In a number of my previous pieces, I have opposed the current BJP regime through a three-pronged metric of ideology, leadership and policy prioritisation. However, in an attempt to come to terms with the idea that the BJP regime is an apparently democratically elected government, I have decided to assess its merit not on the basis of the aforementioned criteria, but instead on the grounds of the progress made on the very exact promises that brought Modi to power for a second term, the promises made in the 2019 BJP Manifesto.
In Prime Minister Modi’s address to the nation, he mentioned that “the people of India are convinced that if there is one party that can address their problems, it is the BJP.” On practically every front that the party attempted to cover in its manifesto, data would disagree.
For starters, a very bold promise was made regarding the economy. The BJP proclaimed that India is on track to become the 3rd largest economy by 2030, and that it is currently the fastest growing economy in the world. But why is the size of the economy even the base for assessing economic well-being of citizens, especially considering India is ranked 148th by the IMF World Economic Outlook’s GDP per capita ranking? Furthermore, Amit Shah seems to be discounting or perhaps knowingly excluding the fact that developing economies are known to grow faster than developed economies. Comparing the growth rate of a developing nation like India with that of the USA or China is an audacious comparation.
The BJP’s goal to make India a 5 trillion-dollar economy by 2025 is ‘simply out of the question’, as hailed by an ex-RBI governor. The World Bank in its assessment of India in 2020, said that the economy is ‘worse than ever’, with a 23.9% contraction rate in the June quarter of 2020. The economy is also expected to shrink at 10.3% in FY21, which when juxtaposed with the 9% growth rate needed to meet the $5 trillion goal, appears to provide prospects that are bleak at best.
The Bharatiya Janta Party also took a firm stand regarding the reduction of taxes, yet interestingly the Modi government’s increase in tax to GDP ratio over 4 years is twice that of Manmohan Singh government. The Modi government has raised taxes at a far higher rate than its predecessors, despite being “guided by the principle of lowering the tax rate.”
Moving on to the even worse failure, GST: Modi came to power guaranteeing states an annual revenue growth of 14% from what they were earning in 2015-16. They also mentioned that any shortfall would be topped by the government till 2022. Amusingly yet unsurprisingly, not a single large state has met this target yet, with 2019-20 figures looking like 10% growth for Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, 9.4% for Telangana, 9.2% for Maharashtra and 9.1% for West Bengal.
Evidently, the Modi administration’s economic goals that were unfeasible to begin with yet trusted in by Indians, have now proved to be the colossal failures that economic experts deemed them to be when the manifesto was released.
The manifesto also ambitiously promised to double farmers’ income by 2022. Farmer income hasn’t been this bad in 20 years. As a professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences claimed, this proposal was “never realistic” and “badly designed.” Mr Amit Shah pledged to “ensure better price and return to the farmers” but then passed the 2020 Farm Bills with little discussion on them in parliament, virtually handing over the agricultural industry to corporates. With an exponentially diminished bargaining power, no guaranteed minimum support price (especially detrimental to farmers in Punjab and Haryana), and no means of questioning the laws imposed, an increase in farmer income (especially for small and marginal farmers which make us 80% of the agricultural workforce) will be just about as likely as it is for Rahul Gandhi to join the BJP.
One of the schemes that the government excessively prides itself on is ‘Make in India’. Much like the other schemes that the government thinks are great, this too has been deemed a catastrophe. The manifesto outlined a goal of increasing the share of the manufacturing sector to 25% of the GDP by 2022. We are currently in 2021 and the manufacturing sector accounts for less than 15% of the GDP, with experts saying there is little likelihood of a significant increase in this number. The BJP also vowed to deliver 150 technology centres to support the MSME sector, out of which only 33 have been built as of 2021.
Broken promise after broken promise, and we’ve only covered economic undertakings yet.
One of the most significant violations of democracy, that in my mind likens India to Germany of the 1930s, is the passing of the CAA. The stated aim of the act is to protect “individuals of religious neighbouring countries escaping persecution.” I find it interesting that government disregarded the minority status of Rohingya Muslims, who constitute only one million of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority population of 54 million, when drafting the act. Consequently, it comes across as no surprise that India is no longer recognised as a free country and is labelled as a ‘flawed democracy’.
The CAA is a humanitarian violation against Muslims outside of India, but the BJP regime’s staunch ignorance towards Muslims transcends the restrictions of physical and political borders. I am sure the government “made all necessary efforts to ensure peace” (as they proclaimed in their manifesto) by cutting off internet access to the citizens of Kashmir for six whole months from August 2019 to January 2020. Even today Kashmiris have no access to 4G network. I suppose we should have predicted this outcome from past trends. A bill of such immense magnitude being passed after only one day of discussion in each house of the parliament was bound to be a disgrace. The BJP has a long way to go before it can say that it has even tried to bring about “transparency in policy making.”
The regime’s progress on its social promises has also been below satisfactory at best, and utterly disappointing at worst. The Jai Jivan Mission swore to provide piped water connections to every household in India by 2024. Yet, in states like Karnataka, only 29% of rural households have piped water supply as of March 2021. Of the 19.19 crore rural households in India, only about 7 crore have access to piped water, that is 36.83%.
Furthermore, the BJP pats itself on the back in its manifesto, proclaiming that 97% of all villages in India have electricity. Classic deception move: a village is declared to be ‘electrified’ if only 10% of the households have access to electricity. Is this a joke?
In the document, the party also referred to itself as a “global champion in addressing the issues of climate change.” I’m sure that lines up with the fact that since 2019 India has consistently been the third largest contributor to carbon emissions, succeeded only by the USA and China. The USA is reducing its carbon emissions at a rate of 4.5%, China’s emissions are increasing at 1%, but India’s emissions continue to grow at 5%. I would hardly call the BJP a champion of anything, a champion of addressing climate change would be far down the list.
Narendra Modi also said that India is committed to becoming corruption-free. In 2020 India’s ranking on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index fell 6 positions to 86th. A large part of this corruption occurs in the police forces, where it is also important to note that only 6.4% of the entire police force has received training in the past five years.
Coming to the dismal state of the security of women in India, the manifesto claims that BJP is working towards the empowerment of women in India. Yet, India’s ranking on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index fell from 112th in 2020, to 140th in 2021. India sees 88 rape cases a day, with a consistently low conviction rate of less than 30%. The BJP must have some warped idea of what safety means, because this certainly isn’t it.
It is also worth mentioning that India’s transgender laws are no great feat as they recognise trans people only if they have proof of a sex-alteration surgery. That effectively means that for someone to be recognised by their gender, they need to undergo an invasive, expensive and exhaustive medical procedure that not all trans people want. Furthermore, same-sex marriage has not been granted in India, neither has same-sex parenting through adoption. India is overwhelmingly regressive in its practices, and a line saying ‘we support transgenders’ in a manifesto isn’t enough justification for the gross inaction or rather the poor decisions of the regime.
It is a valid notion to not expect an ideological change from the BJP government, but at least with the pandemic pushing 75 million Indians into poverty that is accentuated by the Farm Bills and degenerating worker laws, and the presence of a deteriorating economy, the BJP should act of the promises that it made on the basis of which people voted for them.