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Betting big on nationalism, did Modi really ignore the job problem?


New Delhi, May 26: With the Lok Sabha elections 2019 entering its last phase, Modi is seeking a second term, in a national poll that began on April 11.

Many poll watchers have complained in their write ups or any other social media platforms that Modi is standing less on the basis of economic issues than on a new, and more controversial set of priorities i.e zero tolerance on national security and a nationalist appeal to Hindus, who account for 80 per cent of all voters. His first national election five years ago was built on aspiration, where he used to proclaim that the country's constitution was his only holy book; he promised "achhe din" (good days) and "vikas" (development).

Betting big on nationalism, did Modi really ignore the job problem

However, during the 2019 election campaign, the Opposition has blamed Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP party that PM Modi did not talk about issues like unemployment, corruption, farm distress and economy in his election speeches. Congress sees the new focus on national security and Pakistan as implicit admission of government failure on the economic front. For its part the party has moved in the opposite direction on security and promised to improve civil liberties.

It is true that the issue of national security gained more traction in election following Pulwama terror attack and subsequent Balakot airstrike in February. Modi has been persistent with a strong nationalism pitch, calling the opposition alliance a "maha-milawat", and now making claims that he is coming back to power. He talked about these things at almost all his rallies, projecting himself as a strong leader and putting the opposition, from Congress to Mamata Banerjee to SP-BSP combine in the dock for questioning the strikes and asking for proof.

Lately, in his latest speeches, Modi has also incorporated the recent terror attack in Sri Lanka, claiming that the country need his strong leadership to thwart such dangers. Modi has labelled the opposition alliance as one of corrupt leaders backing Pakistan. He had also raised the Hindu terror issue and Rahul Gandhi contesting from a 'minority-dominated' seat of Wayanad earlier this month in his public speeches.

But, PM Modi has also referred to the issues of job creation, electricity, development schemes and corruption in his election rallies and interviews.

The prime minister has spoken about Swachha Bharat Mission, Jan Dhan Yojana, Ujjwala Yojana, Saubhagya Yojana, Ayushmaan Bharat and PM Kisaan, launched just before the schedule for the Lok Sabha election was announced.

While on the issue of agrarian crisis, PM Modi defended his government's decision of not offering farm loan waiver saying it does not help the farmers in getting out of debt trap. Instead, he spoke about PM Kisaan under which the government provides for cash support of Rs 6,000 to the farmers every year.

Data shows that the Modi government has been able to keep average inflation at 4.8 per cent, down from over 10 per cent during 2009-13, when the UPA was in power. PM Modi made frequent reference to his government's record on inflation in his election rallies.

It can be recalled that during 2014 election campaign, the important issues that were discussed included price hike, corruption, economy, security, infrastructure such as roads, electricity and water.

The party had promised a vibrant and participatory democracy, inclusive and sustainable development, quality life, productive youth, globally competitive economy, open and transparent government, pro-active and pro-people good governance in its manifesto. After which, BJP won an absolute majority in the 2014 elections with 282 seats making it the first time ever in the 67-year history of independent India that a non-Congress party achieved a simple majority on its own.

Admittedly, there is no euphoria of the kind that India witnessed in 2014. But nor is there any widespread anger. However, when it comes to votes, jobs may not be the biggest rallying factor. Voting is a complex decision in India with caste, class, community, religion, political alliances and sops, etc. being important variables. Also, voters are aware that creating millions of jobs isn't going to be easy for any party.

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