The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance rode to power promising solutions to some of the burning issues – monumental corruption, huge amount of black money lying in foreign banks, depreciation of rupee, rising prices, nose-diving exports, surging unemployment, never-ending suicides by farmers, worsening water crisis in drought-hit areas and many more. But the story line changed drastically once the proponents of ‘good days are coming’ occupied the seats of power on the Raisina Hills in Delhi. Their theme song is no more ‘good governance’. It is written with words like Hindutva, nationalism, patriotism, Bharat Mata, Vande Mataram, etc. which are bizarrely defined by organisations like RSS and individuals like Ramdev, Sakshi Maharaj, Swami Adityanath, and their ilk. Understandably, this sudden shifting of goalposts has met with widespread criticism.
Apparently this shift of focus from issues to non-issues is not without reason. The replacement of development agenda with saffron agenda is a calculated move to deflect people’s attention from the unfulfilled promises made in the run-up to the general elections. After assuming power, Modi government has come face-to-face with the reality staring at it like a monster. A few months into the power, it became evident that most of the poll promises were still a non-starter and could remain so. To cover-up these failures, the government has, seemingly, adopted a two-pronged strategy: one, to rename the old schemes and give them a new appearance; two, to deflect attention from people’s issues to those which have an emotional appeal among a section of the public. The encouragement being given to MGNREGS, Aadhar scheme, Swachch Bharat, Jan Dhan scheme, etc. belongs to the first category, while beef ban, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, etc. belong to the second category. It is no coincidence that before the beginning of each session of Parliament in the last two years, one or other Sangh Parivar leader came out with controversial statements leading to a wash-out of the entire session. This helped the government to escape answering probing questions from the Opposition on serious issues facing the common man. The Supreme Court’s coming down heavily on the Centre and some of the State governments on their lackadaisical attitude to the drought situation in various parts of the country should be a reminder to the Modi government to take up people’s issues seriously.
There seems to be yet another reason for bringing saffron agenda to the fore. The Modi government came to power with the unstinted support of Sangh Parivar cadres. Now, it is ‘pay back’ time for the government and it is allowing the fringe elements to rake up emotive issues with communal overtones. That is why most of the controversial issues have been raised by sants, sadhus, sadhvis and Hindutva elements in the BJP rather than by seasoned party leaders. It is to be noted that some of the BJP leaders have voiced their concern over Sangh Parivar hijacking the government’s agenda. In the long run, the ignoring of development agenda will cost BJP dearly. As the Modi government turns two years in a few weeks, it would do good to remember it.