Empty slogans, promises

Empty slogans, promises

LESSONS FROM BIHAR : The verdict is an indication that mere announcements will not cut ice. People acr-oss all affiliations want real solid palpable d

Empty slogans, promises
The Bihar election results are out. The Mahaghathbandhan has scored a resounding victory over the BJP-led NDA in this bitterly fought polls. The election assumed a huge national-level importance because Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it almost like a referendum on himself.

Leaving New Delhi, he spoke at a number of rallies in various parts of Bihar. Several people around him and associated with the BJP thought of this election as a valuable opportunity to further propagate their ‘save the cow, banish the beef-eater, discipline the dissenter’ kind of views which they, perhaps, thought would do justice to the ‘historically wronged’ Hindu religion. Somehow, things did not gel.

The BJP and its friends need not worry too much whether their ‘crusade’ went wrong. Because if we see the results from the Muslim-dominated areas of Bihar, BJP+ got 22 seats out of a total of 53. Party chief Amit Shah’s “If BJP loses Bihar, crackers will burst in Pakistan” remark during the last phase of the election did not do as much damage as many political analysts had expected.

Nor did the advertisement showing a cow-cuddling Bihar belle go any distance. Despite all such provocations, the Muslims in the Muslim-dominated areas in Bihar have not bowled them out for a low score. Muslims across India seem to be taking a mature and tolerant view. The indication from this election and several other instances is that the minorities and Muslims in particular, have gone beyond the petty religion-based provocations and inducements. But, that is a separate issue.

What did go wrong for BJP and Modi – the head campaigner – was their favorite plank of ‘vikas’ (development). People of India want development. The very poor people aspire to have two square meals a day. The slightly better-off ones aim for primary healthcare and basic education.

The poor farmers want assured inputs (water, power, seeds, pesticides, storage facilities and funds for all these) at affordable rates, and guaranteed market and fair prices or their farm produce. So that, again, their very basic needs are met. The middle class people, particularly the youth, are looking out for jobs – at present, a large percentage of them are jobless.

A small number in terms of the country’s population - in the upper echelons of this class - aspire for better amenities and appliances – cars, roads, rail, metro, aviation, housing, technical gadgets, better recreational facilities, among others. A few businesspersons and entrepreneurs seek an expanding market and ‘ease of doing business’.

Narendra Modi promised almost the ‘moon’ for everybody. And he keeps promising the moon and other lovely things beyond. Modi is a great orator and a great artist. He paints scenarios with words; very few politicians so far have been able to do so.

The problem with him is that he and his NDA government at the Centre have not done any justice to those promises; not until now, after almost 18 months of the NDA rule. It is like a company that advertises for fabulous looking products on the TV; but when you go into the store, most of those products are not available. Some that are available do not meet your expectations.

Modi may have the best of intentions. But he announces too many ‘developmental’ would-be products or schemes. The feeling is that generally half the time he is abroad; and when he is on the domestic soil, he announces one new scheme every third day.

There is a crowd of his programmes, schemes and projects. Many are programmes that would be ‘on-going’ with no definite start and end time like ‘Make in India’, the recent ‘Digitise India’ or the ‘Swachh Bharat’ with Mahatma Gandhi as its icon. One is not sure, but perhaps the prime minister is under the impression that once he announces a programme – say ‘Skilling India’ – it takes shape by itself powered by the force of his words themselves.

Larger than life image

There is this larger than life image of Narendra Modi – in the minds of the BJP followers and Modi himself – that prevents any review, any concrete conceptualising, long-term organising, sustained implementation, periodic and 360 degree monitoring, correcting and re-energising.

Yes, eggs have to be laid. But, they also have to be hatched; the chickens have to be fed and nurtured for more eggs to be had later. The NDA narrative, actually the Modi narrative, lacks the long-term perspective. There are too many assumptions and ‘He Man’-like conjectures (56-inch chest?) of infallibility.

People of Bihar, like all other Indians, have seen that very few of the promises, made during the 2014 general elections and after assuming power, have been delivered. Modi wants a good name for himself; any good prime minister would. But, he tends to take short-cuts for the same.

He took the short-cut once, in a very big way, during the last general elections; he promised a new India and he won. But, he won against a regime that had put its name in the mud by one corruption scandal after another. Therefore, a vision of a pocketful, job-full, corruption-free, golden Bharat worked.

But, the vision of development has to be worked upon and tangible results produced. Modi and NDA have to really ‘make it’. The Bihar election results are an indication that mere announcements and pronouncements will not cut ice. People of India – across all religious, caste and other affiliations – want real solid palpable development.

(The writer is former Professor, Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore)
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