with elections has given Pakistani media enough fodder to run their propaganda in their own country. Additionally, the article states that the BJP has controlled the narrative on this from the first day itself, but I hate to point it out that even after Uri, surgical strikes happened and even then, the opposition questioned it and sought proof for the same. The fact that India’s response to terror has changed didn’t happen in January 2019 but it happened long ago so to equate India’s current reaction to elections is outlandish and driven purely by political considerations.
But I do agree with Mr Yadav, the standards for truth have been lowered by certain people in the media as they continue with the falsehood on Rafale day after day. They continue to peddle lies and come out with “exclusive” evidence which is devoid of any substance, however it is done repeatedly purely for electoral considerations. It must be condemned that political parties in the opposition have colluded with certain people in the media to malign the acquisition of the aircraft purely for petty political considerations. Politicization of defence policy and strategic interests began by the opposition so it has no right to cry foul now when the BJP tries to take credit for showing the political will for the recent air-strikes. If UPA had such a political will in 26/11 it surely would have taken its credit just as they continue to take credit for the creation of Bangladesh.
The fact that they didn’t respond is a manifestation of the choice undertaken by the political leadership then and the fact that the NDA responded is a manifestation of the choice undertaken by the current political leadership. Nobody is denying the credit to the armed forces- they indeed performed with utmost professionalism while protecting the honour and dignity of our country. In fact, their response was to ensure peace and stability within the region, so it was well received by the global community. However, the fact remains that such an action was made possible by the political will and capacity to undertake such a risk which was displayed by India’s Prime Minister so of course, he must be given due credit for such a bold decision.
The article by Mr Yadav erroneously assumes that it is the ruling party that is playing politics on the air-strikes, but it omits the fact that politicization of the issue started by leaders of the opposition. Additionally, he assumes that the state machinery will be used for elections while he provides no concrete evidence of any past incident that has led him to such a conclusion.
The article, however, I must welcome because it demonstrates a sign of frustration that certain individuals must be dealing with given that their elaborate attempts at constructing a narrative against the government are failing. In fact, the article can be viewed as an indirect recognition of Prime Minister Modi coming back to power so we must welcome it.
Karan Bhasin is a political economist by training and has diversified research interests in the field of economics. He tweets @karanbhasin95.