ROUT: The BJP could not secure even a simple majority in all the six states which went to polls in November, which included Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana. The rout of the BJP came as a birthday gift to Dr Francisco Colaço and other activists who had gathered at Margao to celebrate not only his 75th birthday, but also the confirmation that Modi is not invincible\
BY RAJAN NARAYAN’
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Amit Shah and Narendra Modi came tumbling down in the midterm elections held in six states. For a Saturday following the week when the rout of the BJP in the midterm polls or semifinals cast a shadow on the fortunes of the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. For a Saturday following the week when RBI Governor Urjit Patel quit, making it clear that he was not willing to compromise on the independence of the RBI. For a Saturday following the week when the suspense continued on whether the people of Goa could be told the status of the health of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
BJP TUMBLING DOWN
And a few stray thoughts on Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, coming tumbling down from the Mount Everest they had captured in the 2014 election. In what was widely considered the semifinal leading to the finals in 2019, the BJP lost all the six states where midterm elections were held between November 27 and December 10, 2018.
It was expected that the BJP would lose in Rajasthan because of the arrogance of Vasundhara Raje Scindia and the fact that Rajasthan had become the killing ground of gau rakshaks. The farmers and youth were also angry over not getting the jobs promised by Modi and company. It came as a shock to the BJP that the Congress got 101 out of the 200 seats, giving it a clear majority as against the 73 seats which went to the BJP. But there is still a risk that the Congress will convert victory into defeat as they did in Goa. The others between them have 25 seats and if the BJP does an action replay of Goa, they can still steal the government from the Congress.
This is even easier in Madhya Pradesh where the Congress secured 114 of the total 230 seats which is still two short of even a simple majority. The others have got 8 seats and with all the money the BJP has made, it can buy them out and form the government in MP even though it has got six less seats than the Congress.
It is only in Chhattisgarh that the Congress is assured of forming the government as the party has secured the 68 of the 90 seats which gives its 2/3rd majority. In contrast the BJP has got only 15 seats and the PSP 7, the combined tally being only 22.
In Telangana, Chandrasekhar Reddy, who was responsible for the creation of the new state following the division of Andhra Pradesh, won by a large margin, getting 88 of the 109 seats. The Congress which supported TRS to create Telangana got only 21 seats. The BJP got a single seat in Telangana.
In Mizoram which the BJP had captured in the last midterm poll, the MNF, which is the local party, swept the polls getting 26 of the 40 seats. Incidentally, this is a big defeat for Luizinho Faleiro, the General Secretary of AICC who was in charge of the campaign as the party got only five seats. The only consolation is that the BJP fared even worse, getting only one seat. The long awaited results of the semifinals is clearly a vote not for the Congress but against the BJP, although it has to be admitted that Rahul Gandhi played a major role in the campaign against the BJP this time.
IMPACT OF THE ROUT
And a few stray thoughts on the impact of the rout of the BJP in the semifinals announced on Tuesday when they could not secure even a simple majority in anyone of the six state where elections were held. The defeat of the BJP and the surprisingly good performers of the Congress in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, would suggest that the people still have faith in the Gandhi parivar. It also strengthens the attempt of the Congress to be the leader of an anti-BJP alliance to fight the saffron brigade in the 2019 Parliamentary elections.
But what is clear is that the people of the country, particularly the younger people, are not convinced by the performance of the Modi government. That, contrary to the claim of Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the voters did not approve of demonetisation and the way GST was implemented. Indeed, it is the small traders who are the backbone of the BJP, who were the worst sufferers of demonetisation. Not a paisa or black money was recovered either from the country or outside from Swiss banks. It may be recalled that Modi had boasted during the campaign for the 2017 elections that he would bring all the black money back and deposit `15 lakh in the bank account of every Indian. Far from depositing `15 lakh there have been no signs of achhe din under Narendra Modi in the years of his rule.
There are no additional jobs created. On the contrary the number of jobs has gone down because of major changes in the IT industry. Entry level jobs in the IT industry, which used to run into several lakhs, have disappeared with all IT majors like TCS, Wipro and Infosys automating entry level jobs. So much so, companies who used to recruit two to five lakh engineers every five years, barely recruit 5,000 to 10,000 new engineers a year as they prefer seniors for skilled jobs. Routine tasks can be taken care of using robots and algorithms.
Despite their huge revenue and the billions which use them, Google and Facebook hire very few people as most of the tasks are done through artificial intelligence.
Besides the IT industry there has been a total disruption in small and medium sectors of the industry due to GST. This also affected the trading community including the malls which offer lakhs of employment opportunities. If a supermarket sells a hundred different types of goods it will have to file an equal number of GST returns depending upon the rate applicable to the item sold. The GSTN on salt is only 5%, while the GST on Coke and Pepsi is as high as 22%. Since we are familiar with GST, because even newspapers and advertising agencies have not been spared, we know what torture it is to file GSTN returns, particularly for the semi-literate small trader.
The biggest risk is that the rout in the semifinals may lead to the revival of the Ram Mandir issue. The RSS and the VHP have already stepped up the volume with BJP chief Mohan Bhagwat demanding that the government should bring forward a law to permit the construction of the Ram Mandir at the site of the Babri Masjid which was demolished by RSS workers in the presence of senior BJP leaders like LK Advani.
