By Ramya Kannan
As the third-year anniversary of the current Indian government approaches, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to host seven programmes as part of the celebrations. The most important among these will be the “Modi Fests”to be held between May 26 and June 15, 2017 in at least 125 locations.
In a bid to highlight the successful implementation of its schemes, all Union ministers, chief ministers and other state ministers are expected to go to various districts and inform the public about the introduction of welfare programmes for the poor. Exhibitions, outreach programmes and the distribution of booklets recording the achievements by each ministry will supplement these visits.
It is widely accepted by the party members that BJPs recent wins in states like Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Manipur were a result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of poverty alleviation. Its plans for the anniversary celebrations can be seen as an attempt to increase support among the deprived sections in order to reproduce these electoral successes in the 2019 Assembly elections.
Focus on PM’s pro-poor policies
During the three years in office, the Modi government has gone out of its way to shed its pro-capitalist image by introducing numerous schemes for the economically disadvantaged. It has also tried to facilitate farmers through schemes for irrigation, traditional bio-farming, the introduction of soil health card, expansion of crop insurance, and the National Agriculture Market (e-NAM).
While the party has often emphasised its objective of doubling farmers income by 2022, progress in terms of policy implementation remains slow. Only 21 out of the 99 irrigation projects are expected to be completed by June this year, and a limited number of products are exchanged over e-NAM.
The government has also infused more monetary resources into existing policies and has introduced welfare schemes aimed those below the poverty line.
BJP officials have stated that the beneficiaries of schemes like Ujjwala, intended to provide LPG connections to poor women, and Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA Bank), will be notified as part of the third-anniversary celebrations. The scope and effectiveness of the new schemes are under the scanner, as it is possible that the ambitious plans are merely part of the political rhetoric.
Beyond the stat(e)us quo
BJP has relied heavily on PM Modis pro-poor stance to expand as well as maintain support across the country. While the party opposed the idea of a loan waiver in 2009, it adopted it as a major electoral promise in the Uttar Pradesh elections. The Yogi Adityanath government has also promised to introduce Annapurna canteens to provide meals at minimal costs. Both of these, however, rely on the governments ability to divert funds effectively such that the exchequer does not suffer.
The pro-poor stance is also visible in policy proposals and implementation in Gujarat, where Chief Minister Roopani recently passed a series of laws. These include capping of annual fees charged by private schools, provision of full lunch to artisans and labourers at Rs. 10, state intervention in the case of falling agricultural prices, and allocating funds for bigger irrigation projects.
Another move to expand support was the call by PM Modi asking backward sections among the Muslims to take advantage of welfare schemes for the poor. A large scale meeting was held in New Delhi to highlight the partys commitment towards the deprived sections within the Muslim minority, a section otherwise found to be in contention with BJPs ideals.
The need to go beyond mere emulation of the partys tactics in state elections is apparent, and the third year anniversary celebrations attempt to do just that by accentuating its commitments. While these are evident means of expanding the voter base, the citizens need to consider how many such commitments have actually been translated into accomplishments.
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