With the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) completing its first year in office in its second term on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an open letter, reached out to financially weaker sections, migrant workers and farmers.
The letter comes amid the unfolding human tragedy unleashed by the covid-19 pandemic. BJP made electoral history when it managed to return to power with a bigger majority in May 2019. The ruling alliance is the only coalition, other than the Congress, to have come back to power.
Modi listed out the achievements of his government’s core political agenda, including the revocation of Article 370 and 35-A, pronouncement of the Ram Mandir judgement, and the passage of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, which bans instant triple talaq.
Political experts believe that the popularity of Modi has only grown since the 2019 general elections and, even after continuous six years in power, there was no sense of anti-incumbency in the minds of people towards the BJP.
“The focus of the government has been the welfare of the poor, which was carried out through different nationwide programmes, but simultaneously the government tactfully went ahead with its core promises of Ram Mandir, CAA and revocation of Article 370,” said Sanjay Kumar, director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
The Supreme Court gave a verdict in the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute in favour of the majority community. BJP had carried out a nationwide campaign for construction of a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, which helped it expand its social and electoral base nearly three decades ago.
Amid escalating border tensions with China, the letter also pitched for a self-reliant India, or Aatmanirbhar Bharat, as India aspires to play a larger role in global supply chains.
“In a crisis of this magnitude, it can certainly not be claimed that no one suffered any inconvenience or discomfort. Our labourers, migrant workers, artisans and craftsmen in small scale industries, hawkers and such fellow countrymen have undergone tremendous suffering. We are working in a united and determined way to alleviate their troubles,” the letter said.
Even as the government announced a ₹20-trillion stimulus package, there is growing criticism that the government has overlooked the plight of migrant workers who have been worst hit by the lockdown. The outreach to farmers, poor and unorganized sector is significant as most of the migrants are returning to politically significant states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal. While Bihar will go to polls later this year, West Bengal will hold elections next year.
The Opposition has been critical of the BJP.
“BJP’s one year report card is full of red lines. Instead of consistency and clarity, its governance record is instead dominated by confusion and chaos. Whether it is about the contours of Citizenship Amendment Act, wilful ignorance over the deepening economic recession and now complete irrational and insensitive handling of the covid-19 pandemic specially the fate of migrant labourers,” said Jaiveer Shergill, senior leader and spokesperson of the Congress.