Joblessness, Debt in India Threaten Strongman PM Modi in May Election
With the extreme debt, depression and suicide rates facing the Indian farming community, current Prime Minister Modi’s polling numbers may be slipping heading into the May election.
“Our kids are educated, they’re filling out forms, but they’re not getting work. I have three daughters and a son. I have to get them married, but none has a job,” said a woman in Agra in the politically competitive Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. “Last time, we gave [our votes in the 2014 election] to him, but this time we won’t,” she continued when speaking to the Guardian. According to the outlet, the other women gathered nearby agreed with her sentiments.
Despite disturbing unemployment numbers threatening Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration, recent conflict with Pakistan after the February Pulwama terrorist attack, which Modi blames the Pakistani government for, his polling numbers have improved.
“India’s parliament passed a landmark bill on Wednesday reserving 10 percent of government jobs for people outside high-income brackets, a move criticized by some as a pre-election gimmick amid high unemployment,” Reuters reported in January, explaining another aspect of Modi’s recent strong polling numbers.
According to an aggregate of March polling by News Nation and ABP News/C voter, the National Democratic Alliance led by Prime Minister Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leads the United Progressive Alliance, led by the Social Democratic Indian National Congress (INC) 37.5 to 29.5 as the April 11 opening stages of voting approaches.
“On February 20 an estimated 50,000 agricultural workers donned red pointed caps, or topis, and began a 110-mile protest march through the state of Maharashtra, in west-central India,” the Nation reported. “Landless laborers, members of tribal communities and farming families traveled from village to village singing traditional songs.”
“Farmers were a big part of the rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. In 2014 Modi swept to power with almost half of the landowning farmers’ vote after he promised to double their incomes within five years. But shortly after Modi came into office, official statements conveniently pushed this lofty goal forward to 2022,” the outlet continued. With the extreme debt, depression and suicide rates facing the Indian farming community if the BJP loses a substantial amount of its support, it could end Modi’s time as prime minister.
In January the Business Standard of India published findings showing BJP was suppressing reports of an alarmingly high unemployment rate in India. The report showed India was facing a 45-year high of joblessness. Modi would deny the claims soon thereafter, despite members of the National Statistical Commission (NSC) resigning, including the chairman who accused Modi’s government of denying the statistic.
Indian National Congress
The Social Democratic INC presents the biggest threat to BJP control, according to readily available polling. In early April the party released its manifesto ahead of the upcoming election. The following are several key platform elements.
Minimum Income Guarantee to Eliminate Poverty or Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY)To ensure a life of dignity to all Indians, Congress will introduce the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) under which Rs. 72,000/year will be transferred to the poorest 20 percent households in India. It will be transferred to the woman in the household, as far as possible.Universal HealthcareCongress promises to enact the Right to Healthcare Act and guarantee every citizen free diagnostics, out-patient care, free medicines and hospitalization, through a network of public hospitals and enlisted private hospitals. We will double expenditure on healthcare to 3 percent of GDP by 2023-24.Gender JusticeCongress promises to pass in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha the Women’s Reservation Bill reserving 33 percent of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies. Congress will also reserve 33 percent of all posts/vacancies in the Central Government for women.End to Hate CrimesIn the last five years under the NDA Government, hate crimes and atrocities against vulnerable sections of the people have increased manifold. Congress promises to end the sense of impunity, stamp out mob violence and lynching, and prevent atrocities and hate crimes against the SC [scheduled castes], ST [scheduled tribes], women and minorities. Congress will hold accountable the police and district administration for proven negligence in the case of riots, mob violence and hate crimes.Environment and ClimateChange Congress promises an action agenda that will place India at the forefront of the battle against global warming and environmental protection. We recognize that air pollution is a national public health emergency and will significantly strengthen the National Clean Air Programme. Forests, wildlife, water bodies, rivers, clean air and coastal zones are precious natural resources that belong to the people, and we will protect them. We will set up an independent, empowered and transparent Environment Protection Authority, redefine the role of the Forest Departments and increase our forest cover.
As the writing of this article, BJP is scheduled to release its manifesto sometime on Monday, April 8.