Narendra Modi has not spoken on the issue yet but Amit Shah has made it clear that the BJP is fully committed to the building of the Ram temple, which may be even taller than the Statue of Unity dedicated to Sardar Patel. The bricks for the Ram temple are already in place.
UP, where Ayodhya is located, is ruled by a Hindutva fanatic, ‘Yogi’ Adityanath. The Babri Masjid was demolished during the tenure of BJP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh. So there is no reason why the Ram temple cannot be built, ignoring the Supreme Court, when the BJP is in power both in UP and at the Centre. This might lead to the kind of deadly polarization and terror attacks that followed the demolishing of the Babri Masjid.
RBI ONE WICKET DOWN
And a few stray thoughts on the resignation of RBI Governor Urjit Patel.
The Modi government which is virtually bankrupt and is facing a huge deficit wants to steal from the RBI. In the normal course the Reserve Bank maintains reserves of `7 lakh to `11 lakh crore to come to the rescue of the government in an emergency. This is to be used only if there is a major financial crisis as it happened two decades ago when India could not honour the foreign exchange bond it had issued.
The RBI is also the custodian of foreign exchange reserves and the gold owned by the government of India. Though the gold standard has been abandoned a long time ago, ultimately when currencies are devalued the only source of security for people is gold.
Thanks to gross mismanagement of public and private sector banks and reckless lending to close friends of the BJP like the Adanis, Mallyas and Modis, the majority of public sector banks in the country are in bad shape. Most of them have registered huge losses because industrialists like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya to whom they have lent money are refusing to give it back. Worse still many of the defaulters have left the country in collusion with the law and order agencies of the government.
The only chor who might have to return to India and spend some time in Tihar jail is Vijay Mallya, as the British court has ordered his extradition to India. In fact, the British court has already taken away Vijay Mallya’s diamond earrings, gold chains and all nine of his luxury cars, besides his palace in England, for repayment of `7,500 crore that he owes Indian banks.
But the biggest defaulter is the government company IL&FS in which the LIC is the biggest shareholder which has defaulted to the extent of `90,000 crore.
There has also been a drop in revenue due to demonetisation and the suspension of mining in Goa. The huge power plants that have been set up by private parties are facing a crisis because of the increase in the price of imported coal. There is been a sharp drop in manufacturing activity.
The Modi government was trying to pressurise the RBI governor to go easy on Public Sector Banks which have piled up huge non-performing assets (NPS). These are loans running into thousands of crores lent by public and private sector banks without adequate security which companies can’t pay back. This in turn means huge losses to the Modi government as it has to take the burden of losses suffered by public sector banks. The Modi government also wants the RBI, which is an autonomous organisation, to dance to the tunes of the Finance Ministry.
The RBI on its part believes that the government is spending recklessly and it cannot risk lending any money to the government. The Finance Ministry wants the RBI to reduce the rates of interest to promote industry. The RBI is more concerned with the effect of lower interest rate on inflation. It is a well-known principle in economics that lower interest rate means more money in the hands of people, which will lead to greater spending resulting in a price rise.
The biggest contributor to inflation or price rise is the cost of petrol and diesel. Besides the direct impact of paying more for fuel, it also affects the price of all other commodities which are transported by road. On the eve of the meeting of RBI directors (which has been packed with BJP chamchas), the RBI governor decided to quit rather than comply with endangering the independence and security of the RBI. Patel’s resignation comes with nine months to go for his term to end. The mind of the government on undermining the autonomy of the RBI is dramatized by the fact that Shaktikanta Das, the Union Economic Affairs Secretary who announced demonetization, has been appointed the new RBI governor.
HAPPY B’DAY DR Colaço
And a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. All the activists, mostly from South Goa, came together at the Gomantak Vidya Niketan to felicitate Dr Francisco Colaço on his 75th birthday. Dr Colaço wears many hats and is among the most versatile people in Goa. A man with a generous heart who never charges poor patients, Dr Colaço is considered the best echo-cardiologist and has the best equipment. He is a specialist in paediatric cardiology.
Dr Colaço is one of the best singers in Goa and can sing the fado like a professional. Indeed, the entire Colaço family ranging from Dr Fransico Colaço, to his wife Fernanda, to his daughter Elaine, are all excellent singers. Dr Colaço is a very good speaker and can capture your heart and mind with his speeches. Above all Dr Colaço is the most secular activist in the state who has been fighting against fascism in any form. When Parrikar was the chief minister in 2002 he got the Health Department to raid Dr Colaço’s hospital as revenge for his opposition to the BJP’s policies.
Most recently Dr Colaço has taken the lead in ensuring that the fish that comes into Goa does not contain formalin or any other harmful substance. With the help of a few like Sanjeev Raiturkar he has saved lakhs of Goans from cancer which can be caused by eating fish which has been preserved in formalin. Dr Colaço has always been a fearless fighter and has never worried about the consequences of taking on the government.
It is a happy coincidence that the BJP lost all six states in the semifinal elections on the day that Dr Colaço was felicitated on his 75th birthday. We hope and pray that Dr Colaço will live for a hundred years more to keep Goa safe from people who want to divide it and poison the people of Goa with formalin fish.