Readers Write In #418: Why Modi is the most popular PM in independent India and why the BJP wins and will continue to win. The real answers.

Posted on October 30, 2021


(by gnanaozhi)

The real reason Modi and the BJP sweep elections and his popularity levels are almost continuously high.

Whenever there is an analysis of Mr Modi and his tenure, the common buzz words describing his rise and continued stay at the top would be “ divisive”, “Hindu Nazi”, “ Communal” etc etc but these don’t explain even a fraction behind his staying atpower. Besides all these claims don’t hold up to any form of objective analysis – like take the oft bandied word, “divisive”, can the detractors quantify why he is “divisive”. The irony is an Owaisi, YSR Jr, or a Sonia (who speaks to the Chief Muslim head of the Darool asking for “secular votes” to defeat the BJP) are all considered “secular”. Only in India!1 – Name just 1 law that is “divisive” and discriminates against Indian citizens of any faith / caste / creed?2- Violence levels, consider the violence levels (number of casualities, riots etc) and you would see objectively that the 50’s were bad, but these peaked in the 80’s and have been on a consistent downward trend nowThis is just one example, but we are now veering off topic which is, what really is driving this inexorable rise of the BJP. This in simple terms is how the Indian state is finally delivering the basics to the poorest of the poor and this is very visible to this voting bloc. That is simply it. Yes, caste engineering is a factor (which is a common factor for all parties across all elections post Mandal) but in reality it is the fact that Modi is delivering on the ground and that is translating into votes.

Bijli, Sadak, Pani – This was the war cry that got Indira to power in 1972, but in reality this remained on paper for decades. Yes there were incremental improvements but the delivery mechanism of the Indian state was abysmal, till the introduction of the JAM stack and the improvement of infrastructure started in 2014 under Mr Modi.

As is my wont, let us look at this also objectively (polemical rhetoric is far easier to use as a tactic, because who can rebut subjective allegations right? And no, opeds don’t count as “proof”of anything)

2.82 crore households were connected to the grid, taking our electrification levels to 90%, up from 70% in just 18 months. In essence it took the Indian state 70 years to get from the 5% pre independence levels to 70% and then it took us 1.5 years to take this to 90% with total electrification to be achieved by Oct 2022.

This is faith agnostic, caste agnostic, creed agnostic. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Tribal faith, SC / ST all of them without exceptions get a connection. The average size of a household is 4.4 people (per 2011 census), so that is a possible voter bank of some 10 crores or 100 Mn that got access to a luxury that had been beyond them for decades.

Swacch Bharat Mission took sanitation coverage from 39% in 2014 to 95% in 2020. It is an absolute shame that 60% of our population had to shit in the farms, roads and streets because the state failed to provide them something as basic as a toilet. Now to the urbane, middle + upper income class readers of this blog a toilet might seem pedestrian but in reality it is actually a thing of great pride in the poorer households. Again, this is a tangible, visible sign of progress. Of the state delivering.  This wins votes, not election rhetoric.

A universal housing program was started under Rajiv G in 1986, the Indira Awas Yojana, but like everything Congress, this remained on paper and the subject of passionate opeds which euologised La Familia.

Yet it needed a Mr Modi and his PMAY to kickstart this moribund program.

The number of houses constructed under the pre PMAY and post PMAY regime are stark!

Starting 2015, 50 Lakh houses have been handed over, another 80 lakh has construction started and another 10 lakhs are approved or pending approval (to be closed by Dec this year). By June 2022, we are looking at close to 1.2 cr houses being delivered with another 60 odd lakhs under various stages of construction.

Even as early as 2018, the rapidity of construction was upped multiple notches.Quote//In 2017-18, around 38.67 lakh houses were built under the PMAY(G), and 32.22 lakh in 2016-17. Contrast this with the number of houses completed under the IAY in 2015-16, nearly half at 18.22 lakh. It was lower in the preceding financial years: 11.91 lakh in 2014-15, 10.51 lakh in 2013-14, and 10.49 lakh in 2012-13.End Quote//

In other words, 2012-14 under the UPA saw a total of some 33 Lakh houses constructed. 2015-18 saw 89 Lakh houses being built. Compare it term to term (apples to apples) and UPA 2 built some 85 Lakh houses built in its entire 2nd term and 1.6 Cr across 10 years – Average build rate of 16 Lakh houses per year.

The Modi govt built 1.2 Cr houses in term 6 years and is on track to close at 1.8 Cr houses by 2023 (2022, but I give an extra year given current rates of construction and approval). The current average build rate is 20 Lakh houses per year, and it will close term 2 at around 22,500 L houses per year or a 30% more efficient build rate.

If the various Cong regimes had built at this same level of efficiency, we would have completed basic housing for all in the mid 2000’s itself but then if only wishes were horses right?

This is not even going into the process changes that have both created efficiencies and reduced corruption (the Print article I linked provides more context on this)

Water, the elixir of life eluded Indians for decades! It is a crying shame that as of Aug 2019 (the month / year this scheme was launched) India had only 32 Million households (or roughly 19% of the pop) had access to relatively safe, piped water.

In just 2 years since it has more than doubled to 39 Mn. Let me rephrase this to really bring home how rapid this change has been.
From 1947-2019, India added 32 mn households to the water grid. Average rate of 4,50,000 households / year.

