Will 2016 Be Make Or Break For The NDA Government?

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Photo: PIB
Photo: PIB

Threatened by the growing perception that the NDA government has failed to revive the economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the much hyped Startup India project on 16 January. But the unfortunate suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student in University of Hyderabad (UOH) the very next day, reinvigorated the Opposition to fight against the Sangh Parivar.

Will it derail the Modi government’s plan to revive confidence among the people which steadily eroded in the past 19 months? And with the government’s tenure reaching midway, will 2016 be a gamechanger?

The NDA coalition started off with winning Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly elections and making a spectacular gains in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly election. But, 2015 was not at all good for the BJP and its allies. It lost Delhi and later, Bihar elections along with a few bypolls as well. Local body elections in UP, Maharashtra and Gujarat also followed the same trend.

Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are gearing up for polls this year. According to party insiders, the BJP has a slim hope only in Assam. Modi has already started campaigning in the Northeastern state. However for the BJP, the biggest challenge will be in 2017 when Uttar Pradesh and Punjab go to polls.

These elections are crucial since the preparations for the general elections will be well underway afterwards.

How Modi government will overcome the challenges it faces is the biggest question. Parties such as the BSP could tap into the anger in the wake of Rohit’s suicide to their advantage in the UP polls.

The performance in Parliament, despite the absolute majority in Lok Sabha the government enjoys, has been no less shambolic. The government failed to make a consensus with Opposition and could not pass the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and other important Bills due to opposition.

While Monsoon session was washed out by issues such as Lalit Modi scandal and Vyapam scam, in the Winter session, government felt the heat of controversies such as the intolerance debate, VK Singh’s remark on Dalits and the DDCA scam.

Considering the mood of the Congress, the main opposition party, the consensus looks unlikely in the future as well. Randeep Surjewala, national spokesperson of the Congress, tells Tehelka, “Modi government is autocratic. This has been known throughout its 19-month rule. It is showing myopic policy making and complete negativity in engagement not only with the Opposition but also the State and non-State actors.”

Country’s diminishing economy is another major challenge for Modi despite GDP estimated to grow at 7.3 percent making India the fastest growing major economy in the world. The act of lowering FDI restrictions on 15 more sectors in November to attract investment failed to prop up the falling stock market and rupee continued its plunge. The easing of FDI norms was done soon after the Bihar election setback and at a time when the government was in no position to implement GST from its 1 April target date.

According to World Bank data, India’s ranking in ease of doing business index has improved and the total FDI has risen by 18 percent. But private sector investment is well below public investment which shows that investment climate has not improved and corporates are not expecting a revival soon.