As the 2019 elections inch closer everyday, campaigning for candidates is acquiring fever pitch. While candidates are being nominated rallies have become the order of the day. Newspapers are full of reports of who said what against whom. The two major parties, Bharatiya Janta Party and the Indian National Congress, are generally at the throat of each other, one accusing the other of corruption. Apart from the abuses for the opposition, there are sops galore for the people, particularly those constituting the weaker segments of the Indian society. The promises, extravagant in nature, are being made and, it seems, were the Congress to come to power it would have precious little left for improvement of infrastructure and other sundry services.
Modi seems to have learnt a lesson from the 2014 General Elections when he made extravagant promises which he could not fulfill during the five years that he ran the government at the Centre. He was mauled by the Opposition on two of his promises – one was about bringing back the reported piles of black money and putting Rs. 15 lakh in each Indian’s pocket and the other was about ushering in “achche din” (good times) with the defeat of the “corrupt” Congress. Though Modi won the elections fulfillment of these two promises have remained elusive. He, therefore, seems to have been more circumspect this time and has refrained from making hard-to-fulfill promises.
Many of his supporters have criticised Modi for his failure to bring in “achche din”. Newspapers have been running reports and comments on his inability to usher in good times. The people’s expectations had been raised sky high by these profligate and lavish promises and when they saw that these were nowhere in sight they were thoroughly disappointed. Even a rightist commentator and generally a Modi supporter, Gurcharan Das, expressed his disappointment the other day at Modi government’s utter failure in bringing about “achche din”. Das pities that Modi’s was a golden opportunity to make the best of a chance that he got but seems to have squandered it by failing to capitalize on it. Das says some good work was done but the most basic thing – jobs – that were not being created are still nowhere in sight and hence the dividend offered by the favourable demography was lost.
The difficulty is that nobody ever defined “achche din”. Even BJP or Modi never ever clarified what would be their components. As it is, ours is an aspirational society. Even those who live in shanties have aspirations of living a better and dignified life. They were so much taken in by Modi’s promises that they started dreaming of a far better life, far removed from the daily grind of poverty and perpetual want. With all those dreams disappearing in thin air they have been disappointed and frustrated. Their frustrations will surely cost Modi some votes at the forthcoming elections.
The extravagant promises generated runaway expectations. Modi did not have a magic wand with the wave of which he could bring about all round happiness and prosperity immediately on being elected the prime minister. If I expected that I would become as rich as Mukesh Ambani, live in a 27 storied (effectively 60 storied) mansion with six floors for the collection of my cars on Modi winning the 2014 elections I would be nothing but an inveterate fool. An intelligent man would realize that ”achche din” takes a lot of effort and dedicated, honest work to materialize and five years is too short a time for any government to work through the rot and mess that was left behind by the previous government.
The ignorant and unsophisticated were not able to appreciate that the promise of bringing “achche din” was only a handy thick and heavy stick to beat the Congress with which, honestly speaking, it thoroughly deserved. It wasted ten years of the country and instead of progressing towards a better life and greater prosperity it made the country regress and brought it close to a precipice.
Elections are times when all kinds of promises are made. Sops for farmers and the poor continue to be showered, this time, even by the Congress. But then they need to be taken as so much of trash. It is what the political parties do after winning the elections that matters and not what they promise before they form the government. “Achchey din” was a ploy to win the 2014 elections and nothing more, just as “Garibi Hatao” (remove poverty) was a ruse used by Indira Gandhi to win the 1971 elections. Hence, those who are disappointed need not shed tears for no-show of “achche din”.