In the wake of the death of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a flood of articles has appeared in the media with similar themes – of how the Vajpayee government was an ideal government that was liked and loved by everyone and how the present Modi government is not living up to that legacy. However, there has been a counter thought to this narrative by many prominent voices on social media. The social media argument in a nutshell being – while fondly remembering the Vajpayee era and indulging in such a comparison by common people can be rationalised, the same being expressed by those in the media and the opposition would seem rather hypocritical. For when Vajpayee was alive and in office, exactly the same people in media and in political opposition wasted no breath in attacking Vajpayee on some topic or the other, which would later turn out to be not true.
We at The True Picture decided to research the media headlines in the Vajpayee era and the topics on which either him personally or his government was under attack. And a surprising pattern emerged – the Vajpayee government between 1999-2004 and the Modi government between 2014-18 are under attack on almost exactly the same things and in an eerily similar pattern. That is, a hysteria is created, at regular intervals, on some topic based on half-truths or sometimes compete fabrication and when the lie is exposed, the narrative moves to the next topic and the pattern repeats. This was true of Vajpayee when he was in office and is now true of Modi. Basis our research, it would seem that there are fixed topics on which BJP governments are attacked and facts are either invented or fabricated to fit the pre-conceived narratives.
There is a stark pattern to all these narratives. Let us analyse some of the most common issues around which both Vajpayee and Modi governments have been targeted.
- Manufactured narratives on the usual secular-communal lines
- Attack on ‘lack of jobs’
- ‘Anti-poor and pro-rich’ narrative
- Common theme of ‘Saffronisation of Education’
- Spreading lies about ‘Rising agrarian distress’
- Painting NDA as ‘Anti Dalit Government’
1. Communal Violence
First, let us come to the question of the secular-communal divide. The narrative they ran in 2003-04 is almost similar to narrative they run even in 2017-18.
When it comes to the 2003-04 narrative, a lot of what is written hinges upon one point – Gujarat 2002. While the propaganda and hyperbole around it have been punctured by courts and facts, here is a realistic look at communal riots that claimed more than 100 lives until 2002, and who was in power when these riots happened.
More than 3365 communal incidents occurred in the country from 2011 to October 2015, according to Home Ministry data, and a huge part of this period was ruled by the Congress.
Here are the numbers per year:
2011 – 580
2012 – 668
2013 – 823
2014 – 644
2015 – 751
2016 – 703
This shows no unusual spike in communal riots since the Modi government took over. In fact, so far, the post 2014 picture looks far better than the last 3 years of UPA!
The usual suspects continue blow every event out of proportion today to accuse the Modi government of worsening the situation when the data does not say so.
This is from an article published by the BBC in February 2004.
On the issue of jobs, while the Congress and sections of the intelligentsia were relentless in their attack on the Vajpayee government, it is very clear in hindsight, that the Vajpayee years were the golden years of employment generation in India.
In the 5 years up to 2004-05, essentially the Vajpayee era, according to NSSO data, India added 60 million jobs. During the Manmohan Singh era, jobless growth was well recorded and even those sympathetic to the Congress acknowledged it. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the UPA added a dismal 15 million jobs. 60 million in 5 years of NDA against 15-17 million during the UPA’s second innings!
Similarly, now in the Modi era, as we saw, attacks on the purported lack of jobs are relentless, piggybacking on the apparent lack of reliable data on job creation. However, as reliable data from the EPFO and CMIE data show (https://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/robust-job-creation-in-india-not-fake-news/1148490/), about 15 million jobs may have been added in 2017 alone.
Further, EPFO data suggests that India added 5.5 million jobs in the formal sector in FY18 and 4 million jobs were created in just 8 months until April 2018, in what is the biggest ever addition of 685 thousand people into EPFO payroll in the month of April alone!
Further, many state governments claimed to have created lakhs of jobs. For example, the Karnataka government claims to have created 53 lakh jobs. West Bengal government said it created in 68 lakh jobs in the last term.
3. ‘Pro-rich, anti-poor’
This was yet another attack against the NDA government in 2003-04, especially in the wake of the ‘India Shining’ campaign. Emboldened by its apparent success, the same line of attack is being deployed against the Modi government too. However, it does not seem to stick.
Let us look at the poverty reduction in India over the past many years.
As we can see, there is a steep fall in poverty around the year 2000. This is clearly the Vajpayee era’s record in poverty reduction. The massive push for infrastructure in rural areas as well as job creation of about 60 million jobs greatly contributed towards poverty reduction.
In fact, the boost the economy got during the Vajpayee era carried on into the first term of the UPA government aiding poverty reduction even then.
Coming to the current times, Modi government had the unique distinction of removing India out of the number 1 spot for the country with the highest number of poor people. A study by Brookings says that between February 2016 and May 2018, the number of people classified as extremely poor fell from 14 crore to 7.3 crore – in just 2 years, almost half of the extremely poor people came out of poverty!