From 2019 to 2021, India has added 39 Million households to this grid. Average rate of  18 Million per year! This leap is staggering but also raises questions on why previous regimes could not even achieve a fraction of this! In 2 years our piped water connected population has doubled from 19% to 36ish percent. The govt is firm on meeting 100% by 2024 and even if it falls short of the target, a bare minimum of 85% being connected to the grid is a given with current numbers and rates in mind. 

Bijli, Makkan, Pani – all being delivered at rates completely unknown to the Indian voter is a paradigm shift in how the Indian states delivery mechanisms. These are visible, tangible signs of progress and the populace rewards the BJP with votes. It is as simple as that.

And we have not even gone into other aspects like the massive road, port, rail infrastructure drive. Take the North East, a BJP bastion now, ignored for decades is being put on the national infrastructure map with a vengeance! But if they vote BJP, it is not seen as a victory for development but spun as “communal poison” or some such nonsense.

Road, rail, power, river navigation – you name it, they have seen more additions in 5 years since 2014 than in the period 1947-2014 and this is not even hyperbole, and it is a no brainer that voters see this, along with houses, electricity, toilets, piped water connections and link this to a better life and then cast their votes accordingly. This might be an alien concept to parties like the Congress or “analysts” who see everything with a subaltern view or a religion tinted view, but in reality is far more simple.
Then you have the growing success of our PLI linked export schemes which coupled with China + 1 has the potential to seriously drive our export numbers and this is already translating into increased job creation in manufacturing jobs.

India is on the cusp of a decade long growth cycle –

While detractors meme about a “ded economy”, a study of reforms globally would tell you all reforms have a lead time. Take GST reforms, any economy that passed a GST bill saw a decline in growth rates and 100% of incumbent govts that passed it have fallen (with the Modi govt being one of the few exceptions), it takes on average 3-4 years before the system adjusts to the new normal and the benefits start accruing.

India’s non petroleum, merchandising exports have been touching record all time highs from April on,

July 2021 saw merchandising exports hit $ 35 Bn the first time in a month.

While doom and gloom predicting naysayers took temporary job losses during the lockdown and spun it as the eternal new norm, job creation is bouncing back and is being driven by construction, agro and manufacturing.\

Jun 2021 saw a reversal of a 6 year trend of reduction in manufacturing jobs, and has continued since then.

But oh the poor farmers you say? Well the agri sector has been thriving under the Modi govt and again it translates into….votes. Total food grain production is increasing at a CAGR of 12%, the agri sector itself is seeing a decades new high in growth at around 4.5%.

Even ignored aspects like reduction in usury (something plaguing Indian farmers since the Raj introduced horrible changes) is finally taking root. Here is the All India Debt and Investment Survey conducted in 2019.

In 1971 institutional credit was at 30%. In 2014 it was around 55%. It is around 70% in 2019.

That again is a paradigm shift, with more households gaining access to institutional credit in 5 years than they did in the period 1947-71 or 2000-14. Macro numbers hide more granular info. States like Bihar and UP (which are the BJP’s largest voter bases) saw the greatest falls in the shortest period. For instance Bihar had only 32% with access to institutional credit in 2012. It is around 53% now and climbing. Ditto MP, UP (to varying degrees). This might be something arcane to the average “Modi is a communal poison” analyst but signifies deep shifts in the way rural (or the urban poor) lives and consumes as this frees up a lot of income from the usury cycle! The deployment of the JAM stack is adding to this uplift as well and again missed by the commentariat.But the BJP is anti SC / ST is another common rhetorical tool used to discredit the govt, but this again flies in the face of all data.

India’s Dalits aka the SC / ST vote bank are increasingly siding with the BJP (despite what the latest, hottest NYT or Al Jazeera oped might tell you). In 2014 the BJP won 67 / 131 reserved constituencies or 51%. In 2019 they won 77 / 131 or 58% and if state level elections are any indication, they are on track to improve on this further. In some states in the 2019 elections they won 100% of reserved seats even, like in Karnataka for instance.

To any rational observer, a party winning a whopping 60% of the seats of any voter base (Esp a reserved constituency), it would indicate that they have the…overwhelming support of that particular voter base. Like no one in their senses would argue that the Democrats are anti Black people given the dominate Black constituencies, yet in India somehow India wins the trust and votes of the majority of the SC / ST population yet, like Schrodingers BJP are both simultaneously pro and anti Dalit. Go figure.
You then have the BJP’s wide track record of progressive social laws. Transgender protection, Child Labour protection, increased maternity benefits, Mental healthcare, the first formalised compensation for employees in case of accidents act via the ECA (the law it amended was framed in 1923), amendments to strengthen consumer protection, employee safety etc.  Strengthening of the min wages act and so many more.

Here is where the commentariat gets it wrong. Modi is a brilliant tactician, and while he does all this, he also keeps an eye on what gets him votes and what does not. If something does not get him votes, it is abandoned ruthlessly. Take the Land Acquisition Bill – dropped like hot potatoes. CAA is on perpetual limbo and NRC might take off only when he wins his term 3. 

All these complex interplays are abandoned unfortunately in most opeds and ‘analysis” and it is all spun as Modi the big bad divisive communal Hindu Nazi which is a shame because it misses the woods for one small tiny fungi sized plant.

It’s funny though watching “secular” intellectuals analyse themselves to their deaths on the rise of the Modi phenomenon, but then realising they don’t even understand a fraction of the reasons that lead to his rise and continued stay at the top but circles jerking themselves endlessly on the “divisive mudi” phenomenon. They need to realise that if any opposition party wants to combate the BJP they need to first understand what drives it success. Till that happens the BJP will remain to then an electoral demon that simply crushes all.