Komineni Srinivasa Rao
Prime Minister has completed four years in office. This period has naturally attracted reviews and assessments. Broadly speaking, Modi does not appear to be facing any threat politically, if one goes by popular surveys, though it is true that his graph is on the decline.
The fact that the Congress has not yet got its act together may prove to be to Modi's advantage. Till Narendra Modi took the drastic step of demonetisation in November 2016, it appeared that he had no challenger. It was widely perceived that he was a hard-working PM, who toured a number of countries, which may help India forge better ties. Initiatives like Swach Bharat, Make in India and Mudra were welcomed by all, if one were to ignore their implementation, but the BJP wagon it appeared, was moving on without any obstacles.
Demonetisation was hailed as a historic move by many at that time. Others believed that black money would flow into government coffers and that the state would then distribute it among the people. They believed that Modi was acting on his election promise of bringing back black money from overseas havens. However, more than anything else, people were subjected to a lot of inconvenience in everyday life in banks immediately after demonetisation and had to stand for long hours in queues.
After demonetisation, notes of the denomination of 500 and 1000 disappeared, but in their place, to everyone's surprise, the government introduced 2000 rupee notes. There was also criticism that truckloads of currency could be sent to people like the former TTD member, Sekhar Reddy, and such reports did not do anything to enhance the image of the Modi government. Even the Sekhar Reddy case was not pursued seriously by the government.
At the time of Nandyal by polls, the black money reported to have been distributed by Chandrababu Naidu, who incidentally, headed the digital committee, even as the Election Commission and Income Tax authorities were reduced to spectators, was again another taint as far as the image of PM Modi goes.
While people had expected terrorism to end under PM Modi, Kashmir continues to be on the boil, which is a disturbing factor. The GST roll out after demonetisation, has been anything but smooth. Petrol and diesel could have been brought under GST, but again, that did not happen. Modi may have earned praise overseas, but at home, he has invited a lot of criticism. His silence on defections and the manner in which governments were formed in some states, did not help the BJP build its image.
While the BJP did win a number of elections after its massive 2014 landslide, the tide may be turning, as the latest results of by polls reveal.
One good thing about Modi is that he enjoys a clean image. Secondly, he is very good orator, who has his finger on the pulse of people especially when he speaks to them. He stands in contrast to Manmohan Singh, as a public speaker. On the flip side, Modi's image has been dented by the likes of Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya.
When it comes to Andhra Pradesh, not granting Special Category Status to the state, has affected public perception of PM Modi. The question is—will Chandrababu Naidu stand up politically to PM Modi? This remains to be seen. Taking the NABARD route on Polavaram is a good thing, as is giving more than 5000 crores. Similarly, they have also established several educational institutions. However, they need to be funded to a greater extent.
In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP is seen as the villain of the piece. This is the power of sentiment, more than anything else. The idea of SCS to AP is a very powerful one today. The fact that Chandrababu Naidu, who was an alliance partner of the BJP for four years, now portrays himself as a champion of SCS, shows how powerful the sentiment is. Unless Modi steps in with a corrective course of action, he will be seen as a leader who has gone back on his word. The latest results of by polls show that it will not be smooth sailing for the BJP no matter what the results of surveys could be.