The most difficult task during times of elections is to find an apolitical topic to write on. A likely consequence is that some of us may end up not being able to put to words what we think as we want to keep our political preferences and our views private. I’ve seen many people come out in public about their political preferences and I, too have openly expressed my desire for Prime Minister Modi to come back to power with a complete majority.
2013 was in many ways a critical juncture that changed the path of India’s journey as a modern nation. It doesn’t seem like a lot has changed because we have become too normal to the “Modi-Raj” but if you ask people in Madhya Pradesh, they will vouch for the difference as they suffered due to their inability to feel this change.
A good example is power outrages which were too common before 2014 but now we get adequate electricity- especially in metropolitan cities. In fact, as of 2019, there are very few households in India that do not have access to electricity- yes, that’s the scale of transformation of India over the last five years.
Let us not get too normal in our new life and forget where we were in 2013 as we go out to vote in 2019 because 2019 too, is yet another critical juncture that has the potential to change the path of India’s journey as a civilization that has lived, endured and prospered across the thousands of years of its existence.
While the last 5 years witnessed a couple of big bang structural reforms combined with procedural tweaks, there are many more reforms that the economy desperately needs and given India’s current political environment, only a strong BJP government with the absolute majority can deliver them. In fact, as of today, the only political leader who’s focussing on an agenda of reforms is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is interesting that 5 years ago, the Prime Minister sought a mandate to transform the Indian Economy and having delivered some of it, he has decided to further consolidate these reforms going forward. Most people do agree that the next government would have Mr Modi as the Prime Minister so we must applaud the PM for making reforms politically viable.
A major reason behind the strong chances of re-election despite what many calls as “disruptive” reforms is the strong persona of Mr Modi combined with the trust that he has earned through his performance over the last 5 years. The high voter-turnout despite the lack of wave or any anti-incumbency is an indication that this trust is higher than what it was in 2014. A major advantage in 2019 is that PM now has a tangible track record that he can show to people and he makes it a point to not just show it but compare it with previous governments. What truly stands about his 5 years is that even when we compare his 60 months of governance with 60 years of other governments, his performance stands out. That is the scale and extent of transformation under the NDA and BJP is hard selling this in its election campaign.
On the other side, we have a group of political leaders that are fighting for their survival yet, they’re so disconnected from the ground that they’ve absolutely no idea about the aspirations of India. In a talk in December of 2014, Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe mentioned how India of 2014 was booming with aspirations and the BJP was going to reform the economy and enable people to fulfil them. Incidentally, while the BJP did precisely this since 2014, the opposition parties are yet to understand this change in the mindset of Indians and they continue to believe in their socialist and populist outlook as a tool to win elections.
In their defence, certain political analysts have convinced them that the recent victory of Congress in the three state assemblies of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan was because of the promise of a farm loan waiver. While the victory in Chhattisgarh was surprising (DISCLAIMER; My forecast for all the three states was wrong) but a careful analysis of the electoral result of Madhya Pradesh suggests that the victory margin was too small for the Congress in many seats. Additionally, Congress’s performance was so close even after 15 years of anti-incumbency against the BJP and a deficient monsoon in some parts of the state. This suggests that the victory in Congress does not imply that voters would embrace populism. Given that Rajasthan anyway oscillates, and here too the Congress didn’t do as well as it could have (based on the historical switch), we can conclude that this too doesn’t reflect that populism wins elections.
While populism does impact elections, it may not have as big an impact as it did way back in 2009 when UPA gained a significant number of seats after having declared a farm loan waiver. Additionally, perhaps populism benefits the incumbent more than the opposition as any promise made by the incumbent is likely to have more credibility than the opposition. The underlying fact remains that India is no longer India it was in 2009, the rapid expansion of India’s middle class which is likely to have only accelerated during the last 5 years will ensure that opposition parties have a hard time to survive in 2019 elections.
The progress over the last 5 years has been impressive, but India still yearns for more reforms and the only person who can deliver it is Narendra Modi. So, it is imperative that we remember how far India has come, how our lives have changed and how India has evolved over the last 5 years when we go out to vote in 2019. It is equally important for us to not just remember this change but to also remind others of this change and inspire them to go out to vote.
Your one vote has the power to change the trajectory of an entire nation- we did in 2014 and we can repeat it in 2019.
Karan Bhasin is a political economist by training and has diversified research interests in the field of economics. He tweets @karanbhasin95.