Setting the agenda for an election is a very important part of the poll strategy of any political party, as the outcome could depend largely on it.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the agenda for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and won. He is successfully setting the agenda for the 2019 elections too and succeeding, for the simple reason that the parties in opposition are falling into every trap he is setting for them.
The chain of events that started with the terror attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama has now degenerated into a squabble on how many terrorists were killed in the air strike in Balakot in Pakistan in the early hours of February 26. Completely off the electoral discourse are the earlier issues of economic mismanagement, unemployment, agrarian distress and the misgovernance of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government.
In one fell swoop, PM Modi has branded the entire opposition as "anti-armed forces, anti-national and pro-Pakistan". He is trying to project himself as the country's one true patriot.
Never before have the war clouds hovering over India and Pakistan dissipated so fast in our 70-year history.
The Pakistanis returned the Indian Air Force (IAF) officer captured by them without delay. India and Pakistan will go ahead with a March 14 meeting to finalize the details of the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor. Pakistan has told the deputy High Commissioner of India in Islamabad that it remains committed to the weekly DGMO (Director General of Military Operations)-level contact between the two countries and that its High Commissioner in Delhi was going to return India soon. On its part India had said a week ago - even before the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman - that it would not cancel the Kartarpur meeting. So, within three weeks of the Pulwama terrorist attack and within 10 days of the Indian air strike on the Balakot terror camp in Pakistan, and the aerial clash that followed - in which the Indian pilot was shot down - it is business as usual between the two countries.
Shall we say "hats off to the statesmanship of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan?" I think they both deserve nominations for the Nobel Peace prize.
The Pulwama terror attack was one of the most horrible in the long history of terror attacks in India. Why was such a large convoy of over 2,700 CRPF personnel allowed to travel by road on that fateful day? Why, despite intelligence reports of a possible terror attack, were no steps taken to sanitize the route and prevent such an attack? Why was the mastermind, identified and liquidated within 100 hours of the Pulwama attack, not dealt with earlier? Why was the request of the CRPF to move the troops by air not accepted? These and many others questions which reflect directly and poorly on the functioning of the government of India are not being asked and answered.
In the meanwhile, the Prime Minister is following a busy schedule packed with launches and ground-breaking ceremonies.
All these are official functions, yet the Prime Minister does not waste a moment to target opposition leaders for "anti-national activities".
How convenient. Electioneering at the government's expense.
At one event, the Prime Minister boasted that he did not just lay foundation stones; he also saw the projects through. He declared that he would still be around as Prime Minister when the projects were completed and needed to be launched. He forgot to mention that according to a report prepared by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, as many as 363 infrastructure projects, each costing more than Rs 150 crore, have shown a cost overrun of Rs 3.42 lakh crore.
Of a total of 1,452 delayed projects, 700 did not show even the year of commissioning. Of the 375 delayed projects, 111 were stalled by one to 12 months, 61 between to 13 to 24 months, 95 between 25 to 60 months and more than 100 projects by 61 months and more.
In other words, in its five years, the government could not complete a single project from the 200-odd it inherited from the previous Congress-led UPA government or which started in its first year since taking power in 2014.
In the three years between October 2015 and October 2018, credit to the MSME sector declined from 5.9% to 4.5% according to the data released by the RBI.
The wage earners under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), whose number had shot up steeply after demonetization in November 2016, are suffering as they have not been paid because of the lack of funds, according to a study by the Majdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, which also alleged that attempts are being made to willfully cap employment opportunities under the job guarantee Act.
There is a shortfall of at least Rs 17,000 crore from the wage demand of just the last year.
A job under this scheme is the last resort for the labourer who picks up work under MGNREGA. It is a crime to hold back his wages.
NCP leader Sharad Pawar provided another evidence of the good governance (?) of this government when he claimed that of the 103 institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, "nearly 63 had been without a regular director for two to four years."
The Rs 95,000-crore scam in the IL&FS group has gone largely unnoticed. The Life Insurance Corporation is the single largest shareholder in this company and so are other government entities like the Central Bank of India and the State Bank of India. This scam took place largely on the government's watch and it cannot wash its hands of the responsibility as the stakeholders are government companies.
These and many other issues do not matter now. The only thing that matters is whether you are a patriot or a traitor.
The Election Commission is deliberately delaying the announcement of the national poll schedule to facilitate the Prime Minister's inaugurations and launches for as long as necessary.
After all, didn't the Election Commission delay the election to the Gujarat assembly in 2017 until the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of Gujarat (Vijay Rupani) had laid all the foundation stones and finished inaugurating all the projects?
Elections to the Himachal Pradesh assembly were held on November 9, at least four weeks before the Gujarat election, though the results were declared for both on December 18. Who says constitutional bodies in our country are not independent?
The biggest prize for independence goes without a doubt to the Indian media. It can easily convince the people that 36 Rafael fighter planes are better from the point of view of national security than 126; that the withdrawal of GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) by the US is of no consequence for India's exports; that the surgical strike after Uri stopped all cross-border terrorism; that the NDA's electoral alliances are pious while the other alliances are 'Mahamilawat (mega-adulteration)' and any challenge to the government is a challenge to national security and therefore anti-national.
And yet, 'Namumkin ab mumkin hai, Modi ko harana abhi bhi mumkin hai'. Provided the opposition parties do not commit Harakiri.
Yashwant Sinha, former BJP leader, was Minister of Finance (1998-2002) and Minister of External Affairs (2002-2004)
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