Elections 2024
The Modi Manifesto: Deceptive Rhetoric and Real Threats

Just five days before India goes for the protracted seven-phase Lok Sabha elections, the ruling BJP released a 76-page manifesto. It does not talk about the Modi government's failure and betrayal on every promise it has been making since 2014, it does not address the core issues that are on top of the common people's agenda, instead it weaves a rosy dream for India in 2047! It is the BJP which introduced the word 'jumla' in Indian politics when Amit Shah described the Modi 2014 campaign talk of crediting 15 lakh rupees to every account as a jumla. Now that the word jumla has become the universal metaphor for false promises, the BJP has discovered a new word for jumlas: 'Modi's Guarantee'. But then a jumla remains a jumla no matter what name you give it!

After disowning the 2014 promises of creating two crore jobs every year and bringing back black money, the Modi government had got busy drawing up a fresh list of promises for India in 2022. The 75th anniversary of India's independence was advertised as the target year for a number of achievements: universal housing with access to toilets and tap water, doubling of farm income, one hundred smart cities, ten world-class universities. Two years have elapsed since 2022 and before bombarding the nation with new promises, the government should display its balance sheet on the 2022 promises! But now the goalposts have again been shifted - this time to hosting the Olympics in 2036 and becoming a developed country by 2047!

The CSDS-Lokniti pre-poll survey collating responses from 10,019 people from 19 states in end-March and early April gives us a fairly precise picture of the issues that concern the people the most. The top two concerns were unemployment (27%) and rising prices (23%). By contrast, the claimed achievements of the Modi government like inauguration of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and the perceived enhancement of India's international image in the Modi era had only 8% and 2% takers. There is no public appreciation for the changes in laws that the BJP parades or promises as its achievements - like the CAA, UCC, new criminal laws or labour codes. In fact, the Uttarakhand template of UCC evoked considerable public criticism because of its 'uncivil' nature which subjects individual liberties and choices of citizens to invasive state control and conservative social interference.

There are any number of studies and reports that tell us about the staggering scale of unemployment and economic inequality in India today. The India Employment Report 2024 released recently by the ILO and the Institute of Human Development pointed to the preponderance of youth among India's unemployed. More than 80% of jobless are young people, more than 65% among them have degrees of secondary education and more. Young educated women have an even higher rate of unemployment. Inequality in Modi's Billionaire Raj is worse than in colonial period with the richest 1% owning more than 40% wealth and pocketing more than 22% of annual national income. While income has stagnated, indebtedness has grown alarmingly among the poor and middle classes. The BJP manifesto continues to turn a blind eye to this extremely disturbing economic situation.

Narendra Modi keeps telling us that his mission is to fulfill the ambition of 140 crore Indians. On one hand, the Modi government claims to have lifted milli ons of Indians out of poverty, but on the other hand his government claims credit for supplying 5 kg free grains to 800 million Indians. This clearly belies the government's claim of both reducing poverty and representing the ambition of 140 crore Indians. Actually, the growing economic inequality in the country is being actively promoted and celebrated by the Modi government and its policymakers and propagandists. The government reserves the term 'wealth creators' for the billionaire class of wealth accumulators while treating 80 crore people as being deservant of no more than five kg free grains per month.

Just like the undeclared Emergency imposed by this government, the real goal of the BJP manifesto remains officially undeclared. But BJP leaders and candidates like Anant Kumar Hegde, Jyoti Mirdha, Lallu Singh and Arun Govil are increasingly giving it away with their orchestrated clamour for changing the constitution. This is why they say Modi has set the bar at crossing the 400 mark. Alarmed by the prospect of democratic India rallying around the constitution drafted by Babasaheb Ambedkar, Modi now audaciously 'guarantees' that even Ambedkar will not be able to destroy the Constitution. If he really wanted to reassure India about the Constitution he should have taken Golwalkar's name for it was the RSS which did not recognise the Constitution at the time of its adoption and batted for Manusmriti in its place.

Babasaheb had actually warned the people not to be complacent about the Constitution and instead pay attention to the quality and intent of the people who are entrusted with the job of administering the Constitution. A good constitution in bad hands could produce disastrous results. This was quite similar to the warning sounded by Bhagat Singh about 'brown Englishmen' usurping power in free India. It was again Babasaheb who had pointed to the equality of 'one citizen, one vote' becoming meaningless in the face of unchecked economic and social inequality. Today India will have to heed the warnings of Ambedkar and vote out the anti-Constitution fascist forces to save democracy and its constitutional foundation.

Deceptive Rhetoric and Real Threats