“Janata Malak Hai (People are the owners of the country),” said Rahul Gandhi, president of the Indian National Congress (INC), congratulating its rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for its win in the second term of the Indian Lok Sabha, or House of the People elections of 2019.
The people of India have spoken, and the BJP again has managed to win a clear majority, in the elections for the lower house of India’s Parliament, by going way ahead of the midway 272 mark of the total of 543 seats.
The BJP won 303 seats, bettering the 282 seats they won in 2014. A party needs to win 272 seats for a majority in Parliament.
Of the many historical feats achieved by the party, one of the biggest ones included Rahul Gandhi losing the family bastion, Amethi, to Smriti Irani of the BJP. The INC president also took full responsibility for the loss, offering to resign from his position.
On the other hand, the BJP is busy rejoicing in its victory. On his twitter account, prime minister Narendra Modi said, “Thank you India! The faith placed in our alliance is humbling and gives us strength to work even harder to fulfil people's aspirations. I salute every BJP Karyakarta for their determination, perseverance and hard work. They went home to home, elaborating on our development agenda (sic..)”
Not only have the exit poll predictions been accurate, but BJP has also surpassed their mark of the 2014 elections.
“The various alliance and parties made every effort to divide and rule, to gain a majority. But the schemes and initiatives, which were implemented by BJP have percolated to the grassroots. People have voted for this development,” says Aishwarya Bhanage, a right-wing activist.
But Kalyani Mangave, a law student and a member of the youth wing of the INC, says more than their work, it was BJP’s strong campaigning mechanism that did the trick. “The INC manifesto was more advantageous for the overall development of the country. However, our ideas and plans for the development of the country could not be communicated well to the people.”
“According to research by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, an Indian research institute for the social sciences and humanities, the information about the scheme declared by Rahul Gandhi which promised Rs 72,000 per annum to the 20 % of the poorest of the poor families, reached only up to 30 % of the people. Of this, most were well to do,” she says.
Kalyani further added that the BJP succeeded in appealing to the nationalism amongst youth, by talking about the Balakot air strikes (between India and Pakistan), and the Pulwama attacks (in Kashmir). “Time and again the BJP targeted the Congress on the nepotism, which was not the right thing to do,” says Kalyani.
Pros, cons and the road ahead
What was BJP’s biggest strength which got them the second term? Aniket Amte, a social worker, said the drastically reduced allegations of corruption have worked in favour of the party. “In the last five years, we have not been hearing accusations about crores of rupees being siphoned off.”
“Moreover, the BJP government also focused on infrastructure, mostly in the city areas. Facilities such as cooking gas, electricity or solar lights, have made it to the rural areas which have been appreciated by the people,” he says. However, going ahead, Aniket added that there is a lot which needs to be done, especially when it comes to development of the rural areas.
“Health facilities and quality education in the rural areas need to be focused on. The Right to Education is merely on paper currently. However, the bigger issue is that of the water crisis. This should be addressed for drought hit areas are on a war footing,” he says.
Environmentally speaking, difficult days lie ahead, as according to Saili Palande Datar, an environmentalist, “during their five-year stint, the BJP government has systematically diluted the environmental laws. Be it the watering down of Forest Rights Act, or doing away with Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, these decisions are going to spell ecological disasters in the long run. They are talking about giving quicker environmental clearances, which means even the potentially polluting projects will be given green signals,” says Saili.
She further added that the democratic decision-making power of the people have also been done away with. “Vision of smart cities gives priority to infrastructural development instead of overall well-being and quality of life for citizens,” said Saili. She also states that even in the present manifesto of the BJP, in the quest for GDP growth, the environment has been neglected. She says for sustained growth and food security, ecological security is important, considering that India is an agrarian country. Neglecting the environment is causing more extreme events, due to global warming
Dr Anupam Saraph, an member of the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum agreed. “The biggest priority of the government should be adhering to the commitments made for reducing the carbon emissions during the COP 21, the Paris Climate Conference in 2015.”
“The climate crisis costs losses of billions of dollars every week. To maintain a stable and resilient economy, the climate breakdown should be taken seriously, and steps should be taken to keep up the commitments made,” he said.
Anupam Saraph further added that Narendra Modi had made a statement that, if the BJP come to power again, they would make water their top priority. “For this, every water body needs to be identified, and kept free from exploitation and encroachment . These water resources are important not just for domestic water, but also for agriculture, and industrial needs,” he says.