The ruling party faces a tough electoral test this year in Hindi heartland states it controls such as Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, leading up to next year’s general election.
On the fourth anniversary of his taking over as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on Saturday blew the bugle for the 2019 general election, which finance minister Arun Jaitley said would be a fight between Modi and an “anarchist combination” of opposition parties, according to Hindustan Times.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance’s slogan for the occasion was “Desh Ka Badhta Jaata Vishwas…Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas” (the nation’s rising confidence… clean intent, right development.”) The main opposition Congress observed it as Vishwasghaat Diwas (betrayal day), citing poll promises it said hadn’t been kept by the government.
“Over the last four years, development has become a vibrant mass movement, with every citizen feeling involved in India’s growth trajectory. 125 crore Indians are taking India to great heights!,” Modi said in one of a series of tweets.
“I bow to my fellow citizens for their unwavering faith in our government,” he wrote in another post.
“This support and affection is the biggest source of motivation and strength for the entire Government. We will continue to serve the people of India with the same vigour and dedication,” he wrote, pledging to build a ”New India” and to always put “India First”.
Under Modi, the BJP in 2014 became the first political party to win a majority on its own in 30 years, promising “acche din” (good days) and an end to corruption that tainted the previous regime of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. It controls 20 of India’s 29 states, a testament to Modi’s vote-catching ability.
Yet, the ruling party faces a tough electoral test this year in Hindi heartland states it controls such as Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, leading up to next year’s general election. In assembly elections this month in Karnataka, the BJP won 104 seats out of 222 to emerge as the largest party in the House, but failed to demonstrate a majority, making way for a Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government.
The setback to the BJP in Karnataka has buoyed opposition parties, which have been talking about a federal front to take on the ruling party in 2019. Those who have taken part in informal discussions on the proposal include Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, among others.
Finance minister Jaitley, whose portfolio is being handled by railway minister Piyush Goyal while he recuperates from a kidney transplant, took a jibe at the federal front concept in a Facebook post on the NDA government’s fourth anniversary.
“A strong nation and the requirements of good governance abhor anarchy. The political agenda for the debate this year appropriately will be Prime Minister Modi versus an anarchist combination,” he wrote.
The NDA’s own priorities are clear, according to Jaitley
“This will be our year of consolidation of the policies and programmes which we have implemented. In our Prime Minister, we have a strong leader with a mass appeal. His capacity to change India’s destiny is globally recognised. His insistence on integrity, his infatigable capacity to work, his clarity of policy and direction, his boldness in taking steps in larger national interest gives the NDA a natural political advantage. Clarity and credibility are hallmarks of the NDA Government,” he wrote.
At a function in Cuttack, Odisha, attended by 60,000 people later in the day, Modi said opposition parties were attempting to come together not for the sake of the country but to save themselves against corruption cases.
“There was chaos when this government made strict laws against black money. Due to the law against Benami transactions, we have managed to confiscate properties worth Rs 3,500 crore. The way our government is committed against corruption, this has made our enemies good friends. They want to destabilise the government,” he said
Congress president Rahul Gandhi took a dig at Prime Minister Modi in a post from his Twitter handle, @RahulGandhi. In what he called a four-year report card, he assigned F to the Modi government’s performance in agriculture, foreign policy, handling of fuel prices and job creation. For slogan creation and self promotion, he gave the government A+ and a B- for Yoga.
“Remarks: Master communicator; struggles with complex issues; short attention span,” Gandhi wrote.
The Congress observed the completion of the NDA government’s four years in power as Vishwasghat Diwas with press conferences in 20 cities to be addressed senior party leaders to highlight the government’s perceived failures.
At a press conference, BJP national president Amit Shah listed the Centre’s achievements. He said the Modi government had ended dynasty politics and appeasement policies and introduced the politics of development.Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath told ANI, “I congratulate the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi), and his entire cabinet for successful four years in the central government. The policies of development have reached the poor, disadvantaged, women and farmers without any discrimination and casteism.”
BSP leader Mayawati contested the claims.
“This government has failed on all fronts. Prime Minister Narendra Modi terms everything he does as historic. I think that is why fuel prices are at a historic high during his four-year tenure so far,” she said in a speech to party workers in Lucknow.
“During Prime Minister Modi’s tenure, the amount of violence against the backward and minority people has seen a historic high. BJP rule is jungle raj,” she said, also citing attacks on women. Mayawati also slammed the flawed implementation of the ban on old, high-value currency notes in 2016 and the Goods and Services Tax last year.