Where the BJP has succeeded, over its 2 terms from 2014, and where it failed

It appears to be the case that the BJP has shifted its focus from the economy to its primary social agenda

The two separate terms of the National Democratic Alliance government can also be seen as separate in another way. In the first, there was a desire for economic reform. In the second, that desire appears to have gone in favour of something else. Let’s look at the 2014-19 period first.

This is the time in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi attempted to improve India’s share of manufacturing in Gross Domestic Product. He did it through a programme called “Make in India” (launched on September 25, 2014).

“Make in India” had three objectives. These were to increase the share of manufacturing in India’s GDP from 16 per cent to 25 per cent; second, to achieve this by increasing manufacturing’s growth at 12 per cent a year (compared to GDP growing at eight per cent); and third, to create 10 crore jobs in manufacturing.

The next reform was “demonetisation”, aimed at wiping out black money from the economy, with side benefits being an end to counterfeiting and the funding of terrorism. This was announced on November 8, 2016. The Goods and Services Tax came the following year, on July 1, 2017. It was intended to unify India as a single market and to bring the states and the Union closer together (“cooperative federalism”, in the words of the Prime Minister).

The government said that it would also improve its standing on global rankings of various sorts, because it was encouraged by India’s shooting up in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. The Niti Aayog would monitor 32 indices and figure out how to make India’s ranking improve.

What happened on this front has been widely reported, but we can summarise it because much of it is data from the government itself. Manufacturing’s share of GDP fell instead of rising, and has gone from 16 per cent to 13 per cent today. Its rate of growth was negative after 2014. Jobs in manufacturing halved, according to one study by Ashoka University’s Centre for Economic Data and Analysis from 50 million to 27 million in 2021. For the first time in Independent India, more people went to work in agriculture, where from 140 million people in 2016, the number went up to 150 million in 2021 and then went up another 15 million by March 2022. This means that manufacturing jobs went down by 23million and agricultural jobs went up by 25 million. Agricultural “jobs” are often disguised unemployment.

The effects of demonetisation and GST on the economy and on the MSME sector have been written about by me before and there is a chapter on the economy in my last book. The point to note is that GDP growth began to implode sequentially from January 2018, according to the government’s data, and by the time the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, it was close to zero. In the last two years, India’s economy has grown by about 1.5 per cent.

My sense is that the government and the Prime Minister particularly lost interest in this after the results became clear. We have seen no big bang announcements or “masterstrokes” on the economy after the election of 2019. The government has taken another track, which can be seen from its actions.

Jammu and Kashmir lost its constitutional “autonomy” (which it never actually had) on August 5, 2019. The previous month, on July 30, 2019, triple talaq, which had already been declared invalid by the Supreme Court in August 2017, was criminalised. The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed on December 9, 2019. On August 2, 2019, the UAPA law was amended to allow the government designate any individual it wanted as a “terrorist”, even if that person was not a member of a designated terror group.

On November 9, 2019, the Ayodhya verdict was delivered in favour of the Hindus. In the same period, Uttar Pradesh became the first BJP-ruled state, joined this year by Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi (whose police force is run by the Central government), to bulldoze homes, mostly Muslim-owned, without charge or trial or due process.
Haryana withdrew the permission it had granted to migrant workers to congregate in a public space for Friday prayers in December 2021. The ban on the hijab was added to a list of bans, including on beef, then on selling eggs, on selling meat in Navratri, on Muslim vendors operating near temples or on Hindu festivals.

Attacks on Christians by Hindu mobs, led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other groups associated with the BJP, went up in this period, from 127 in 2014 to 486 in 2021. The attacks were usually in BJP states, including Karnataka.

Seven BJP states in this period criminalised marriage between Muslims and Hindus. These states are Karnataka,Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat. This was not the sort of thing the BJP government pushed in its first term in 2014.

It appears to be the case that the BJP has shifted its focus from the economy to its primary social agenda. We do not hear the Prime Minister speak of improving manufacturing’s share of GDP and we hear nothing about why our labour force participation rate has collapsed and why unemployment has remained at record highs of over six per cent since 2019.

The last thing is that while we can say the BJP has failed on the side of what it sought to achieve in the economy, it has been quite successful at achieving what it wants on the issue of the social fabric and harmony.

Next Story