When the BJP-led NDA was elected in May 2014, with the first majority in 30 years, it sent shock waves through the complacent body politic. Entrenched ecosystems were suddenly orphaned, though the variety was still ensconced in their positions of privilege. The only problem was they no longer had a direct line to the higher echelons. It was infuriating for people who had ruled the roost on bogus socialism that never alleviated poverty. These worthies had also made a profession of sneering at the very people who were now in power, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, risen high from extremely humble origins.
When the NDA won a second term with a comfortable majority in 2019, it proceeded to consolidate its hold on the Rajya Sabha as well.
Parliamentary power to influence legislative outcomes was snatched away from the INC and its like-minded friends for at least five years more. This is the singular reason that it is now agitating in the streets.
What was still a basis for smirking defiance and noisy obstruction in Modi 1.0, on the thought that the incumbent government would be ousted in 2019, did not come to pass. Instead, it began to look increasingly like the BJP alone was settling in for decades to come.
There have been some opposition defections, both amongst the politicos and their supporters in the bureaucracy, judiciary, police, academia, media, institutions, but these were just the early recognisers of the new reality.
By 2021, the speed of disintegration of the INC is accelerating. Similar difficulties apply to the RJD, the SP, the DMK, even the stand-offish BSP.
The AITC, under siege from the BJP as it goes to the polls in West Bengal very soon, is the only BJP critic that still runs one of the biggest and most important — in terms of the size of the electorate and number of constituencies — states. If it is ousted from government, it will mark the fall of the last bastion. If Maharashtra returns to the BJP from the troika that rules it presently, then the circle of big states in its grasp is almost complete.
Of course, the forthcoming elections additionally in Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will all have significant bearing on both the BJP and the opposition for 2024. The fate of Punjab in 2022 is also something of a question mark.
Within the INC, a new pressure group dubbed the G23, made up of prominent erstwhile loyalists of the Gandhi family is trying now to oust it.
The great dismantling of INC-laid foundations is due to the power of electoral success, but doing away with the former axiomatic bases of policy is highly significant too.
The foundations on which the Nehruvian ‘Idea of India’ was built had a legal and near brick-and-mortar aspect to it, apart from the myth and hagiography that went with it.
The peculiar status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir using the ‘temporary’ Articles 35A and 370 is gone. A lot of demographic jiggery-pokery favouring our massive minority was routinised in Jammu and Kashmir, including the clandestine importation of Rohingyas. The creeping radical Islamisation of Jammu and Kashmir was in the works for decades marking it as perennially unstable and a happy hunting ground for cross border subversion. The entire sinister process has now been upended.
Then came the path-breaking Supreme Court ruling on the grand Ram Temple at Ayodhya. The demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 by hundreds of incensed Hindu nationalists, marked the rise of Hindutva politics. Ever since, the spurious secularism of the Nehruvian era has been under attack.
The Ayodhya verdict came after over a century of legal and administrative interventions. The historical commentary on the prior existence of a temple at the site is documented by British historians from the 1600s.
The verdict, after copious final submissions, resulted in the expulsion of the destroyed Babri Masjid, and the losing side, to the outskirts of a highway leading away from the holy city. A leading Muslim archaeologist, KK Muhammed, part of the team that carried out two excavations in 1976-77 and 2003 established that the Babri Masjid, like many other such edifices around the country, including the mosque at Qutb Minar in Delhi, was built, on ravages or ruins of Hindu temples.
The grand Ram Mandir’s foundation stone was laid by the prime minister himself. It will encompass over 70 ac or more around the actual new temple for gardens, a museum, a library and so on. The symbolism of the entire recreation of Ayodhya city and environs by the Uttar Pradesh government much beyond the temple itself, is of the greatest importance to Hindutva politics.
That process is far from complete in March 2021, but it is a juggernaut on the roll. Many things like the reclaiming of other key temples at Mathura and Varanasi from the mosques that usurped them and the establishing of a uniform civil code have yet to come. This will perhaps stretch to a period beyond 2024 and a possible third consecutive term for the BJP at the centre.
But a slew of modernisation programmes, enhanced electricity, gas, water, digitisation of administrative processes and banking, ‘atmanirbhar’ manufacturing, national security vis-à-vis China, infrastructure, diplomatic wins, economic, land, labour and agricultural reforms, are all surging ahead. So is a recovering GDP. Still, the clamour from the ousted Opposition, if anything, is getting louder.
The agricultural reforms in particular are designed to double the income of the small farmer. This is important, as even today about 60 % of the population continues to live in the rural areas and is directly or indirectly connected with agriculture. That farming is in a crisis of low yields and poor incomes resulting in much misery and a high suicide rate, is why it is urgently in need of reform.
If GST, which did away with multiple cesses in favour of just one, was the signal economic reform of Modi 1.0, the massive defence manufacturing and indigenous acquisition programme marks Modi 2.0 so far.
India is accelerating its capabilities also as the pharmacy to the world after the challenges of developing vaccines to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the biggest beneficiary for the rural masses will come from the effects of the changed farm laws. The so-called Farmer Agitation, which has just crossed its 100th day is due to another classic unmasking of a cabal. A group of no more than 50,000 agents, or Arthiyas, has relentlessly forced the production of wheat and paddy of questionable quality from the state of Punjab. It has forced the use of excess canal and groundwater, resulting in growing salinity, and the overuse of toxic chemical fertilisers. This, in order to extort minimum support prices (MSP) from the Government of India for production far in excess of requirements.
They do so to earn a rapacious commission of 2.5% on all the paddy and wheat bought under MSP, for themselves. The same cabal does nothing to encourage the small farmer to grow other cash crops and vegetables which are both in demand, and could generate better incomes for them.
The MSP system applied to the procurement of wheat and paddy, started in the 1970s so that India could become self-sufficient in these staple crops. It has long outlived its usefulness. Many other states such as Madhya Pradesh produce a better-quality wheat and paddy in abundance now. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) is currently holding over 200% of its requirement of buffer food stocks despite a huge population of nearly 1.5 billion people.
The Modi government passed three farm laws which freed the small farmer from the clutches of the official state ‘mandis’ and their Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC). It empowered farmers to grow what they wanted and sell the produce to whomsoever they chose at their own negotiated prices. This process is facilitated digitally via the internet, via special trains to carry produce around the country, via private contract farming, and also through the existing APMCs. But the MSP regime is no longer empowered as a monopoly.
The government has since followed up the three farm laws by stating it will only pay MSP directly into the bank accounts of the selling small farmer and not via the agents. Early favourable results of the farm law reforms are pouring in from other states. But the Punjab superstructure of parasitical agents is effectively ruined by virtue of this legislation. Therefore, the agitations may continue despite the government’s refusal to repeal the laws. But yes, another pillar of the Nehruvian order has fallen into the dust.