Moment Of Reckoning

The BJP is anxious as Congress hopes to cash in on rising anti-incumbency. And the allies are watching the game closely

In a couple of months, the world’s largest democracy will head to the hustings. About 800 million registered voters will decide which party will call the shots for the next five years. 2014 was a remarkable election with many firsts — highest voter turnout, highest number of young voters and the comeback of a single ruling party. Narendra Modi had led a powerful campaign, taking on the UPA II over a spate of corruption charges. Backed by a powerful PR campaign and a persona-struck media, Modi managed a saffron sweep, pocketing 282 Lok Sabha seats for the BJP, while its allies helped the NDA take the tally to 336 out of 543 seats.

The acche din catchphrase that Modi included in his thanksgiving speech caught on, and there was heightened expectation. Then followed a stroke of luck and an absolute fiscal windfall as the price of crude crashed from $114 to $28. While the government tried to address the legacy NPA issue by introducing the bankruptcy code for faster resolution of bad loans, Modi’s biggest gambit, demonetisation, proved to be a killer blow for the economy with the informal sector bearing the brunt. Even before the economy could find its feet, a hastily introduced GST further rattled industry. Since then, fiddling with GDP calculation, increasing farmer distress, falling investment, weak job creation and growing communal disharmony have dimmed Modi's sheen.

Till a year ago, nobody thought the opposition led by Rahul Gandhi had a chance in 2019, but with just three months to go before elections, Verdict 2019 is now split wide open. Given that elections in the past have sprung surprise verdicts, calling it either in favour of the Congress or BJP is akin to throwing darts in the dark. What is clear though, as this edition's cover story states, is that regional parties are licking their chops in anticipation. Whether their overbearing role would mean a happy outcome for the economy is unclear. But one can take comfort from the fact that inspite of governments of different hues at the Centre since 1991, we are now a $2.5 trillion economy and this upward climb is expected to continue.