This, while the well documented tightening of the economy is going on as far as big corporates, bank loans, NPA resolutions, IBC and fire sales are concerned. While NPAs shot up due to the Congress government’s pro-rich crony capitalism, loans which had become NPAs are being recovered at a fast pace under the Modi government.
4. Saffronisation of Education
From right to education added to the constitution as Fundamental right under article 21-A in 2002, to Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao among many other innumerable measures for education after 2014, but some sections of intelligentsia continue to pose NDA government as nothing more than saffronising the education. There is a systematic pattern in painting NDA government rewriting history.
If comparison is done between what was published during NDA-1 and what is being published now during NDA-2, It appears almost similar.
- Term Saffronisation is their buzzword.
- Distortion of history or rewriting history is a cliché theme.
NCERT text books have been updated for the academic session 2018-19 as a follow up to National Curriculum Framework 2005. As per a news report in Times of India dated September 17, 2017, “changes to the texts include updates, corrections and additions. The updates will take care of old statistics, economic data, etc, while the additions will introduce topics like demonetisation, Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao and Swacchata. However, more than half of changes involve correction of spelling errors and simplification of language.”
This clears the smoke around distortion of facts in NCERT textbooks and claim of saffronisation of text falls flat.
5. Rising Agrarian Distress
Yet another narrative of Farm distress is presented by them in a hyperbole manner during NDA governments despite Indian farming being subjected to many extraneous factors. Indian monsoon plays a significant part in Indian agriculture coupled with climatic event like El-Nino, floods and droughts effect Indian agriculture in complex manner.
Let us see how NDA governments has fared towards farmers.
NDA-1 launch of Kisan Credit card (KCC) has changed the way Indian Farmers have taken agricultural loans, saving them from the clutch of informal money lender charging whopping interest rates. As per RBI data as on March 2012, as many as 1,17,60,000 KCC were issued and amount of INR 919.8 bn was sanctioned.
As for cases of suicides in agriculture sector, number have come down to 11,370 in 2016 as per the data tabled in parliament, reduction of 10% from previous year number of farmer’s suicides.
Indian farms reaching the new heights with total food grain production as per the second advance estimates for 2017-18 estimated recorded high of 277.49 million tonnes.
6. Anti-Dalit Government
Though they have created the perception of NDA as anti-dalit governments. Stories in newspapers have never been different whether it was during Vajpayee’s time or as we see today during Modi’s time.
But facts speak for themselves.
Vajpayee government push to welfare of Dalit was seen in bringing a constitutional amendment to accelerate the focussed development of Dalits and Tribals.
- Forming two separate National commission of SC’s and ST’s for more focussed development of both from a hitherto combined body by 89th constitutional amendment act.
Modi government gave further impetus to their development.
- Amended the SC/ST (POAA) in 2015 to make it more effective
- Constitutional status to a separate OBC commission
- Strongest pitch ever for reservation in promotions for SC’s/ST’s, fighting it from parliament to supreme court.
BJP has the largest number of Dalits MPs (40) clearly showing its acceptance among the backward sections of society, but for certain sections, NDA continues to be Anti Dalit.
Ninth annual report of National commission on Schedule caste laid in the parliament in March 2017 sets the record straight.
Figure: Rate of crime against SCs (2014) vis-à-vis national average
Source: 9th annual report of NCSC laid in parliament in march 2017
Cursory look at the graph explains crime against SCs in 9 states is higher than national average, out of which 4 states i.e. Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana and Odisha are Non-BJP ruled states.
In yet another analysis, analysing the type of crimes against SCs, NCSC has also made some observations.
Figure: Incidence of crime against Scheduled caste
Source: 9th annual report of NCSC laid in parliament in march 2017
Report says “Analysing the crimes, a decline of 36.4 per cent has been witnessed in terms of cases registered under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 only during the year 2014 compared the year 2013 although there has been an increase of 7.7 per cent in rape cases during the same period. The cases on murder, kidnapping & abduction and other crimes against Scheduled Castes have increased although the cases of hurt have shown a lower percentage rate 13 between 2013 and 2014.”
Thus, to single out one political party for crimes against dalits expose the hypocrisy of vested interests.
One striking example of how these narratives at times fail straight can be seen in publication of an apology for its earlier article showing Gujrat having the highest crime rate on SCs/STs.
It seems amply clear that the outpouring of grief over the death of Atal Bihari Vajpayee is from two distinct kinds of people. A large majority are those who are genuinely sad at the demise of one of India’s best Prime Minster and are fondly remembering his contributions to the nation. However, there is another set of people – the commentariat and political opponents – who are using Vajpayee as a stick to beat the present government. When Vajpayee was around he was besmirched with the same false narratives now deployed against the Modi government. Perhaps the people would be wise enough in hindsight when they go into vote in 2019 and remember the lessons of 2004.