2 years of Modi 2.0: There’s hope after COVID despair

·Columnist
·4 min read
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the ASSOCHAM annual conference 'New India: Aspiring $5 Trillion Economy', at Vigyan Bhawan on December 20, 2019 in New Delhi. Photo: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the ASSOCHAM annual conference 'New India: Aspiring $5 Trillion Economy', at Vigyan Bhawan on December 20, 2019 in New Delhi. Photo: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The seventh anniversary of the NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the second of his new term is on May 30.

This comes at a time when India is facing a ferocious second wave of coronavirus which has impacted lakhs of families spreading mayhem and despair.

The party leadership has made it clear that no event will be held to mark the anniversary due to the circumstances caused by the pandemic.

During the first anniversary last year, the country was under lockdown, but the mood in the BJP was upbeat.

The Modi government had taken historic decisions for which the party was striving for decades - annulment of Article 370 ending special status to Jammu and Kashmir and abolition of Triple Talaq.

It was also credited for the Supreme Court’s go ahead for the construction of the Ram temple (though the government technically had no role).

Modi was also praised for his handling of the coronavirus situation, though it resulted in a migrant crisis. All of this helped the Bharatiya Janata Party to consolidate its support among its core ideological voters.

Things began improving after Diwali and India was back to business with the opening up of the economy. Nomura Business Resumption Index climbed up to 98.1 during mid February this year reaching pre-COVID levels.

The government presented a once in a 100 years Budget which was hailed by the business community and markets with Sensex crossing the 50,000 mark.

Then complacency crept in, social distancing and masking norms were flouted, cases started jumping from 25,000 levels in 2nd week of March to 4,00,000 in 1st week of May. The number of deaths almost doubled in the last two months.

India witnessed almost two months of gloom and despair. The virus reached the gates of near and dear ones. People struggled to get hospitalised, shortages of oxygen and life saving drugs complicated the matter.

The health machinery of states crumbled and the government was caught unawares. Modi’s net approval ratings which stayed above 50 for most part of last year dipped by 20 bps to 31 in May as per Morning Consult.

Source: www.morningconsult.com

Many people, including BJP sympathisers, are not very happy with the handling of the second wave in comparison to the first wave.

Modi has won over Indians by casting himself as a man of the people; a leader who’s honest, transparent, and capable of delivering on economic development. It is this image which has taken a beating.

A large section of the middle class overwhelmingly backed Modi and BJP in the 2014 and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Their turnout has also witnessed an increase over the years.

BJP’s promise to bring down corruption, reduce inflation, create jobs, and promise a fair and equitable society, attracted this group.

This block is sizable, in the range of 35%-40% of the population. A section of the group is feeling somewhat let-down by the handling of the crisis as it has suffered.

Source: NES conducted by CSDS-Lokniti

Financial woes brought by last year's coronavirus pandemic have pushed about one-third Indians out of the middle class, undoing years of economic gains, as per US-based Pew Research Centre.

The lack of a significant financial package for the group to tide over the economic crisis precipitated by the pandemic is also a cause of dissatisfaction.

The middle income voter cuts across all religions, castes and genders and is generally considered as politically amorphous, increasingly deciding election outcomes. They also form a significant part of swing voters.

BJP received 37.7% vote share in 2019 general elections. Two-thirds of the BJP’s voters are its core ideological voters representing 26% vote share. One third of them consist of voters who were pulled towards BJP by the Modi factor, representing 12% vote share.

The boost the BJP gets from Modi’s personal political capital—which took the party past the finish line in elections over the last few years—has often been referred to as the ‘Modi factor’.

It is his ability to attract voters outside the party’s core vote bank and influence them to vote for the BJP. The BJP needs to retain this voting block as it is difficult for the party to secure an absolute majority without their support.

Modi is in damage control mode. A clear roadmap for vaccination has been rolled out. Efforts are being made to boost the domestic manufacturing of vaccines as well as import to meet requirements.

The cases have come down, recoveries exceed new additions, SOS calls have declined and the situation is showing improvement.

No nationwide lockdown has ensured that manufacturing activity is not disturbed and India will have a far lesser economic impact than the first wave.

In the next 3 to 6 months, with vaccination rollout, we are likely to be in a much better position. There is hope after the COVID-induced despair for the Modi dispensation.

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